A patio with roses of different color.

How to Plant Up Patio Roses in Your Garden

Modern patio roses bloom for many months, and offer those with limited space the chance to enjoy their color and fragrance. Not all roses thrive in cramped conditions, so look out for plants labeled “patio” or “miniature,” and place your containers in a sunny position for the best blooms.

When to plant: Autumn or early spring.

At their best: Early to midsummer.

Time to complete: 30 minutes.

You will need: Large container – at least 18 in (45 cm) deep, broken clay pot pieces, gravel, soil-based potting mix, well-rotted manure, slow-release fertilizer, Mycorrhizal fungi – such as Rootgrow, patio rose, such as Rosa ‘Regensberg’, Bedding plants – such as Sutera cordata (syn. Bacopa).

Prepare the container

Plant your pot in situ, since it will be heavy and difficult to move once planted. Place a layer of broken pots or plastic pieces at the bottom of the container. Add a layer of gravel to aid drainage, and then some potting mix with well-rotted manure (one part manure to ten parts soil).

Check planting depth

Place the rose, in its pot, on the soil and check that the graft union (swelling at base of stems) will be below the soil after planting. Remove or add soil to adjust the planting level, and mix in slow-release fertilizer and mycorrhizal fungi. Then remove the rose from its container and set it in the pot.

Plant up annuals

Fill around the root ball with the soil and manure mixture. Wearing gloves, firm it in gently with your hands. Leave a gap of 2 in (5 cm) between the soil and the rim of the pot to allow space for watering. For added summer color, after the frosts in late spring, plant trailing bedding plants, such as Sutera, around the edge.

Finishing touches

Water the plants well after planting; you may have to add a little more soil after watering if it exposes the roots. A mulch of well-rotted manure over the top of the soil will help retain moisture. Keep the container moist during the growing season, and stand it on “feet” during winter to make sure excess water drains away easily.


In spring, remove the top layer of soil and add some fresh soil mixed with a granular rose fertilizer, applying it according to the manufacturers’ instructions. You may need to top up with a liquid feed in the summer, but avoid doing so in late summer because this will encourage soft growth that is vulnerable to frost.

Woman removing a flower plant from a small pot.

How to Use Pot-Grown Plants

Some plants, such as lavender, boxwood, holly, and privet, are not generally available in bare-root form and are grown and sold in pots. The planting technique is similar to that for bare-root types but pot-grown hedging can be planted at any time of year, as long as the soil is not frozen or very dry.

When to plant: Any time; early autumn or spring is best.

At their best: All year (evergreen); Spring to autumn (deciduous).

Time to complete: 3 hours or longer depending on hedge size.

You will need: Pot-grown holly plants – Ilex aquifolium, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, all-purpose granular fertilizer, spade, fork, stakes, garden string, watering can or hose.

Dig planting holes

Prepare the soil and mark out the area as in Steps 1 and 2 from here How to Plant a Formal Hedge. Either dig a long trench or individual holes for each plant—holes need to be as deep as the root

ball and twice as wide.

Tease out roots

If planting in spring, add some fertilizer to the excavated soil. Tease out any congested roots before planting at the same depth as the plant was in its original pot. Firm in with your foot and water well.

Modern design garden with Chamomile plant.

How to Lay a Chamomile Lawn

Sweet, soothing, scented chamomile has long been a desirable alternative to grass, and with the availability of turf, it is quick and easy to lay. Chamomile likes free-draining soil and, because it will not tolerate heavy wear and tear, is most suitable for decorative lawns or fragrant seats.

When to start: Early autumn or early spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 2 hours or more for larger lawns.

You will need: Chamomile turf, well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, horticultural grit, all-purpose granular fertilizer, topsoil and horticultural sand.

Lay the turf

Prepare your site as for turf (How to Turf a Lawn), and if you have heavy clay, dig in lots of grit to ensure that your soil drains freely; waterlogged soil will kill chamomile. Turf will consist of Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’, a nonflowering, compact plant that spreads to form a dense mat. Lay the turf in the same way as grass (check: How to Turf a Lawn).

