Late snows be damned – summer’s on its way. Temperatures have hit blistering highs of 14 or so and that means we need to wipe away the signs of winter.
Hopefully you’ve already done all of your April gardening jobs (if not, get cracking!) to get your garden in full spring swing, so now it’s time to look forward.
Most United Kingdom-ers can already meet up outdoors, so you want to be sure that by the time June/July rolls around you’re ready to show off your sparkling lawn/colourful flowerbeds/new furniture (delete as appropriate).
It sparkles if you squint
The snow won’t have harmed your grass seeds too much as they like a bit of winter dormancy, so get stuck into raking and mowing to make your grass work for you. It’ll be a weekly job come summer if you want the greenest and greatest grass in the neighbourhood.
Rake out that moss, kill those weeds, and see your hard work reap dividends as the weeks go by. It’s getting a bit late for more grass seeding by hand (act before the end of May!), but you can still get the lawn feed on there.
Colourful flowerbeds and baskets
Chances are your flowerbeds are full of sticks, where some of your bushes have chosen to bud a little lower than last year (we’re looking at you, lavender). Prune your spring flowering shrubs, and get some evergreen shrubs to keep that garden verdant for as long as possible. You can also start acclimatizing your summer bedding plants in a cold frame if you’ve got one.
If your spring plants are starting to shrivel, get ready to get them out to make space for your summer wonders.
It’s also prime time to get some hanging baskets up, to invite guests in with some high-up flowers.
Doesn’t get much newer
This one’s a biggie. Over winter, your existing furniture (if uncovered/untreated) will have warped and faded a little bit. It’ll still work, but you might want something gleaming to mark this upcoming summer that’s full of expectations. Fingers crossed we can start using ‘post-pandemic’ as a descriptor!
If you’ve already got some wood furniture don’t want to buy something new, no worries – get yourself an oil or stain and get brushing. For metal furniture, you can apply a fresh lick of paint to breathe new life into any weathered seats or tables.
If you want to get something new instead, we’ve got everything you need to sit back on/put your feet up on this summer. From the creme de la creme of Primrose Living to the everyday excellence of our Hadleigh and Kennet ranges
Every schoolchild’s dream is every gardener’s nightmare – waking up to a blanket of white snow in your garden. But it doesn’t need to be the death knell for your treasured plants. Act calmly and decisively and you can stave off the worst of it – here are our top five tips for beating the snow.
Snow can be unforgiving to new growth, so act quickly to stop damage from spreading. Remove unsightly, damaged parts by cutting back to a healthy side shoot or bud. It might feel wrong trimming plants that have only been out for a few weeks, but needs must when the cold fronts drive!
If you haven’t pruned your roses yet now’s a good opportunity, as they appreciate a hard pruning in spring anyway.
Firm Plants Back In The Ground
You probably won’t need to push grass back in
If recently planted, severe frost can sometimes heave your shrubs out of the ground exposing their precious and vulnerable roots. Simply firm them back in the soil (not necessarily barehanded like the picture), and add a small layer of compost to improve the drainage.
This’ll help the soil warm up in spring, and protects them if the frost/snow returns.
Shake Snow Off Trees
Shake, shake shake: shake your branches
Frost- or cold-damaged blossom won’t product fruit. However, for those that are still yet to bloom you should shake the snow off to keep them safe. This is good to do for all trees, blossoming or not, as snow can weigh down the branches and cause them to break.
It’s also good to wipe the snow off your greenhouse, as it can prevent your beloved plants from getting their daily dose of sunlight. The weight and changing temperature of the snow can also cause cracks to appear in the glass.
Stake Together Split Stems
Hopefully it won’t have been cold enough to split your stems, but if you’re seeing any damage just stake/tape them back together to give them their best chance to heal.
It’s stress awareness month, so don’t let a bit of snow send you into a frenzy. Go about your garden calmly, and let your plants heal in their own time once you’ve done your pruning and staking.
