Approaching the great outdoors: 10 tips to create your perfect garden March 30, 2018 08:44
It's Easter weekend. A perfect time to start working on your garden again. If, IF it ever stops raining! So, assuming we get a little respite from the wet stuff, or you have some suitable wet weather gear, this weekend is an ideal time to get cracking.
What do you want from your patch?
If you are anything like me, you want instant gratification, low maintenance and lasting results. What can I say?! I’m a child of the eighties. These things stick. However, in my experience, this is not a view shared by Mother Nature. Slow, steady and altogether more successful is the approach for the garden. So, if you are planning on making your garden gorgeous for this summer, here is my checklist of things to consider when starting out:
- What do you want from your garden? Pure decoration might be the immediate thought, but once you get going, you might decide that you want a feast for the belly as well as the eyes. The two are not mutually exclusive, even with the smallest of plots.
- Pots are a lifesaver. Easy to maintain, instant height and interest, plus, you can move them about until you are happy with the feng shui of your outdoor space. However, instead of flowers, the majority of my pots are planted with herbs and veg. They are colourful, easy to reach in my socks, and keep ‘lively’ herbs such as mint contained. Style and sustenance. Perfect.
- Talking of style... in my albeit limited experience, designing a garden is tough. For me, I want a structure that will look acceptable in all seasons, provide regular interest, hide the odd dodgy DIY mishap, as well as provide a safe, welcoming environment for friends and their young children. Thankfully, most of the poisonous plants I’ve come across such as foxgloves and euphorbia are tall, so tuck them up the back of borders, out of reach from small hands. My good friend, Baps, has always said that if you are wearing a low cut top, balance it out with long trousers. Alternatively, if you are all about the legs, wear a high cut top. Wise words, which I basically apply the same principle to gardening. It doesn’t matter which way you slice it, a garden needs a bit of height and a good amount of ground coverage to give it a sense of flow and unity (not to mention common decency). You choose the order.
- Hardy Perennials are AWESOME. Plant once, enjoy for years.
- Trees and shrubs require a bit of forethought. Think of them as your best friends in the garden. They may well be with you for the rest of your days. In fact, they could, quite conceivably, outlive you. Choose wisely and you may only a few to see you through. They provide interest and instant structure to your garden (and your life).
- Be frivolous. Gardens come in all shapes and sizes. They can be outrageously colourful and bold, or serenely sophisticated and minimal. Either way, enjoy the self expression and sheer excitement that can come from your space, no matter how big or small. If you want to don a pair of Hunters to water your balcony garden in Brixton, go ahead. If padding down a dewy lawn in your bare feet makes your morning, feel free.
- Not all weeds are unwelcome. Weeds get a bad press. Quite frankly, life is too short to get uptight about most of them. There are just one or two little blighters you need to keep a watchful eye on.
- Garden tools are gorgeous. A fork, shovel and the same again in the ‘hand tool’ variety are really all you need for most jobs. My favourite tool? (Sad isn’t it?! I have a favourite…) the Canterbury hoe. What an awesome bit of kit. It can weed a bed in seconds. You can get stunning garden tools in a range of colours and styles to suit both the urban sophisticat and budding country gent. Better still, beg, borrow or steal items from your parents and grandparents, and you’ll find that older is the better. My latest fork looks youthful but ungainly with its bent spike. My ancient, beaten up fork lifted from my Dad’s shed? Perfect.
- Seeds. I avoided these little things for years. Too time consuming. Too needy. Then a baby or two, a major career change and whoosh, a new opinion! Seeds are cheap. Seeds are actually quite easy if you follow the instructions and trust your instincts. There is also a carefully kept secret that surrounds the humble seed: the sight of a tiny little germinated sprout sparks an overwhelming sense of joy. Feed it, nurture it, and give it plenty of air and light, and it will pay you back tenfold. Literally.
- Plants are easy, people are complicated. Cutting, pruning, mowing, feeding, watering.... there are far too many ‘doing words’ associated with gardening. It doesn’t have to be never ending cycle of activity and dirty drudgery. I would never have bothered if it were. I am a gardener with a glove in one hand and a glass of something lovely in the other. Chill, sit back, enjoy. Happy bank holiday!