Caring for chamomile

There’s no need to mow chamomile because it naturally grows to just 2. in (6 cm) in height. Trim it occasionally during summer, using garden shears to remove straggly growth and sideways spread. Pull out any weeds by hand before they have time to establish—do not use lawn weedkiller, which will kill the chamomile. Each spring, apply a slow release granular fertilizer and sprinkle a top dressing of sieved soil and horticultural sand over the lawn. Tread in the dressing to crush the stems, which promotes strong root growth.

Hedge made of different colored plants.

How to Create an Informal Hedge

If you prefer a relaxed, rustic style of garden, avoid formal hedges, and opt instead for one that contains a mix of species. This style of hedge is good for wildlife, as it provides food and somewhere to live. It is also relatively easy to look after, needing just one trim per year in late autumn.

When to plant: Autumn.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 3 hours, or more for long hedges.

You will need: Wildlife hedging plants (blackthorn, dog rose, hawthorn, hazel, holly), spade, fork, string and pegs, well-rotted organic matter, such as manure.

Selection of plants you could use: Berberis darwinii, Blackthorn – Prunus spinose, Dog rose – Rosa canina, Field maple – Acer campestre, Guelder rose – Viburnum opulus, Hawthorn – Crataegus, Hazel – Corylus avellana, Holly – Ilex aquifolium, Rosa glauca.

Prepare the site

Hedges are permanent structures, and fare best in well-prepared soil. Dig over the area, removing all weeds, especially the roots of perennials. Fork in some organic matter deep into the soil to improve its structure.

Compress soil

Use your weight to compress the soil, shuffling slowly over the entire area. Then repeat this at right angles. If planted immediately after it has been dug over, the soil will settle, and plants will not be anchored properly.

Mark guide lines

For a deep hedge, set out two lines of string, held taut by pegs, 14–16 in (35–40cm) apart. These form the planting guides for your two rows of plants. For a narrower hedge, you will need just one line of plants.

Plant in trenches

To ensure a really straight hedge, dig out a long trench, rather than individual holes. Plant one line at a time and position the plants along its length, about 14 in (35 cm) apart. Alternate the different plant species for a mosaic effect.

Check planting depths

Hedging plants suffer when planted too deeply or shallowly, so take care to ensure that they are at the same depth as they were in the nursery, or in their pots. The stems will be darker where they previously touched the soil.

Stagger planting

If planting a double row, stagger the second line, so that the plants grow in the gaps between those in the first row. Water in all plants well, and mulch with organic matter, keeping it clear of the stems. Water the hedge regularly throughout the first year.

Thorny barriers

An informal wildlife hedge can also double as a barrier to deter intruders because many wildlife-friendly plants are covered in vicious spikes and thorns. Deer will avoid barriers that look tricky or painful to negotiate, and are more likely to go elsewhere for easier pickings. Alongside the classic native plants, there are also many roses that make beautiful but fearsome hedges.

Site and soil

Ideally most hedging plants, including roses and the other plants used here, prefer a sunny site, with well-drained and fertile soil. If your soil is not perfect, spend some time preparing the ground by digging in plenty of organic matter down to a spade’s depth.

Plant species roses

Follow the advice for planting roses. However, species roses, which are ideal for hedges, do not have a graft union, and are planted at the same depth they were growing at in their pots, or in the field.


Once plants have started growing in spring, cut them back by about a third to encourage bushy growth from the base. Keep them watered throughout their first year and regularly remove any weeds around their base. This will prevent your roses from having to compete for nutrients and water while they are in the process of becoming established.

Small hedge in a garden.

How to Make a Formal Hedge

Yew, hornbeam, and beech make excellent closely clipped hedges, and you can reduce the cost by buying young bare-rooted plants from late winter to early spring from specialist nurseries and growing them on yourself. Prepare your soil in advance and plant immediately, unless the soil is frozen or waterlogged.

When to plant: Late autumn to early spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 4 hours or more depending on hedge size.

You will need: Young bare-rooted hedging plants (like yew, Taxus baccata, for example), well-rotted organic matter – such as manure, spade, fork, stakes, garden string, watering can or hose, all-purpose granular fertilizer.

Prepare the site

Six weeks before planting, remove all weeds from the site and dig a trench the length of the hedge and 3 ft (1 m) wide. Fork in organic matter, and refill the trench. Set out a line to mark the edge of the hedge.