For further prevention, provide cover for your flowerbeds and bring vulnerable plants indoors ahead of time. Or until May, as April clearly can’t be trusted.
Our teams are asked a lot of questions about garden furniture, from the customer service teams to the marketing inbox and beyond. To help everyone who’s interested in buying garden furniture whether from us or elsewhere, we’ve gathered together all of the top questions and tips together in one place so you don’t have to hunt high and low to find the answers that you need.
We’ve even made a handy table of contents so you can skip to the answer you want!
PE rattan is a synthetic rattan – instead of being made from a spiky tree grown in the tropics (read here for all things natural rattan), it’s made from polyethylene, a lightweight plastic. The benefits to this are it lasts longer and, aside from some natural expanding and contracting, will stay looking as good as it did when it arrived for years, even when left outside. There are also types of PE rattan that look just like the real thing, which means you can have a natural look without having to worry about the rot problem that plagues natural rattan (to the point it’s not often available in the UK due to the damp climate).
This is an example of double-woven half weave PE rattan
If you’re sat there thinking that rattan looks like wicker, you’re half right – rattan furniture is made using the wicker technique, but wicker furniture can be made from all sorts of material.
What are the different types of rattan weave?
There are three main types of rattan weave – flat, half and full – and each of those can be single, double, or even triple woven. Flat weave is the cheapest and most widely available, being very flat in appearance with sharp-ish edges due to the thinness of the material.
Half weave is a middle ground between the expensive fully-rounded weave and the cheap flat weave, having some of the texture of fully-rounded without being as heavy and bulky, while more comfortable to sit on than flat weave.
And fully-rounded weave is what you get if the rattan used is completely cylindrical, as though it’s made of thick string – often used for decorative edges rather than the whole furniture piece due to the cost and weight.
Whether it’s single, double or triple refers to the number of strips used for the weaves – in the example image above they’re all single woven, while if they were double you’d see twice the number of brown strips (like the photo above this diagram).
Can I leave my furniture uncovered, outside, all year?
That all depends on the furniture’s material and treatment! If it’s pressure-treated timber, powder-coated steel or aluminium it’ll last for years, often to the point of being certified against rust or rot in UK weather, but if there’s no mention of any material treatments you’ll need to get a cover or be prepared to move your furniture in bad weather.
Uncovered garden furniture, seen here in its natural habitat
If the furniture’s description mentions weatherproofing it’ll be resistant to weathering from the rain, but might not cope as well if it’s left soaking for days on end. It also depends on what you want your furniture to look like – treated wood may still darken or lighten over the years if a new oil or stain isn’t applied, but it’ll still stay sturdy and strong in every season when left outside.
You’ll probably want to move/cover any cushions when not in use, simply so they’re dry and ready to go whenever you next want to take a seat outdoors.
Do I need to buy special wood treatments?
If you want your furniture to look exactly like it did when you bought it, you’ll want to buy a treatment/stain so you can preserve the wood’s colour. You don’t need to break the bank though, there are plenty of affordable wood treatments that will keep colour or re-apply the weather resistance of your furniture.
A prime example of wood-coloured wood
Oils replace the natural oils of your wood and restore natural colour, while stains come in different colours depending on your needs and offer protection from greying and discolouring. Both give weatherproofing and water resistance to wood, but stains last longer before needing to be re-applied
How do I oil garden furniture?
Use a brush and go with the grain (along the lines rather than against them). Use an oil that matches your wood type – a lot of garden furniture will be hardwood like oak, teak or mahogany, but pine, fir and redwood are all softwood, so take note of your wood type before you go buying.
Imagine this is furniture rather than a block of wood and you’ve got the right idea
Try not to use so much that it drips off your wood – you want it to soak in rather than run off – and you can apply it once or twice a year without issue.
How do I keep my garden furniture clean?
It’s pretty straightforward, a damp cloth will take the worst of it off though you can use sugar soap and a non-abrasive scrubber if you want to get in deeper. If you want to get fancy with it, you can often use car cleaning products on metal furniture. A cover will keep off the birds and their leavings, but you don’t need to worry about getting special cleaners if you end up with a bit of muck – a good scrub with washing up liquid and a hosing off will see you right in most circumstances.
