A garden is an investment – it’s a fluid space that can lift the spirits, calm the nerves or enliven the mind. Its use changes with life circumstances and a little bit of thought and planning in the first instance can enable our gardens to grow with us. These decisions can future-proof the space from costly and wasteful re-workings, and transform your patch of earth into a haven that will repay itself a thousand times over.
My mum’s garden has been an adventure playground for my toddler self and sister to explore – a hide and seek paradise, a football pitch, a place to grow food for a hungry family, a place to escape into (when having a teenage strop), a party palace, a dining room for the return of the prodigals with their other halves, and now, a peaceful retreat.
Here are a couple of things to think about to keep that garden growing with you…
GIVE TREES A CHANCE
Jacky ParkerGetty Images
Plant a tree today and invest in tomorrow… Or I think that’s how the saying goes. Trees are a fantastic investment. They provide us with a sense of scale, that makes us feel safe and protected. Choose the right tree and you will be rewarded with blossom in spring, shade in summer, and colour and fruit in autumn.
I would always recommend investing in as large a specimen as you can manage but make sure that you’ve checked the eventual size and its suitable for the spot you’ve selected. Trees need to be placed away from underground utilities or building foundations.
A tree can provide the perfect place for a romantic picnic, a handy branch for a child’s swing or an atmospheric spot for a sundowner. They will watch you, your friends and family grow and many memories can be made in their company.
Ian Gibson / Alamy Stock Photo
Much like a tree, a pergola also provides us with that sense of enclosure. It can be completely open, like mine on the Parsley Box garden, or it can be clad in fragrant climbers or shade sails for a particularly sunny spot.
When placed over a particular area, such as an entertaining space or play area, they can provide practical solutions such as somewhere to suspend lighting or heating to extend those alfresco nights further into the year.
The uprights can lend support to wobbly legs, both young and old, and even take on a dramatic sculptural feel if up-lit or down-lit correctly.
The Parsley Box Garden designed by Alan Williams, sponsored by Parsley Box
I specifically chose a design for the Parsley Box garden that was partly modular and portable. We wanted a space that was sleek and elegant but could also suit multiple generations.
The bespoke planters can be placed in a variety of ways to allow different uses of the garden such as intimate nooks to surprise and delight, an embracing space that provides a horticultural hug with flower-filled planters surrounding the dining table, or arranged for space so the grandchildren can descend for fun in pop up tents or ball games. The possibilities are endless.
My planters are tiered. I chose to do this for a variety of reasons – differing heights provide visual interest but they also help with maintenance to save aches and pains when weeding and offer a handy perch for when enjoying the garden.
House Beautiful/Mark Scott
We have all discovered the joy of being outside a little more, over the last year, and so I would urge anyone to think about their outside space as being an extension of their home.
Where are you lacking space inside? Could your garden offer that solution? Is your garden a place to work from home? By investing in the space outside your four walls, you can enhance the quality of your time spent within them.
You could simply improve your view with some well thought out planting or invest in an entertaining space so that the whole family can all fit around one table again.
Update on The Parsley Box Garden…
We are truly on countdown now. We’re onto planting, which is where my interior design eye kicks in. I’ve always thought of the plants as the soft furnishings of a garden, the pretty bits. This is the really fun bit!
• Chelsea Flower Show 2021 returns on 21st – 26th September at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. Visit rhs.org for tickets and more information.
16 great books for gardening and indoor plant inspiration
RHS How to Create your Garden: Ideas and Advice for Transforming your Outdoor Space
Adam Frost’s practical, no-nonsense approach will help you plan and build a garden that works for you. The Gardeners’ World presenter takes you step by step through the whole process, from simple garden design ideas to a full garden makeover.
Modern Container Gardening: How to Create a Stylish Small-Space Garden Anywhere
Isabelle Palmer shows you how to make the most of every little space with a series of projects for small gardens, singular containers and window boxes, that can be completed in a day or weekend. Perfect for novice gardeners, Modern Container Gardening offers beautiful photography and clear step-by-step instructions.
National Trust School of Gardening: Practical Advice from the Experts
National Trust amazon.co.uk
The National Trust employs over 500 gardeners with an extraordinary wealth of expertise. And now, in this in-depth guide, they pass on their wisdom and provide the answers any new and seasoned gardener is looking for. This book is intended to give you inspiration and confidence to make the most of your garden, without being overwhelmed with unnecessary technical detail.
