YOU AND YOUR GARDEN - JANE'S TOP 10 TIPS FOR SUCCESS

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The Independent Online
1 Choose plants to suit your soil and climate; eg, don't make polythene-lined pockets in chalk gardens so you can grow azaleas. The specific conditions in your garden are what give it its unique character - otherwise all gardens would look the same.

2 Be aware how big your plants are going to grow. I go around my garden the whole time digging up huge shrubs that I've planted too close together. Give them space - you can always fill in the gaps while you're waiting for them to grow.

3 However small your garden, plant a tree. Of all my plants, the trees give me most pleasure. For a small garden, choose a tree that won't grow very high and, to stop it taking over, plant it in a large pot or tub.

4 Make beds and borders as wide as you can. It's impossible to get pleasing groupings of different heights and textures if you have a bed that's only a foot wide.

5 Plant in groups - shrubs in groups of three and herbaceous plants in sevens and nines. Odd numbers work best. And let plants seed themselves: they come up in pleasingly informal patterns that you can't duplicate.

6 Make full use of the vertical dimension; if you haven't got walls you can always put up an arch or trellis.

7 Don't be mean with mulch: put down a minimum of two inches. It keeps the weeds down and the moisture in. And don't water unnecessarily - most plants only need it when they begin to show distress.

8 Don't fret about pruning. It's hard to kill a plant by wrong pruning - at worst you'll set it back a season. One general formula is to remove one stem in three and cut the rest back by a third. But you don't have to prune anything.

9 Pleasure doesn't come only from plants and flowers but from watching birds, butterflies and bees - so choose plants that will attract wild life. Often this means scented plants.

10 Do what you want and don't worry about what people think. If you like marigolds and lobelias, plant them.

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