GIFTS for the green-fingered mum. Suggestions on how to make sure you’re in the good books this Mother’s Day.
Florists may be busy in the run-up to Mother’s Day, but with a little forethought you can buy your mum a present which will last much longer than a bouquet of flowers.
Garden centres, nurseries and online retailers are awash with Mother’s Day gifts, from soft-handled secateurs to pretty kneeling cushions, pampering hand creams and muscle-relaxing bath salts, plus a host of ornaments to remind her of you.
Even those on the tightest budget can bag a gift which will give pleasure for years to come. Pop into Poundland and pick up a shrub or fruit bush for just a quid, ranging from roses and escallonias to blueberries and potentillas.
There’s still time to sow some seeds, but if you want to give them as a gift, The Balcony Gardener has just launched a range of beautifully packaged seeds including chilli, spring onion, basil, chives, mint, carrots and others, which come in lovely packets. The seeds can all be grown in window boxes, pots or large containers on the smallest of patios or roof terraces (£3.25 a packet, www.thebalconygardener.com, 020 7431 5553).
A plethora of garden ornaments are on offer, but among the prettiest are some stainless steel dragonflies (£15.95 each) from Home2Garden, each which comes on a 50cm spring wire, as well as an unusual frost-proof rainbow glass bird bath at £34.99. (For details go to www.home2garden.co.uk or call 01923 492 947)
Keen vegetable growers may want to extend their repertoire to more unusual veg, so why not buy your mother something she hasn’t grown before, such as mushrooms? You can buy a white button mushroom kit, which will also be easy to gift wrap, which has everything you need to grow mushrooms and could boost confidence to grow other, more difficult veg. (£5.99, www.greenfingers.com, 0845 345 0728)
Gardeners can never have too many gloves, but the Showa Floreo 370 lightweight nylon glove takes some beating. With a nitrile-coated palm, it keeps your hand protected while being thin enough to perform intricate tasks in the garden, including potting, seedling work, pricking out, tying up plants and weeding. Available in a range of bright colours. (£6.99, M Store, www.mstore.co.uk, 0845 370 1045)
Create a wow factor by filling a handsome willow planter with trailing flowers within an elegant stand. It makes a fabulous free-standing addition to a patio or creates a focal point in bed or border. (£42.99, Lakeland, www.lakeland.co.uk or phone 01539 488 100)
If your mum loves clipping hedges or creating perfectly shaped balls or pyramids out of evergreen shrubs, soft pink topiary and trimming shears from Burgon & Ball give her a stylish way to do it. Hand forged in Sheffield with soft pink handles, they come in an attractive co-ordinating gift box. (£19.95, Burgon & Ball, www.burgonandball.com)
Perhaps a cup of tea is required after a heavy day in the garden, so her ideal gift would be a stylish Tisaniere tea set and lemon verbena plant, which will form the ingredient for a delicious herbal tea. As well as the tea pot and lemon verbena plant, the gift set comes with a packet of mint seeds, which when grown can also make a zesty herb tea, a metal plant label and instructions on how to grow the seeds, as well as a booklet that contains other herb tea recipes. (£24.99, www.crocus.co.uk)
Instead of a throwaway bouquet, why not spoil your mum with something that she can enjoy year in year out? Buy something original like an almond tree, one of a range available from Focus DIY (£19.99, Focus DIY stores nationwide, or visit www.focusdiy.co.uk)
As day turns to night, create a romantic or relaxing mood with some new porcelain solar lamps with a leafy pattern, ideal on tables at elegant parties or relaxed patio get-togethers (£14.99 each, Lakeland, www.lakeland.co.uk or call 01539 488 100)
For a more personalised gift, have a special message put on to a lovely pine apple crate planter which can be used for planting up bright and cheerful blooms or simply used as a novelty hamper for other gifts or a storage solution for indoors. (£39.99, www.gettingpersonal.co.uk)
If you want to pamper your mother and give her something practical at the same time, splash out on the Luxe Gardeners Tin from Crabtree & Evelyn, which includes tools, gloves and a sturdy tin to keep your bits and bobs in, as well as luxurious handcare products to restore skin after a satisfying day of digging in the dirt. (Crabtree & Evelyn, £32, www.crabtree-evelyn.co.uk, stockists 0800 111 4406)
Best of the bunch — Euphorbia (spurge)
The flowers of these hardy shrubs may be insignificant, but their bracts, ranging from acid yellow to deep orange and bronze, more than make up for the flowers.
