Author: Janine Winlaw

Bring some zing into your borders with euphorbia

These beautiful and useful foliage plants add structure and texture to the garden. Their exotic-looking foliage creates a lush tropical feel to planting and many varieties have bright acid green flowers in spring and early summer that add a bit of zing to a border and beautifully compliment purples and blues. There are many varieties to choose from, whether for height or ground cover, sun or shade. Here’s my pick of the best. E. characias wulfenii This is probably the most popular euphorbia. Its stems of bluish green leaves (up to 1.5m high) provide year round rounded structure to the garden and look great with silvers and purples. From March it comes alive with with blowsy lime green flowers that perfectly complement blue and purple plants such as Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ or alliums. It will tolerate some shade but prefers a sunny spot and is pretty drought tolerant once established – perfect for a gravel or Mediterranean garden. E. characias ‘Humpty Dumpty’ is a more compact version of wulfenii – growing to around 50cm. Good …

Grow your own fresh herbs

There’s nothing nicer – or healthier – than cooking with fresh herbs picked from your own garden. Most are easy to grow and look fab, whether in borders, containers or raised beds. Mediterranean varieties prefer sun and free-draining soil – add coarse grit and organic matter to clay soil. Others, such as coriander, mint and parsley are happy in some shade, with plenty of moisture. Here’s some to try: Mint. Great in herbal teas and summer drinks, with roast lamb or in Middle Eastern dishes, mint is a great herb to have in a pot outside the door – it can be invasive in a border. As well as spearmint and peppermint, there are masses of different varieties to try including large woolly leaved apple mint, lemon mint, pineapple mint, and chocolate mint – nice in puddings! It Iikes rich moist soil and can tolerate shade. Keep picking it to encourage growth and divide it when it’s outgrown the container. Thyme An incredibly attractive and useful herb, this is a fab choice for a pot …

The green gym

Here is how to look after your body while you garden Now that the weather’s warming up, it’s tempting to get outside and throw yourself into some serious pruning and clearing. But after a day’s hard gardening, you can end up with backache and other pains. In fact spring is when physiotherapist Jacqueline Knox sees most gardening-related injuries. But this can be avoided, as she explains. Step one is to build up slowly: ‘If you’ve done no gardening all winter, increase your capacity gradually,’ says Jacqueline co-author of ‘Garden Your Way to Health and Fitness’, published by Timber Press. Gardening is wonderful exercise, building strength and flexibilty, but approach it as you would other exercise, explains Jacqueline. ‘Warm up by doing some squats or walking briskly round the garden in order to prepare your muscles for exercise.’ And vary your activities. ‘One of the most common faults of gardeners is not alternating activities,’ she says. ‘If you’re on your knees planting, get up after 20 minutes and do some pruning or leave the lawn half …

What to do in the garden this March

Mulch. After weeding, give bare soil a thick layer of organic matter such as well-rotted manure. Mulch stops soil losing water as weather warms up, suppresses weeds and smartens everything up. Fertilise. Sprinkle soil with an organic slow release fertilser, such as chicken pellets or fish, blood and bone and lightly fork around trees and shrubs. Give roses a special rose feed or a balanced fertiliser. Plant and deadhead bulbs. Divide or plant snowdrops while they’re still green. Deadhead daffodils, leaving the green foliage. Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as gladiolus and lilies in a sunny spot. Invest in spring flowering plants. I love blue Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and pulmonaria ‘Blue Ensign’ as well as magnolias and camellias – the single white varities are particularly delicate. This is also a good time to plant new climbers, 22cm away from walls and the last chance to plant bare root trees, roses and shrubs – the hair roots need to start getting established. Move plants. Move shrubs that are in the wrong place, taking as large a root …

Eco gardening – how to make compost

Eco gardening – how to make compost If you’re looking for a green way of recycling your garden waste, composting could be for you. It’s also hugely satisfying knowing your veg peelings and egg boxes are going to good use. It can take six months or more, but you’ll eventually be rewarded with crumbly brown compost to feed your garden with nutrients. Here’s what you need to know: What to compost: You need to be selective about what you put in in compost. Meat, fish, dairy products or cooked food can’t go in. Horse manure is fine but not dog or cat faeces. Avoid weeds with tap roots that regrow such as dandelions, seeding weeds, diseased plants and anything treated with pesticide. There are two types of organic material that can be used: green (wet, nitrogen-rich) and brown (dry, carbon-rich). You need about 2:1 brown to green. Examples include: Brown, carbon-rich ingredients Straw and hay. Woodchips, sawdust, wood ash – in moderation (untreated wood). Dried grass clippings and dry leaves Hair and animal fur 100% …