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Why focusing on your planting scheme in November will see your garden blooming in spring and beyond

Garden and planting design: behind the scenes

It might be grey and drizzly outside but today, in this blog, I’m looking ahead to enjoying gardens on warmer occasions when gardens are full of colour. This is the first in a series of blogs where I’ll take you behind the scenes of my garden design studio, talking about the different steps I go through when designing a garden or planting scheme. I’ll try to answer as many of your gardening questions along the way.

Today I’m kicking off with a frequently asked question – when is the best time to plant for all year-round colour? If you’re looking at your garden now, longing for signs of growth and a flash of colour, my message is: don’t wait until the spring. Start planning your spring garden a few months ahead, if you can.

Why designing a planting scheme in winter is a good idea?

You might have to dodge the rain and sometimes even snow showers, but the dormant season which typically runs from November to April, is a great time to plant for spring and summer colour. And there are a couple of reasons why, starting with the roots of the plants and the ground we plant them in.

During the dormant season plants can be supplied as ‘bare root’ or ‘rootballed’ (1). ‘Bare root’ means that the plants are dug from the ground and transported with little or no soil around the roots.  ‘Root ball’ means that a ball of soil is retained around the roots, usually bound with hessian or wire mesh.

The beauty of this is that these plants can be dug up from the nursery and planted straight into your garden and limits the affect of transplanting on their growth. This isn’t something you can do in the spring months, once the roots have ‘woken up’ and are active.

Root growth and settling in

In fact, the ground in autumn and winter provides plants with the perfect environment to settle into the ground and start growing before the demands of the main growing seasons of spring and summer. The pace of growth might be slower than the spring months, but I’ve seen, at first-hand, how season after season plants grow and begin to thrive in winter soils registering double digit temperatures or more (2). You have to be patient and wait until spring to see the results of your hard work, but it’s worth it. (3)

It’s true that a harsh winter is a lot tougher on plants, but root growth carries on steadily during this dormant period. It’s also worth mentioning that you can plant perennials during the winter season. They’re usually supplied in containers, but it is possible to source bare root perennials.

Planting: budget and availability

Another big reason for sourcing plants in the autumn and winter is down to budget and availability. There’s a much wider range of trees and shrubs available and prices are often less than plants supplied in containers. If you’re looking to get as much as you can for your budget – then this is the ideal time to start sourcing those plants.

Planting schemes for the long term

There is so much we can achieve in the garden during the autumn and winter and it’s so exciting knowing that there is so much going on under the ground, unseen. All those roots settling in and growing. Watching them come to life in the spring is an absolute joy!

Complete Planting Design: client case study – before and after

This planting design is a perfect example of how planning ahead and planting in the winter can lead to a garden that can be enjoyed the following spring and summer.

  • Summer: Design the planting scheme
  • Autumn: source plants
  • December: plant trees and shrubs
  • February: plant perennials in between light snow showers (most were planted in small 9cm pots and didn’t show any growth above ground until March – April)

Thank you so much for reading, I hope this blog has helped to explain a few things and given you some food for thought!


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