Philippa ‘Pip’ Baldwin
Willow Heart Garden Designs

This is a quote I recently read that I thought so true.  We all get wrapped up inside our busy lives but when I’m in a garden, even on a cold and frosty morning, the sight of an emerging tulip bulb or a small seedling brings hope of what is to come.
Gardening has been officially recognised by the NHS, in conjunction with the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), as having health benefits.  A recent study by The Kings Fund on Gardens and Health said: “The mental health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse. Studies have shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects including opportunities for vocational development.”
Writer, broadcaster and gardener Monty Don said: “I know from personal experience how gardening helps heal many mental and physical ills.  When you are sad a garden comforts. When you are humiliated or defeated a garden consoles.”
I love this time of year when spring is in the air and after a long, cold winter the signs of new life are all around. It’s an exciting and busy time for gardeners, and those who may have never gardened before can join in the fun too.
Simply edging your lawn or potting up an old plant pot with various spring flowers from the garden centres and nurseries will make a big difference to how you feel about your garden. And if you want to ensure a succession of beautiful flowers long into the season, now is the time to prepare by sowing some annual seeds.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is, growing plants from seed provides huge satisfaction. Watching and nurturing a small seed to produce something wonderful really is amazing. Even in a window box, hanging basket or plant pot you can have colour all summer long.
If flowers aren’t your thing you could grow some herbs which have many medicinal benefits and smell wonderful too. Basil, oregano, chives, dill and coriander are just a few that can be sown now into seed compost and placed on a sunny windowsill or in a greenhouse.

Pip’s tips for April


  • Cut flowers are easy to grow from seed including ammi, antirrhinum, cosmos, larkspur, nigella, scabious, sunflowers and zinnia
    1. Fill a modular tray with seed compost, tap to settle, then level the surface. Where space is limited, you could sow in a small pot or tray.
    2. Sow 1-3 seeds per module, checking the seed packet for sowing depth.
    3. Cover the seeds with vermiculite or seed compost, label the tray, then water well. Cover with a propagator lid or plastic film.
    4. Keep the tray on a sunny windowsill or in a heated propagator until germination. Thin seedlings to leave one or two per module.
    5. Once your seedlings are established, it’s time to plant them in the border
  • Tackle perennial weeds as soon as new shoots appear. Bindweed, ground elder, and horsetail will quickly invade borders if not controlled. With deep rooted docks and dandelions, try to lift the whole root intact to prevent regrowth.
  • Deadhead tulips, daffodils and hyacinths
  • Don’t forget to prune spring flowering shrubs such as forsythia and flowering currants straight after flowering. Cut back to their base all the stems that carried flowers. This will promote new growth, which will bear flowers next spring.
  • For an instant hit of colour, plant perennial wallflowers now. Not only are they colourful but they’re easy to grow, drought tolerant and many have scented blooms.  Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’ is a reliable favourite.  Grow in full sun, on well-drained soil, they look best grouped together in impressive drifts, or three plants in a large ceramic pot.


 Mulch your borders

April is the perfect time for mulching. Mulch can be organic or inorganic to improve plant growth in several ways. It regulates soil temperature, by keeping roots warm in winter and cool in summer; it reduces water loss from the soil surface; and helps to stop weed seeds germinating by stopping light from reaching them.
Remove all perennial weeds before mulching.  If you do one job this month to reduce work later in the year this should be the one… plus it keeps you fit and will look wonderful when you’ve finished.  A good organic mulch such as a coarse bark is ideal.

Happy gardening!

Philippa Baldwin, Dip Hort, is a Cumbrian-based garden designer who runs her business alongside being a busy married mum-of-three and owner of Fred, the cockapoo. Her facebook page is at @willowheartgardendesign and she can sometimes be heard sharing advice on BBC Radio Cumbria.