If you want to populate a bare bed quickly, using plenty of plants without spending a small fortune, then choosing the bare-root option (as opposed to potted) will be your saviour. It's an absolute feast of fabulous plants when you get down to the garden centre or trawl the online shops now – many of them have bare-roots at a snip at £2 a plant. It’s tempting to buy them all up!
They come packed up as rather unprepossessing tangles of soil and roots, often with visible buds or new stems attached. If you’ve bought several plants together, or have been lucky enough to be given a clump of bare-roots, separate out each plant ready for planting. If plants aren’t particularly large, with weedy roots, pot them up to grow on in the greenhouse first before planting out later in spring.
We like planting dicentras, aquilegias and lily of the valley for a partly shady spot, but you can buy all manner of agapanthus, geraniums, geums, astrantias and more.
Soak dry plants for an hour before planting. Check to see how large they get, then arrange plants on the soil surface. Aim to plant each a little closer together than the eventual width stated. Dig a hole large enough to take the root system.
Add general-purpose fertiliser or an all-purpose slow-release one to the planting holes, then set each plant in. Ensure growth points are level to the soil surface. Firm plants in and water well. Water weekly until established.