Gardening tips


I thought we should have a separate gardening tips thread, so that we don’t derail the wildflower one! 

Here in Wisconsin, we’re in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b, if that means anything to anyone. Our garden is super dull at the moment. I really want to divide it up in to a proper veg garden, and then do something nicer with the rest. Need to get our trees trimmed soon though. But it’s going to be a matter of time and money - we’ve so much that we must do with the house, our budget is going to be ridiculously small. Plus, I have black thumbs. Bah. 


Black thumbs.  Nonsense.  I started gardening in 2001, when going through redundancy, and the green fingers ‘evolved’, often through making mistakes and learning from them!  Now I am pretty knowledgeable (and ah hem having broken my back in one of my bad bipolar episodes, I also have an expert gardener - Alison - to come in once a month).

My gut feel is that your starting point is your hardiness zone - see:  This will determine broadly speaking which plants you can grow - and you’ve found that essential information out already.  Your soil type is also vital - sand, loam or clay; acid, neutral or lime.  Looking at what is thriving in neighbouring gardens may give you a clue - if they are full of acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, then that could give you an indication of what will work.  The motto is ‘right plant, right place’.

If you want to be really clever, you can look for micro-climates within your garden - where does the morning sun shine, and the afternoon sun?  Which is the dampest part and the driest?  I’ve got a cold side and a hot side to my house.  Warm colours (oranges, reds) will show up best on the hot side aesthetically, catching the afternoon’s sun, and cool colours (blues and purples) will look pretty on the cold side, where the morning sun will catch them.  Anything with delicate buds eg magnolias must not be touched by morning sun as on a cold day it will defrost them too quickly and damage the buds.

You can locate a USA plant finder here:  You just fill in your variables, and a selection of suitable plants is apparently served up on a plate for you!

I always pay good money for an arboriculturalist to cut my trees.  You can do terrible damage to them otherwise!

Yes I am fanatically enthusiastic about gardening, how did you guess?  I am always looking for inspiration in the National Trust gardens I visit.  It’s surprising what you can transfer back on a much smaller scale.




The trees in my garden are in a terrible state - they need some serious attention from a tree surgeon, but as that means money, and it’s a rented house, it really isn’t high on the priority list. It would be lovely to get them sorted, though. 



Same here Headdesk. I told our letting agent, but they seem in no hurry to sort it out. We’ve got one tree that is ridiculously high, as well as overhanging part of next doors garden.



Oh, how odd I thought I had replied to TP, but obviously I never hit ‘post’!! 

Thanks for the tips, TP! All very useful. 

I have the websites of three tree specialists open on my laptop - I just need to email them to get prices. But before I do that, I need to get our chimney capped so that the chimney swifts we had last year can’t come back. I loved having them in our chimney, but they brought bugs with them – similar to bed bugs – and it cost us nearly $1000 to have them eradicated. Though the odd tough little survivor is still crawling out of the woodwork and dying on our mantelpiece even now. 

So that’s work that needs doing and it’s not going to be cheep. Gah. Don’t buy an old house!! 


Gosh yes, Suw, I remember those awful bugs - they were most unwelcome invaders.  I do remember living in an old house myself.  I spent some of my childhood years not very happily in a very isolated former Victorian school-house.  The stone walls were so thick, yet you’d get ice on the inside of the bedroom windows in winter!

There’s much to be said for doing nothing to a garden (trees excepted) for a while, as you can take time to see what is there as the seasons pass by!  So do nothing for the time being is a reasonable strategy!  And probably wild-life friendly too.

In any case, planting season must be a while away where you are (sorry to bring the weather into another topic!).

Stay cosy.  :)


I have to do something with the garden as it annoys me intensely at the moment. It’s just two trees, a scrap of grass and a ton of plants that are all the same and really boring and dull. I can’t remember which ones they are, though, but I hate them already. I think we need to start with clearing out the vege patch properly, and then putting in gravel pathways, and perhaps raised beds. Then we need to get a ton of tomatoes in, plus some lettuce. I love lettuce. :smiley: And get the mint out of the ground and into a pot before it goes crazy. 