Mark planting intervals

Dig a trench twice as wide and as deep as the plants’ root balls. Using a ruler or guide, lay stakes at 18–24 in (45–60 cm) intervals along the string line to mark the planting distances.

Check planting depths

Check that the plants will be at the same depth as they were in the field when planted—you will see the soil line just above the roots. Place one plant by each stake, and backfill around the roots with soil, removing any air gaps with your fingers.

Firm in well

When in place, check that the plants are upright and then firm in around them with your foot. Create a slight dip around each plant to act as a reservoir, and water well. Add a thick mulch of compost or manure, keeping it clear of the plant stems. Water for the first year and feed plants annually in spring.

Woman pruning a lavender hedge.

How to Shear Your Lavender Hedge

Although lavenders are generally easy plants, requiring little or no additional watering once established, they do need annual care. Leave small, young plants unpruned for the first 12 months after planting to allow them to put on some growth, but in subsequent years cut your hedge twice a year to prevent it becoming leggy.

When to start: Late summer, after flowering, and early spring.

Time to complete: 1 hour or longer depending on hedge size.

You will need: Garden shears, household disinfectant, clippers, all-purpose liquid fertilizer.

Prune into shape

To keep your lavender plants young, bushy and healthy, cut them back in late winter or early spring. Clean your tools thoroughly and spray them with a household disinfectant before you begin work. Then, using sharp shears, cut the stems back as close as possible to the old wood.

The correct cut

Take care not to cut into old brown wood, since the plants will not reshoot from this. Shear to a few healthy leaves above the brown stems, and work systematically along the hedge, keeping it as level as possible.

After flowering

In late spring or early summer, the sheared plants will grow an abundance of side shoots to create a compact, bushy hedge. To keep it neat, cut it back again after flowering in late summer: remove all the old flower heads to prevent the plants from putting their energy into making unwanted seed.

Container with Geraniums on a white wood wall.

How to Make a Wall of Fiery Geraniums

Wander down any residential street in the Mediterranean region and you will find houses ablaze with fiery geraniums. These drought-loving plants bask happily in the burning sun in their tiny terracotta pots, creating a dazzling display that requires very little care. If you have a sunny wall, buy young plants in late spring to create your own summer holiday effect at home.

When to plant: Late spring.

At their best: Early summer to early autumn.

Time to complete: 2 hours.

You will need: Bedding geraniums – Pelargonium, small terracotta wall pots, broken clay pot pieces and gravel, multi-purpose soil, slow-release all-purpose fertilizer, masonry nails or rawlplugs and coach bolts, hammer or electric drill.

Prepare the wall pots

Buy at least five wall pots and make sure that each has a drainage hole—if not, make one with an electric drill. Cover the hole with a piece of clay pot. Add 1 in (2 cm) of gravel and then a layer of soil to the base of each container.

Plant the geraniums

Water the plants. Put one geranium (Pelargonium), still in its original container, into the wall pot and check that it will sit at least 1 in (2 cm) below the rim when planted. Remove it from its pot and plant up, firming in around it with multi-purpose soil mixed with a little slow-release fertilizer. Water well.

Fix pots to wall

For a more dramatic effect, paint the wall white or a pale color. Hammer in a masonry nail at a slight angle; alternatively, if you can’t drive in a nail, drill a hole with an electric drill, push in a Rawlplug, and screw in a coach bolt. Fit the pots onto the wall.

Tips: Watering your pots

Geraniums require watering every few days in summer, so make sure you can reach them easily or use a long-handled hose. As the plants grow and their roots develop, it is best to water them from below by placing the wall pots in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.

Man planting plants in a checkerboard design garden.

How to Create a Checkerboard Design in Your Garden

This simple design of square paving stones and plants could be used to create a dramatic courtyard or a fun space for children’s playground games. Plant it up with turf, chamomile, mind-your-own-business (Soleirolia soleirolii) or low-growing herbs, such as thyme or Corsican mint (Mentha requienii).

When to start: Spring.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 1 day.

You will need: Turf or low-growing plants, rake, wooden boards, tape measure, string and sticks, sand and mortar mix, mallet, spirit level, square paving stones.