Try not to get too wet with it though, as the more water you allow to seep into your furniture the more you might chip away at any water-resisting properties your furniture has. It’ll be treated for rain showers rather than baths!
How do I protect my garden furniture over winter?
This depends on the material. Wood will weather but most of it will be protected against effects like rot, while aluminium will be unaffected by snow and cold. Materials will contract and expand, but shouldn’t suffer material degrading. You may want to brush off heavy snow to stop any melted water seeping into cracks, refreezing then expanding to cause splinters/deeper cracks, but a cover will also keep the worst of it away.
To read more about protecting your furniture over winter, check out this post from a few years ago that’s still valid today.
Can my garden furniture go on grass? Or artificial grass?
Yes, but the grass under the feet is going to get squashed – you can’t beat physics. If you move the furniture often the grass will bounce back, both real and artificial, but if the furniture is both used and left in the same place for a couple of weeks you’re going to start seeing marks in the lawn and bent artificial grass.
Furniture on grass without issue
Real grass needs light too, so if it’s made to be in shade due to furniture it’ll start to yellow. In the height of summer that yellowing can happen quickly – within a couple of days at its fastest – while in cooler months you’ll get away with it for a bit longer. To fix yellowing, move the furniture and give the grass a good watering.
Can garden furniture be painted?
Absolutely! If it’s wood and treated you’ll need to give it a little sand first to take any varnish off, and give it a good clean to remove any dust. After that, just make sure your paint fits the material and you’re good to go.
We suspect this may be a pallet, but it’s still wood being painted
Choose the right paint and start slowly, working section by section until you’ve covered every part you want to with at least one coat of paint. Work over a sheet so you don’t drip paint on your patio or lawn, and use masking tape to avoid painting anything you don’t want to. For more detail, read our furniture painting guide.
Will steel garden furniture rust?
Rarely. Most steel garden furniture is actually powder-coated or treated in some way to stop this from happening, so keep an eye out for that in the product descriptions or spec to make sure you’re getting a quality article. That coating will usually be guaranteed for a few years, but if your steel furniture is scraped against each other that coating might get chipped. If that happens, it’ll be worth looking into a protective paint or coating you can apply at home to get that waterproofing back (it’s water that causes rust).
For more detail on whether metal garden furniture will rust and what to do about it, check out this post to read about prevention techniques and alternatives to steel.
How long will my garden furniture last?
From a minimum of a year to upwards of 20 – it all depends on the treatments your furniture has had, plus the amount of care you give it. Our Churnet Valley range is pressure treated to prevent rot for up to 20 years, while the powder-coated steel of the Hectare ranges means it’ll resist rust and weathering for several years.
All of our furniture is guaranteed for at least two years against manufacturing faults, so even if you see some weathering or discolouration the furniture still won’t fall apart.
Which garden furniture is best?
The best furniture is the sets and pieces that fit your needs. If it’s going in a conservatory you don’t need to worry about water resistance, but weatherproofing will still help with sunlight discolouration.
If it’s going outside, what kind of decor are you looking for? Both wood and metal furniture can be treated to last for years so that element’s covered, and you’ll see sets covering a wide range of prices in either material.
Woodis considered more traditional, while metalor plasticwould be more modern by comparison. And rattansits between the two, being a traditional manufacturing method featuring modern materials.
Generally, the more expensive the ‘better’ the furniture – better in that there’s more weatherproofing, more water resistance, sturdier builds and higher quality materials so it’ll all last for longer before needing to get a new set or repairs.
Look for tempered-glass tabletops too
On our site, the best garden furniture is the new primrose living range, because we’ve designed it specifically to be better than other rattan ranges on the market for both look and longevity.
However, if you’re not looking for rattan then you’re best off checking our garden furniture page and refining by material/price to find the set that’s right for you.
In celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 (Monday 8th March), we’re taking a look at some visionary women who’ve had a huge impact on the modern garden. Read on if you’d like to learn more about some of the great women in gardening and some of the things they’ve brought to the horticultural world, from the British Isles’ past to fabulous present.
Gardening Greats from the Past
Gertrude Jekyll 1843 – 1921
Modern gardens have a lot to thank Gertrude Jekyll for. Her partnership with Edwin Lutyens lasted over 25 years and she was a key influence in Georgian garden design, while her simple approach championed colourful, easy to maintain borders and brought plants like the rose, begonia and hosta back into fashion. The way she used colour is still taught as a basic tenet of garden design today, and we can thank her for the trend of creating sections in a garden. You can still see some of her creations at Lindisfarne Castle or West Dean.
1873 – 1948
This Oxfordshire socialite made great strides in the world of gardening to become one of only a few female garden designers of her time. She was a pioneer of seasonal planting and creating gardens that would bloom all year round. The traditional country garden combination of mauve, pink and white were a signature of her design style. Her work and influence can be seen at the Blickling Estate in Norfolk, as well as at Cliveden in Buckinghamshire, Chirk Castle in Wales and Mottisfont Abbey in Hampshire amongst many other private country house gardens.
Margery Fish 1892-1969
Image from Wikipedia by Ray Beer, CC BY-SA 2.0, Index
Our love affair with perennials and the traditional cottage garden can all be traced back to Margery Fish. Her design ideas became so popular that she released two books in the 1960s and had a column in Amateur Gardening magazine. Margery championed simple planting schemes, and the use of ground cover to save on labour. She was also one of the first to make extensive use of silver foliage. She was also a big fan of snowdrops and her gardens at East Lambrook have over 60 named varieties of the plant growing in them.
Vita Sackville-West 1892-1962
Image from Wikipedia by DHRUVA SRINIVAS – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Index
A prolific fiction writer, poet and gardener, Vita Sackville-West is the brains behind the gardens of Sissinghurst Castle. A poet and writer, she was known for her art and flair. Her early career was dominated by multi-layered planting and bright colours, but her real influence on today’s design was her White Garden – a blend of traditional colours and textures that is still very much in fashion.
Kitty Lloyd Jones 1898 – 1978
Born to a doctor in Swansea and the ninth of ten children, Kitty was among one of the first professional female horticulturalists. Before her, most female gardeners found work through social connections, but in 1924 she graduated with a degree in horticulture from the University of Reading – one of the first women to ever do so. Kitty gradually built up a network of clients. Her best-known work was the redesign of the gardens at Upton House where her impressive bog garden still survives today.
An award-winning garden designer and writer, Ann-Marie Powell is a modern garden great who shares garden inspiration on Instagram as @myrealgarden, as well as on her own site. With her innovative ideas and designs bringing gardening greatness to the country’s aspiring gardeners, and all while being a Greenfingers charity patron, we think Ann-Marie is the bees knees!
A fashionable city girl turned country lady, Paula Sutton has moved from the fast-paced world of London, modelling agencies and fashion magazines to the quieter climes of the English countryside, and now shares her interior and exterior designs and inspirations through her blog and on Instagram @hillhousevintage. We think her use of British design to suit all budgets crossed with her country house chic is one to watch out for, ideal for anyone who wants to bring the feeling of the UK’s great green spaces to their own back garden.
An accomplished landscape and garden designer, Tania Compton is a garden expert who followed up on 12 years as Garden Editor for House & Garden magazine with moving to Wiltshire, and 6 acres of clay-filled land that she transformed into romantic and naturalistic gardens. Her Spilsbury gardens are sometimes open to the public and at Longford Castle you can see her redesigned parterre. Or, if you have a spare £4m handy, you can buy Reddish House when it comes back on the market and own some Tania Compton gardens of your own!
Gardening Greats of the Future
Could these be some of the gardening greats of the future to feature in next year’s collection of female horticulturist visionaries?