The team at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens share their spring gardening tips

PUBLISHED: 10:59 26 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:59 26 March 2014

Chaenomeles contorta

Chaenomeles contorta


Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is managed and operated by Hampshire County Council. For more information on the gardens visit

Scilla bifoliaScilla bifolia

Spring carpets of blue

There is nothing quite as spectacular as a carpet of colour made entirely of flowers and early spring is the perfect time to see this kind of display. These living carpets can be made up of various types of dwarf bulb, which are generally very easy to grow and adaptable to most garden soil.

There are two types to consider. The woodland bulbs, those that are tolerant of some shade and grow better in humus rich soils, and the alpine type, those that will grow out in full sun and can tolerate very poor soil and exposure to the elements.

The star of the woodland garden at this time of year is the Anemone. Anemone blanda comes in shades of pink, white and blue. The plant is quite small and lies close to the ground, yet the daisy-like flowers are big and showy. They bulk up quite quickly, but it is worth buying them in bulk for an instant display. It is possible to just purchase the blue variety and they are usually inexpensive. Do remember that most of these early flowering plants will die down from late spring and will not emerge again until late winter, so it is advisable to plant them with later flowering herbaceous plants or bulbs to extend the season of interest.

Tecophilaea cyanocrocus is a very good early alpine and flowers best in very well drained areas, such as rock gardens and sinks. This stunning early bulb is worth growing in pots if your soil is too heavy and wet. Try them in a troughs to bring some colour on to the patio at this time of year.

The best time of year to be planting spring bulbs is in the autumn, but as many of these little characters are very tough, planting them in flower shouldn’t affect them too aversely. Many good garden centres sell them in autumn as dry bulbs and at this time of year in pots.

Barry Clarke

Propagator and Nursery Manager


Colourful combinations

This is an absolutely super time of year, everything is fresh and new and there are some wonderful trees, shrubs and perennials that can be brought together to make the perfect spring display.

Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Contorta’, a variety of the Japanese flowering quince is a stunning shrub with large, white flowers with a subtle deep pink reverse. This delicate looking beauty can flower for many weeks and has the added bonus of golden yellow fruits in autumn. The contorted stems are akin to the contorted Hazel and are an appealing feature in winter.

As a contrast, the pendulous flower spikes of the peach-coloured flowering currant look amazing. This decorative cousin of the blackcurrant is perhaps one of the easiest, yet rewarding shrubs to grow. Ribes x beatonii, as it is formally known, is an upright shrub that could be grown through the quince, making a colourful partnership.

Spring ground cover plants are abundant, but one of the best is Epimedium. These woodlanders cope well with a shady spot and are perfect for growing beneath large shrubs and trees. Try Epimedium ‘Pink Elf’, the masses of tiny pink flowers will finish off this combination superbly.

David Jewell

Head Gardener


Jobs for this month

Keep a close eye on aphids, fly pests or caterpillars. Infestations can be dealt with easily by hand removal.

Continue to lift and divide overgrown herbaceous perennials when soil conditions are favourable. In particular, plants such as Agapanthus or Kniphofia can be done now, just as they spring into growth. Plant them firmly and water them in.

Cornus or Willow can be pruned down to four inches to produce new stems for next winter’s stem colour display. Apply a general fertiliser plus a good surface layer of organic compost and they should grow away nicely.

Prune late summer flowering Clematis down to 18 inches. Trim just above emerging buds and tie the stems onto their support as they grow.

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