If we get that done this year, it’ll be a start. 


Maybe take advantage of winter to play with designs and decide what you really want. What matters to you - colour, fragrance, veggies, somewhere to sit? Are there any views you want to reveal or block? Do you need shade or less shade anywhere? Perhaps also browse the web and snip a few photos of gardens you'd love to have if money, space, time and location were no object. Then you've got some definite guidelines to work with in deciding how to achieve it within space, budget and climate.



That’s a good idea, yes. I’ll have to start a board for it on Pinterest. I’d like to have a little deck area instead of our crappy concrete slab, but I know I need to start with more modest ambitions! 



My obsessive tulip buying last Autumn is paying off, many times over. I have pots and pots of them on display now. (I don’t find formal flowers like tulips work that well in my cottage garden beds, so pots are the way to go). Sometimes loud is good - purple parrot tulips - sometimes subtle (as shown here).



And the first poppy of the year. An unusual perennial double orange - grown many generations back from free seed with Amateur Gardening magazine. Now self-sown liberally! They are very ephemeral - their silky petals do not last that long - but as they are so abundant, that scarcely matters!

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Those photos are lovely, TP! I bet your garden is gorgeous with all those lovely flowers!!

Green things are starting to grow in our garden, though I don’t really know what they are. It’s a bit boring, our garden really, but I’ve not got the time to really do much with it. So much to do with ALD, and inside the house, that the garden comes a poor second. :frowning:



Gardening is therapeutic for me - it is a form of what Mind promotes as ‘eco-therapy’ - so it’s an important part of staying well with bipolar disorder.

Also, we garden together now, and it’s become a powerful shared interest for me and OH. Which is really nice. We enjoy the planning, planting, photography and garden visiting! Also just admiring our handiwork - these tiny two-toned tulips came out rather well!



Oh, they are beautiful!! I can only imagine how wonderful your garden must be, with so much love lavished upon it!



Not exactly a gardening tip, but today’s garden - in Windsor Great Park. No colours were enhanced - the pinks really WERE that pink!



That is beautiful! What are they? I was wondering if they were azaleas but I’m not sure.



I’m redesigning my herb garden this year. I’ve bought a new bay tree and a myrtle. Today mum and I went to Powderham Castle for a flower show and I bought an angelica, a lovage (I thought the tiny one I bought last year for my birthday had died so I bought a new one. Of course, when I was having a look around once I got home I found it sprouting happy as anything), and a Moroccan mint (I’m hoping to experiment making tisanes). Next week is Malvern Spring Show. I’m going for the weekend and plan to buy LOTS of herbs, then the following weekend I’ll be digging up the herbs that I want to replace - they’ve gone a bit too wild - and replant it. I’ll try and remember to take before and after photos. I’ve been planning this for months and I’m so excited that it’s nearly time.



Rhododendrons now encompass azaleas. These bushes were what I used to know as azaleas ie small flowers, but masses of them to make up a wall of colour!

Your purchases sound lovely. Beware mint - it is very invasive, so best pot-grown. You probably know already…but better safe than sorry with the horticultural thugs!



I wasn’t aware of the taxonomic changes of rhododendrons/azaleas, thanks!

I’m well aware of the invasive properties of mint - my uncle (whose garden this was before I took it over) planted some outside the coal shed. It spread rather, and now occupies a decent (if still quite small proportionally) sector of the lawn each summer. I let it grow because the flowers seem to attract a lot of wildlife and I keep it in check by giving it a mow around the edges every now and then which smells divine!



I’ve never heard of the concept of a mint lawn, but I can see how that would work. What a heavenly concept, fragrance-wise.

According to the RHS, azaleas do still exist, but are a sub-species of rhododendrons. Confused! But they are all lovely, so who cares?

Rhododendrons are grown for their spectacular flowers, usually borne in spring. Some also have young leaves and stems covered in a striking dense woolly covering (indumentum) and some - the deciduous rhododendrons or azaleas - have good autumn colour.

I have noticed what you mention, that letting herbs run into flower attracts lots of wildlife, so that’s what I do. I am a big bumble-bee (bomus) enthusiast!