Plants for beginners

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A lack of confidence and gardening knowledge means that a third of us don’t make the most of our garden, according to a PlantforLife survey, writes Hannah Stephenson.

Nearly half of people buy plants based purely on colour, scent and shape, while one in four aren’t seeking advice at garden centres and nurseries, the survey found.

With this in mind, the Horticultural Trades Association has a Plant Advice Guide to help budding gardeners find out what they need to know to create the garden they want.

Here are a few growing details of some of the plants beginners may want to incorporate in their gardens:

:: Californian lilac (ceanothus): Flower colour: blue, pink and white; free draining soil (not suitable for chalky soil); likes full sun, grows up to 3m. Plant in March/April and October/November. Flowering time is April-June and combines well with cistus.

:: Cosmos: Tough and resilient, flowering late into the season. Flower colour: pink, white, chocolate brown. Likes fertile, light, very well-drained soils when planted in the garden. Avoid clay. Plant in full sun. Grows to 30cm and spread 20-30cm. Plant in April to June for flowering June/July to November. Mixes well with other bedding plants.

:: Dahlia: The national flower of Mexico revels in sunny weather. Flower colour: pastels to bright primary colours. Likes fertile, light, very well drained soils when planted in the garden and universal compost when in a pot. Put it in a sunny, open spot. Height varies from 30cm upwards, as does the spread. Plant it in April-June and it should flower from July through to first frosts.

:: Juniper: The doorman of the garden, providing a sturdy backbone to a flowerbed. Its evergreen, woolly appearance provides an excellent foil for surrounding flowering plants. Flower colour: yellow/green. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions. Prefers a sunny position, doesn’t really like shade. Varies in height from 75cm to 25m. Plant in March/April and October/November. Will flower March to April and combines well with heather.

:: The Plant Advice Guide is free to download from