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Garden centres: The plants and flowers to buy now in time for the summer

Whether you’re going to visit your local nursery or are shopping online, add some much needed colour to your borders and beds with these tips

Louise Whitbread
Friday 22 May 2020 15:11 BST
There's still plenty of time to get your outside space looking summer ready with plants like these begonias
There's still plenty of time to get your outside space looking summer ready with plants like these begonias (iStock)

There's no doubt that gardening has become an increasingly popular hobby during lockdown. Not only as a reason to spend more time outside, but because it's good for mental health and has kept people busy while they may have been furloughed from work.

And as so many seeds and plants are affordable, it's a very accessible activity to get involved in regardless of whether you have a garden, balcony or a windowsill.

The horticultural industry was at a huge risk of having to throw away all the plants it had grown to sell during spring – its busiest time of year.

But now that garden centres have reopened, there's still time for these plants to be sold, as the peak time for planting things like shrubs and bedding plants is mid May-early June.

Centres and nurseries have been allowed to reopen to the public, as long as the appropriate social-distancing measures are in place.

The announcement was welcomed by the Horticultural Trade Association (HTA) and its chairman, James Barnes, said in a statement: “This is not only a positive economic move but gardening benefits the mental health and well-being of so many people isolating at home.”

The HTA is encouraging the sales of products to focus on plants, seeds, bulbs, composts, pots and planters, garden hardware including tools, fertilisers, pest control and irrigation, pet foods and accessories, bird care and food products.

Guy Barter, chief horticulturist for the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) shares his tips on what you can plant now to see come to life throughout the coming summer months.

Fuchsias can be planted in both sun and shade (iStock)

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Which plants should you buy now?

According to Barter, plant nurseries are bursting with tender summer plants such as begonias, fuchsias, pelargoniums, salvias, petunias and zinnia.

“These will surge ahead once the warm weather arrives providing a summer of colour in sun or shade with flowers such as begonias, impatiens and fuchsias,” he says, recommending to save on watering by leaving planting trees, roses and shrubs until autumn.

But if you can’t get out of the house, then here are the online garden centres and plant nurseries you can shop from in the meantime.

Petunias can be planted in beds, pots or hanging baskets (iStock)

If you want to brighten up your garden with a hearty dose of colour, Barter recommends planting drought resistant shrubby cistus, hebe, lavender, rosemary, santolina and phlomis to sunnier pots and borders, and for shady spots, try hardy azaleas, fuchsias, evergreen berberis, viburnums and mahonias.

“Border plants such as echinacea, foxgloves, lupins, phlox, penstemons, rudbeckia and verbascum are also good buys now as they will root well before their mid-summer flowers,” he adds.

What can you plant in small spaces?

If you are limited to a balcony garden, it doesn’t mean you also can’t get involved. As long as you have space for a pot, you can plant most of the things mentioned. Find our guide to how to garden on a balcony or even just a windowsill here.

“Sunny balconies can be planted with potted shrubs such as choisya, lavender and young bay trees,” says Barter. If it’s in the shade, then he suggests ferns, fatsia, fatshedera, ivies and skimmia, adding, “hanging baskets and troughs filled with tender summer flowers make efficient use of space.”

This pearl oyster grow your own mushroom kit (Not On The High Street, £18.95) is a fuss-free kit to get you started that impressed our IndyBest reviewers.

You don't need a huge outdoor space to start growing your vegetables like these mushrooms in a balcony garden

Setting up is easy too, it’s simply a case of cutting an incision in the bark (which is made from upcycled coffee grounds), letting the bark soak in water for 12 hours, then spritzing with water with the accompanying spray bottle twice a day. Mushrooms begin to sprout after a week.

You can repeat this process as many as three times, and when you’re done, you can reuse the compost to plant something else.

How can you protect plants from light frost?

Despite us heading towards the longest day of the year and summer, there have been chilly winds and cooler temperatures, which can lead to light frosts, which in turn can damage fragile plants.

To fend off night frosts in May, that often continue into the north of the UK in early June, Barter advises covering your plants overnight with newspaper or horticultural fleece.

Get equipped with the best tools

If you’re going to be re-potting plants and putting new ones into beds, you'll need a trowe

Taking away the top spot in our IndyBest guide to the best garden trowels was the Hunter Gatherer personalised copper plated garden trowel (Not On The High Street, £23).

A good trowel will make bedding and re-potting a breeze

It was one of the few we’ve seen that has measurements on the shovel (which are also engraved, so there’s no risk of them wearing off) and the pointed tip was no match for the hard, unbroken soil we tested it on.

Despite the fact that it’s slightly shallower and more narrow than many of its rivals, it’s also slightly longer – a feature which made it easier for us to access hard to reach and sunken patches of soil.

For larger green spaces, learn practical tips on how to harvest your own produce successfully with this title (A

If you've got a larger space and want a DIY project to get stuck into to, then get inspired to start growing veg and making beds with this book, Build a Better Vegetable Garden by Joyce Russell and Ben Russell.

It contains 30 practical projects, including constructing your own simple cloche and building a raised bed to the more niche carrot fly protector.

Joyce Russell’s clear and concise instructions are made even easier to follow with Ben Russell’s detailed photography, helping to make each construction project as effortless as possible.

Read our guide to doing up your garden in lockdown, how to grow your own vegetables and everything you need to know about garden centres reopening

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