The easiest flowers for beginning gardeners this spring – | Directory Mayhem

The easiest flowers for beginner gardeners this spring

So pretty (Image: Alamy)

As we race into spring, panic sets in to create a garden of stunning blooms.

Great if you have plenty of time on your hands and have years of growing experience under your belt.

But where do you start when you’ve just acquired your first outdoor space — and your only green-fingered dalliance is buying a spider plant for your mom?

Multi-award-winning garden designer Pollyanna Wilkinson – who will be exhibiting two stunning gardens at both the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival this year – suggests some hardy plants that are forgiving of mistakes and don’t need much attention once they’re in ground.

Here are her top ten picks for beginners…

1. Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’

1. Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'

Super low maintenance – and very pretty (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“Scented, long flowering and all it takes is an annual haircut in late winter/early spring – what more could you want?” Nepeta, also known as catnip, begins to sprout foliage in March and flowers from May to October (if you keep an eye on dieback).

Great at the front of a border or in troughs. Plant in full sun or partial shade in well-drained soil. Also works well in large containers for a small outdoor space, patio or balcony.’

2. Geranium ‘Rozanne’

2. Geranium 'Rozanne'

Bees will love it (Image: Alamy)

“Prepare to fall in love with this long-blooming perennial, which will give you flowers from May until frost.

With saucer-shaped purple flowers and lush green leaves, this bee-loved plant can spread up to 90cm across.

Prune back in late winter to free decks for new growth. Plant in full sun to partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Also ideal for large pots.”

3. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’

3. Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball'

More relaxed than formal topiary (Image: Alamy)

“Now that Buxus has become persona non grata thanks to caterpillars and rot, Pittosporum ‘Golf Ball’ is a lovely option if you want tangy green domes that feel a little more relaxed than formal topiaries.

All they need is a plum to keep them in shape in the spring. Full sun or partial shade. Moist, well-drained soil.’

4. Leek

4. Leek

Just plant and go (Image: Alamy)

“Purple or white, Allium makes a great addition to your garden and is the epitome of plant and go.

Often referred to as a ball on a stick, these lollipop-shaped plants come from a bulb you plant in October/November.

Allium Purple Rain flowers around May and is a lovely purple and Allium Mount Everest is fabulous for a white option. Full sun, well-drained soil.’

5. Hylotelephium (Autumn Joy Group) ‘Autumn Joy’

5. Hylotelephium (Autumn Joy Group) 'Autumn Joy'

Adds color in summer and autumn (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“This succulent perennial is drought tolerant once established and is ideal for late summer colour, with flat flower heads that start out pale green and open to a rich pink before fading into fall.

Overwinter for winter interests and cut back in spring. Also a valuable late source of nectar for pollinators. Needs full sun and a well drained soil.’

6. Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’

6. Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'

Grasses are perfect for beginners (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“Deciduous ornamental grasses are brilliant options for beginners, providing invaluable interest from summer through late winter with nothing more required than a late winter pruning to the ground.

It’s a fantastic upright grass that produces biscuit-colored, feathery heads in mid-summer that linger well into fall and provides wonderful architectural interest in the winter border. Full sun or partial shade.’

7. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

7. Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote'

Lavender is easy if you follow two simple rules (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“People often worry about lavender and talk about not pruning old wood and leggy stems. In fact, lavender is incredibly easy to grow if you follow the simple rules of 1) planting in well-drained soil and 2) being on-the-go with pruning.

Prune young plants (not old shrubs) right after flowering in late summer and give a light trim in late winter to keep them clean, then they won’t stand a chance of becoming leggy.

Good for pots. When it gets old and woody, many believe it’s best replaced after five years anyway. Needs full sun.’

8. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Silver Spider’

8. Miscanthus sinensis 'Little Silver Spider'

Pretty Silvergrass (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“A compact but dramatic grass with silvery leaves and feathery red-brown heads in summer that fade to silver in fall.

For added interest, leave them over the winter and cut back in early spring. Needs full sun, well drained soil.’

9. Erigeron karvinskianus

9. Erigeron karvinskianus

Perfect for filling gaps (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“This brilliant little daisy is perfect for filling in gaps, gravel gardens and pathsides in your outdoor spaces. The flowers bloom from May to September and appear white before turning pink.

It seeds itself and finds its way into nooks and crannies, all of which is part of its charm. Loved by pollinators, needs full sun or part shade and well-drained soil.’

10. Cornus sanguinea and ‘Midwinter Fire’

10. Cornus sanguinea and 'Midwinter Fire'

Flame colored stems in autumn (Image: Alamy Stock Photo)

“This is a great winter shrub. With medium green, oval leaves in spring, this plant produces small creamy flowers in May/June, but it is not until autumn that this plant shows its full effect when the leaves fall off revealing bright flame colored stems.

For best stem color, do not prune the first year after planting, but prune all but about 20cm above ground level thereafter. Full sun to part shade.’

Beginner’s Toolkit: What every novice gardener needs to get started

As with any new hobby, the temptation at first is to buy every gadget under the sun; Robot lawn mowers, electric weed pullers and fancy hoses with more heads than a dandelion bed. Forget it, says Polly.

“Keep the tools simple,” she says, “and invest in the plants instead — they’ll be the stars of your garden.”

Here Polly lists the essentials to have in your beginner gardening tool kit…

  • Gloves – Protect your hands from irritants and thorns with a good pair of multi-purpose gardening gloves.
  • Trowel – essential for weeding and small scale planting and potting.
  • Secateurs – keep them clean, sharp, well oiled and handy. Can be used for topping and pruning stems under 1 cm.
  • Spade – for digging and planting.
  • Pruning shears or pruning saw – for branches and thick shrubs.
  • Kneeler – to protect your knees when weeding and planting.
  • Carry – useful piece of kit to carry tools, move soil or mix compost.
  • Watering Can – go big and make sure it comes with a rose (which squirts the water through a series of holes rather than a deluge from the main spout).
  • Rake – essential for removing leaves and breaking up the soil into fine soil for seeding.

Visit or Instagram @pollyanna_wilkinson for more inspiration.

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