Easiest flowers for beginner gardeners to grow this spring

As we race into spring, the panic is on to create a garden full of breathtaking blooms.

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

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

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

Here are her top ten picks for beginners…

1. Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’

‘Fragrant, long-flowering and all it needs is an annual haircut in late winter/early spring – what more can you ask for? Nepeta, aka catmint, starts putting out foliage in March and flowers from May to October (if you keep on top of deadheading).

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 good-size containers for small outdoor spaces, a patio or balconies.’

2. Geranium ‘Rozanne’

‘Prepare to fall in love with this long-flowering perennial that will give you flowers from May right through to the frosts.

Loved by bees, this plant with saucer-shape purple flowers and lush green leaves can spread to 90cm wide.

Cut back in late winter to clear the decks for new growth. Plant in full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Also great for good-size pots.’

3. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’

‘With Buxus now persona non grata thanks to caterpillars and blight, Pittosporum “Golf Ball” is a lovely option if you want zesty green domes which have a slightly more relaxed feel than formal topiary.

Other than a prune to keep them to a clipped to shape in spring, they need nothing more. Full sun or part shade. Moist, well-drained soil.’

4. Alliums

‘Whether purple or white, alliums are a great addition to your garden and, what’s more, they are the very epitome of “plant and go”.

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

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

5. Hylotelephium (Herbstfreude Group) ‘Herbstfreude’

‘Drought-tolerant once established, this succulent perennial is ideal for later summer colour, with flat-topped flower heads which start pale green and open to a rich pink before fading toward autumn.

Leave over winter for winter interest and cut down in spring. A valuable late source of nectar for pollinators, too. Needs full sun and a well-drained soil.’

6. Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’

‘Deciduous ornamental grasses are brilliant options for beginners, providing invaluable interest from summer to late winter, with nothing more needed than a late winter prune to the ground.

It’s a fantastic upright grass producing biscuit-toned, feather-like heads in midsummer which remain through autumn and provide wonderful architectural interest in the winter border. Full sun or part shade.’

7. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

‘People often worry about lavenders, with talk of 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) keep on top of pruning.

Cut young plants (not old woody ones) right down in late summer after flowering, and give a light prune to keep it tidy in late winter then it won’t get the chance to get leggy.

Good for pots. If it does get old and woody, many subscribe to the ethos that it’s best replaced after five years anyway. Needs full sun.’

8. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’

‘A compact but dramatic grass with silvery leaves and feathery red-brown heads in summer which fade to silver in autumn.

Leave over winter for added interest and cut down in early spring. Needs full sun, well-drained soil.’

9. Erigeron karvinskianus

‘This brilliant little daisy is perfect for filling gaps, gravel gardens and path edges in your outdoor spaces. Flowering from May to September, the flowers emerge white before turning pink.

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

10. Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

‘This is a great shrub for winter interest. With mid-green, oval leaves in spring, this plant produces small creamy flowers in May/June, but it’s from autumn that this plant really does its thing as the leaves drop to reveal bright flame-coloured stems.

For the best stem colour, don’t prune in its first year after planting, but thereafter cut all stems down to 20cm or so from the ground. Full sun to part shade.’

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