They are a very diverse group which includes succulents and poinsettia and you can find types which are suitable for almost any setting, from a gravel garden to a big border.
Most prefer sun but will tolerate partial shade and they will grow in most soils but don’t like being waterlogged.
They self-seed freely so beware them spreading too rapidly, especially on light soils. Among the most common is E. characias ‘Wulfenii’, a large, rounded bush with greyish-green leaves, whose globe-shaped heads adorned with small yellow-green flowers appear from early spring. It’s ideal for the back of a border, as it can grow to 1.2m (4ft).
A much smaller type, the evergreen E. myrsinites, is better for planting in a rock garden, as it grows to just 10cm (4in) tall, its stems topped with clusters of yellow-green flowers which turn a greyish-pink as they fade.
Other good varieties include E. palustrus, a larger type which is weather tolerant and produces fresh green foliage before the lime-green bracts appear. Bigger types do well as stand-alone plants by a wall, but also combine well with silvery or bluish foliage plants.
Good enough to eat... broad beans
Broad beans sown in March and then at monthly intervals to the end of May should provide you with beans throughout the summer, to eat raw or cooked, in casseroles or as a simple accompaniment to meat and fish dishes.
They are among the easiest beans to grow, although they do need a sunny, sheltered spot, but are less fussy about the soil than peas or runner beans, and it’s wise to add organic matter to the soil the previous autumn.
Sow the seeds in double rows 5cm deep and 20cm apart in spring, setting up stakes which will be needed to support the plants as they grow.
Hoe regularly to keep down weeds and pinch out the top 10cm of stem when the first beans start to form, to prompt an earlier harvest.
Begin picking when the first pods are 5-8cm long and cook them whole. Pick pods for shelling only when the beans have begun to show through the pod but don’t leave them to become the optimum size or they will be tough. Good longpod varieties include the white Aquadulce Claudia and Red Epicure, which has a distinctive flavour.
Three ways to... Use trees in garden design
1. Use small trees to provide height in mixed borders containing shrubs and herbaceous perennials.
2. Use trees as screens, to provide shelter and create divisions between properties. A barrier of trees can create vital screening yet allows room for interesting plants to be grown in the ground beneath, an area a conventional hedge would fill.
3. Consider timescale, how long the tree is going to take to grow and how big it will be at maturity. A very slow-growing specimen may take 30 years to make a significant impact, but if you’re only going to live there for a few years, it won’t have done its job.
What to do this week
Continue to prepare seedbeds outside, weather permitting, using planks to stand on if the soil you are working on is very wet.
Weed borders and mulch bare soil with organic matter or other material to stop them emerging again.
Plant containers with hardy plants including small trees, shrubs and climbers.
Cut vigorous climbers such as ivy, winter-flowering jasmine and honeysuckle back hard.
Lift and divide overgrown clumps of summer-flowering herbaceous perennials, just as growth gets under way.
Split primulas after flowering, as the flowers go over.
Place stakes in the ground to support perennials which will soon be emerging.
Cut down growth left after winter to make way for new shoots, dressing the soil with a fertiliser so it’s ready for a layer of mulch.
Plant out early varieties of potato, once they have been chitted.
Plant a patch of comfrey in a bright, sunny corner of the kitchen garden. The leaves make a great addition to the compost heap, or may be spread over the soil around crops as a mulch.
Sow salad leaves little and often, resulting in a continuation of crops to harvest through the summer.
Continue to take cuttings from the new shoots of chrysanthemums which have been overwintered in the greenhouse.
Pick off dead flowerheads of winter and spring bedding plants.
Once potted bulbs grown inside are past their best, plant them outside and give them a liquid feed.