Compact the soil

Clear the area of stones, weeds, and grass, and rake it to create a flat surface. Lay down a wooden board and walk across it, moving it along systematically to level the whole area.

Mark out the squares

Measure the paving stones, and using string and some sticks mark out the area into squares of equal size. Cover squares that will be used for paving stones with a 2 in (5 cm) layer of sand.

Level the sand

Using the back of a rake, tamp down the sand to compact and level it. Don’t worry if some sand spills out into the surrounding squares; any surplus can be mixed with the soil for the plants or turf.

Apply mortar

Mix up a wet mortar mix of four parts sand (half-and-half sharp sand and builder’s sand) to one part cement, or use a prepared mix. Place a trowel-full in the corners and in the center of a paving stone square.

Bed in paving stones

Position the paving stone on the mortar and use the wooden end of a mallet to gently tap it into place. Use a spirit level to check that it is level. Mortar in each one in the same way and leave them to set for a day or two.

Plant up

Fill between the paving stone with topsoil and plant up the herbs or turf. If using turf, lay it slightly above the paving stones so you can run a mower over the whole area. Water in. Keep plants watered until they are established.

Wall stone covered by purple climber plant.

How to Create a Rockery Wall

Dry stone walls make perfect homes for alpines, such aubretia, which creates a mass of evergreen foliage and cascades of pretty flowers in spring. Choose small plants and use this planting method to secure them in the wall.

When to plant: Early autumn.

At their best: Spring.

Time to complete: 30 minutes.

You will need: Bucket, piece of dried turf.

Alpines, such as: Aubrieta, Campanula poscharskyana, Houseleek – Sempervivum, Gold dust – Aurinia saxatilis, Saxifrage – Saxifraga.

Prepare to plant

Take the dried turf and dunk it in a bucket of water to drench it. Remove and allow to drain. Water the plant and remove it from its pot. Wrap the damp turf around the plant roots.

Ease plants into crevices

Carefully wedge the turf-wrapped plant into a crevice. Fill around it with a half-and-half mix of horticultural sand and soil-based potting mix. Mist the plant regularly.

Man taking care of a small rose tree.

How to Plant a Tree in Your Garden

An investment in time and money, a tree will eventually become a striking presence in your garden and make a beautiful year-round feature. Plant it well and take care of it afterward, and your tree will soon pay dividends, providing you with color, shade, and structure for many years to come.

When to start: Late autumn.

At their best: All year round.

Time to complete: 2 hours.

You will need: Tree, spade, fork, cane, stake, tree tie, mulch, gardening gloves.

Prepare the ground

Dig a circular hole twice the width and the same depth as the root ball. Do not dig over the base, because this may cause the tree to sink once planted. Instead, puncture the base and sides with a garden fork to encourage the roots to penetrate.

Check planting depth

Most trees are planted with their root ball slightly above the soil surface, which helps them to establish a strong root system. Place the tree in the hole, lay a cane across the top to check the level, and add or remove soil as required.

Tease out roots

Lift the tree from the hole and use your fingers to gently tease the outer roots away from the root ball. This will encourage them to root into the surrounding soil, helping the tree establish, and is particularly important if the tree is “root-bound”.

Plant the tree

Hold the tree in the hole and turn it round until its best side is facing in the right direction. Then fill around the root ball with the excavated soil. Do this in three stages; adding soil and gently firming it down with your foot each time. Make sure there are no air pockets between the roots.

Gently firm in

Make sure the root ball is just above the soil surface. As a guide, look for the “nursery line”, where the trunk darkens at the base, showing the level the tree was grown at in the nursery. This must not be buried. Then add a thin layer of soil over the root ball so that no roots are exposed.

Attach tree to wooden stake

Choose a stake that will reach a third of the way up the trunk. Use a mallet to hammer it into the ground at an angle of about 45 degrees with the top facing the prevailing wind. Attach a tree tie at the point where tree and stake meet, using a spacer to prevent them rubbing together.


Water the tree well, and then apply a thick mulch, such as composted bark chippings, to suppress competing weeds and seal in moisture. Keep it clear of the stem. Water the tree regularly for two years, and check and loosen ties frequently. The ties can be removed after two or three years when the tree has fully established.