Garden Answers (UK) - - Easy Gardening -

Stay off soil that’s sod­den or frozen but, once con­di­tions im­prove, dig out peren­nial weeds and boost soil with well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter. Most of these plants pre­fer well-drained soil; boggy con­di­tions would be lethal for the heather, daphne and carex. Break up com­pacted ground and add ex­tra or­ganic mat­ter and grit to im­prove soil struc­ture. Cover with a thick mulch of leaf­mould or well-rot­ted home­made com­post af­ter plant­ing.

1 Es­tab­lish the cor­nus

If ground is work­able, plant bare­root dog­woods Nov-Apr; any time if pot-grown. Place far enough back so they don’t crowd out smaller plants and add lots of well­rot­ted com­post around the plant­ing hole – they like a fer­tile, mois­ture-re­ten­tive soil. Let your plant es­tab­lish for 2-3 years be­fore prun­ing. ‘Mid­win­ter Fire’ is less vig­or­ous than Cor­nus alba cul­ti­vars, so cut it back by around half. Give a scat­ter­ing of gen­eral-pur­pose fer­tiliser in spring.

2 Tuck in some cy­cla­men

Cy­cla­men love well-drained soil that’s rich in leaf­mould and the light shade de­cid­u­ous shrubs of­fer in sum­mer, so tuck them around the an­tic­i­pated spread of the cor­nus branches. Check tu­bers are plump and healthy when buy­ing in au­tumn. Plant rounded side down, about 2.5cm (1in) deep, so their tip is level with the soil sur­face. Or, look out for pot-grown plants, which are more ex­pen­sive but you get a bet­ter es­tab­lish­ment rate. They will self-seed.

3 Plant berge­nia, heather, carex and daphne

These are best planted in au­tumn or spring when the ground is warm and work­able. Plant the berge­nias en masse, in full sun for bright­est fo­liage colour, although they will cope with part shade. Re­move old tat­tered leaves be­fore the flow­ers in late spring. Berge­nias spread by rhi­zomes; if they start to be­come leggy, dig up clumps and re­plant vig­or­ous young sec­tions into im­proved soil. Heather ‘Kramer’s Rote’ needs a well-drained soil to thrive. A sunny site and sandy loam suit it to per­fec­tion; er­i­cas par­tic­u­larly dis­like be­ing overfed or over­wa­tered. Take care to po­si­tion them away from the po­ten­tial shade of other plants. Wa­ter dur­ing their first sea­son of growth es­pe­cially in pro­longed dry spells. Trim ‘Kramer’s Rote’ lightly, im­me­di­ately af­ter flow­er­ing, to keep plants bushy. Carex is hardy in most win­ters but make sure your soil has good drainage be­cause it doesn’t like win­ter wet. In spring lightly comb through to pull out dead leaves and stems from its dense tus­socks and di­vide es­tab­lished clumps. Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is one of the eas­i­est daphnes to grow, flow­ers early and its scent is mag­i­cal. Choose its site care­fully (daphnes don’t like be­ing moved) and find it a shel­tered spot if you’re on more ex­posed ground. Dig in some leaf­mould or other well-rot­ted or­ganic mat­ter to en­sure a hu­mus-rich, free-drain­ing soil. Wa­ter dur­ing a dry spell in their first year but take care not to drown plants. When the first pink buds open it’ll be worth ev­ery penny.

Cre­ate a metal­lic mix by thread­ing golden ivy Hedera colchica ‘Sul­phur Heart’ be­tween swirls of berge­nia and pink heather

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