Summer planting tips from the UK’s best gardeners

Whatever the size of your plot or patio, there’s fresh inspiration and advice from these experts. Sunny days start here...

the hepworth wakefield garden   summer 31st july 2020
Jason Ingram

Whether you’ve got a sunny balcony, a shady courtyard or acres of green space, there’s no denying the uplifting power of plants – both for people and the planet. We asked some top gardeners for their advice on getting the most out of your space, whatever its size, as well as gardening sustainably. Here’s what they had to say about working with the plot you’ve got and the latest trends.


errol fernandes
Horniman Museum and Gardens
Errol Fernandes, Head of horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens

Errol is planting a micro forest of around 900 trees on the museum’s boundary with the South Circular Road. ‘After a few years, it will filter particulate pollution and absorb nitrous oxide,’ he says. Here, he shares his advice for your garden…

For a pollution filtering effect in your own green space, try planting a densely mixed hedge, perhaps including hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose and guelder rose.

Plant with consideration for the conditions that you have. Avoid excessive watering or making changes to the soil, which are costly both to you and the environment.

Think about choosing plant communities: species that coexist well together. They require less maintenance in terms of mulching, weeding and watering.

For those shady, damp corners of the garden, I suggest planting Persicaria virginiana ‘Batwings’ and Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’.’ @errolreubenfernandes

wildflower garden planting at the horniman museum gardens
Errol’s wildflower planting at the Horniman Museum gardens
Horniman Museum

katy merrington the hepworth wakefield
Joanne Crawford
Katy Merrington, Cultural gardener at The Hepworth Wakefield

Katy works at the Hepworth Wakefield’s garden which was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith to cope with its uniquely challenging setting – it’s flat and open, so it’s very windy and also dry. The answer here was resilient plants like Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’, Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and Coreopsis tripteris that can withstand anything. She shares her weekend tasks for summer gardeners…

Mulch your beds or pots. It reduces the need for watering, prevents weeds and protects the soil from compaction.

May is the month that herbaceous perennials really go for it. If you go away for the weekend, you’ll notice the difference when you’re back.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to have their own garden, so engaging in public green space is also very important. @katymerrington

the hepworth wakefield garden   summer 31st july 2020
Gardens at the Hepworth Wakefield gallery
Jason Ingram

matt collins the garden museum
Eva Nemeth
Matt Collins, Head Gardener at The Garden Museum

Matt oversees the courtyard at The Garden Museum, a challenging site that’s been cleverly planted by Dan Pearson with varieties from all over the world to reflect the story of the Tradescants – the 16th- and 17th-century plant collectors who are buried there. Visit and you’ll see Australian violets, yellow ginger lilies from the Himalayas, a rare Mexican tree dahlia and Fatsia polycarpa from Taiwan. We asked Matt for some advice for people wanting to bring the same variety into their own gardens…

Expand your understanding of where plants come from, horticulturally as well as politically. It’s helpful and fascinating to find out how plants grow in their home regions and discover more about their cultural associations

Make your own compost – it’s one of the best things to add to soil to help improve the structure and drainage.

The best thing about gardening in summer is that feeling of being in sync with nature. It’s so good for the spirits. @museum_gardener

the courtyard at the garden museum in london
The courtyard at the Garden Museum in London
Garden Museum
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