‘I’ve learnt everything there is to learn about gardening’ – said no one ever. Gardening can be daunting for the beginner or novice gardener and even the more seasoned gardeners often look for new ways to get results. As Steve Jobs famously said ''Learn continually – there’s always ‘one more thing’ to learn''

At Van Hage we want to do all we can to help you make the right decisions for your garden. We have lots of knowledgeable, friendly staff on hand to advise you when you visit our stores and we have put together a list of the most frequently asked questions at this time of year to offer you some extra guidance.

What to plant where?
A shady, damp spot in the garden like under a tree, or North-facing, can be tricky to plant. Ferns are an excellent option and there are lots of varieties to choose from. They give great structural interest and can create a woodland or exotic feel to a section of your garden.

For a sunny or South-facing spot use grasses and herbaceous plants. These can tolerate long periods of light, heat and drier conditions. They too provide structure, have an interesting texture and move beautifully in the breeze.

You may want low growing plants for the front of your beds and borders and ground cover shrubs and alpines are excellent for this job. Plant taller plants behind so that your display has layers of interest.

You may want all year interest in our garden and Evergreen shrubs are a fantastic way of achieving this. There are so many to choose from and they come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

If you have an ugly wall or fence that you wish to cover, plant a climber or a wall shrub. This is a brilliant way of softening edges and makes use of every surface in your garden.

What compost to use for what plants?
It is important to use the right compost to get the most out of your plants either when planting into a pot or adding to the soil when planting into the garden.

Some plants, like bedding, will want a general multipurpose compost as they are hungrier and need more nutrients. Some will need a more loamy type of compost - like John Innes and the number system will help from seed sowing to planting trees and shrubs.

John Innes Compost No 1 is used for pricking out or potting-up young seedlings or rooted cuttings. John Innes No 2 Compost is for general potting of most house plants and vegetable plants into medium size pots. John Innes No 3 Compost is a richer mixture for final re-potting of vegetable plants, and for mature foliage plants. Also use this for shrubs and interior planters, or outdoor containers.

Some plants will need an Ericaceous compost compost - this is for plants that require a more acid type of soil - such as Rhododendrons, Camellias, Azaleas and Blueberries.

A soil-based compost will help to retain the moisture better so use this for containers as these are prone to drying out.

What can I put in a container?
The good news is generally most plants can go in a pot or container but remember you will have to water and feed the plant regularly, as it has no access to its own supply of nutrients as it would if it were planted in the ground.

The size of the container is essential and must be correct for the type of plant you are growing in it. Some plants like climbers and roses will require a deep pot for the roots, and shrubs and trees will need a big container to cope with the size of the plant chosen.

We have a huge range of containers both in store and online that will suit any plant in any environment. All our outdoor pots are frost resistant and many are made from sustainable resources. Containers are ideal for balconies and smaller areas. Use hanging or wall containers to utilise every potential space to create a green haven.

When can I prune roses?
Most roses are pruned at the end of Autumn and into Winter but you can check with the RHS website to ensure you are pruning your particular variety at the correct time of year.

Continuously remove dead flowers and any diseased leaves, to ensure diseases and pests don't hibernate in the soil ready for the new growth to emerge in the Spring. Dead heading also encourage new blooms and a much longer flowering period for your rose.

We generally have an excellent range of roses in stock depending on availability and we also stock many specifically formulated Rose treatment and pruning tools both in store and online.

What’s happened to my box hedging?
Box hedging has suffered greatly in the last few years and has been under attack by blight or caterpillars. The caterpillars cover the foliage with their webbing and munch on the leaves and the damage they can create is incredible, killing the plant.

To prevent this from happening, Box plants should be regularly sprayed with pesticide/caterpillar treatments. Thankfully, we have this both in store and online. If you prefer to use a Box hedging alternative, here are some suggestions (subject to availability):
  • Ilex crenata
  • Euonymus japonicus
  • Pittosporum Golf Ball
  • Lonicera nitida
  • Taxus baccata
  • Berberis

Can I plant alpine plants in containers?
Alpine plants are some of the easiest plants to grow - they require little soil, little watering, and lots of sunshine (the trickiest bit!)

They are ideal for pots and all manner of containers (make sure there is good drainage) and will need a John Innes compost and small gravel. There is a great range of alpines (subject to availability), and they offer long flowering seasons and a wide range of colours and leaf types.

Why stop at pots and containers? How about creating a rockery with decorative stones and gravel? They thrive in well drained conditions in a sunny spot.

How often do I water?
Watering during high summer months is essential and needs to be done as regularly as possible. It’s so important that you water your plants at the base, so that they receive moisture directly at the root and get a good long drink. A spray over the top of plants just isn’t sufficient.

Pots and containers as mentioned before, need extra watering – even if it has been raining as they can dry out so quickly. We have all manner of watering system, hoses and cans in store and online to help you keep your garden hydrated.

Wildflowers and flowers for cutting
Seeds are probably the best option for planting wildflowers and flowers for cutting and at Van Hage we have seed bombs and seed mats available in store. What could be more summery than a vase of freshly cut, wildflowers on your table? Just beautiful!

...and finally...
The most important gardening lesson by far is to ENJOY it! Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself and keep your plans and goals realistic and achievable. Things can go wrong and you may not always get the results you hoped for, but don’t despair! Try again, try something different and be proud of all your efforts!