Veg in One Bed: How to Grow an Abundance of Food in One Raised Bed, Month by Month
Veg In One Bed explains how to build your bed and grow from seed, as well advice on planting, feeding, and harvesting. YouTube gardening star Huw Richards shows how to guarantee early success by starting off young plants on a windowsill and suggests what to grow in each part of the bed.
The Complete Gardener: A Practical, Imaginative Guide to Every Aspect of Gardening
Monty Don offers straightforward gardening advice in this book, revealing the secrets of growing vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs, while respecting the needs of the environment by gardening organically. You can also enjoy a tour of his Herefordshire garden, including his flower garden, herb garden, kitchen garden, and more.
RHS Practical House Plant Book
The Practical House Plant Book by the RHS contains a dozen step-by-step projects to help you assemble an eye-catching terrarium, create a floating kokedama ‘string garden’, or propagate succulents. Complete with 175 in-depth plant profiles, this is an essential practical guide for indoor gardeners.
Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers
Ten Speed Press amazon.co.uk
A small garden space – an urban patio, a tiny backyard, or even just a pot by your door – doesn’t have to sacrifice style. In Small Garden Style, garden designer Isa Hendry Eaton and lifestyle writer Jennifer Blaise Kramer show you how to use good design to create a joyful, elegant, and exciting yet compact outdoor living space.
Charles Dowding’s No Dig Gardening: From Weeds to Vegetables Easily and Quickly: Course 1
No Dig Garden amazon.co.uk
Charles Dowding, innovator of no dig, teaches you everything you need to know about this method of organic gardening. With 19 chapters, you’ll learn how to use no dig on different soil types, recognise and massively reduce the different types of weeds, know the difference between soil and types of compost, and grow an abundance of vegetables using the no dig method.
In Bloom: Growing, harvesting and arranging flowers all year round
Kyle Books amazon.co.uk
Get all the inspiration you need for planting cut flowers, and fill your home with colour and the gorgeous scent of the garden year-round with In Bloom. Clare Nolan reveals her secrets for growing a bountiful harvest as well as styling spectacular homegrown displays in this beautifully designed book.
RHS Complete Gardener’s Manual
The RHS’ Complete Gardener’s Manual will help you choose plants that will thrive in your space, design a border for year-round colour, grasp different pruning techniques, discover how to protect your veg patch from pests, and make the best compost.
Wildlife Gardening: For Everyone and Everything
Bloomsbury Wildlife amazon.co.uk
Do you want to attract more bees, birds, frogs and hedgehogs into your garden? In Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything, Kate Bradbury teams up with the Wildlife Trusts and the RHS to help you discover how you can make your garden, balcony, doorstep or patio a haven for garden wildlife. You’ll find handy charts, practical projects and fact files.
My House Plant Changed My Life: Green wellbeing for the great indoors
Gardener and TV presenter David Domoney is a firm believer that indoor plants can make ‘a practical and emotional contribution to our wellbeing’. In this book, David explains the hard science behind the positive effect of the humble houseplant on wellness, and provides expert tips on how to keep your plants thriving, plus shares his top 50 life-enhancing houseplants.
RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design: Planning, Building and Planting Your Perfect Outdoor Space
If you’re looking for new garden ideas, the RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design will guide you from planning to planting, such as choosing the correct materials for your structures and assessing your drainage, to laying patios, making ponds, and planting perennials.
How to Create an Eco Garden: The practical guide to sustainable and greener gardening
Lorenz Books amazon.co.uk
This planet-friendly book is filled with ideas for creating your own eco garden on any scale, from a small courtyard to a large garden or allotment. Discover organic techniques that improve biodiversity, learn the value of using recycled and reclaimed materials for landscaping, and take on simple projects such as making a pond and a wildlife hotel.
RHS Encyclopedia Of Plants and Flowers
Drawing on expert advice from the RHS, this best-selling reference book – organised by colour, size, and type, rather than as an A-Z directory – will help you select the right varieties for your outdoor space.
Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve your Harvest
Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd amazon.co.uk
Joyce and Ben Russell have devised 30 kitchen garden projects, devised to either extend the season, protect crops from pests or improve yields. These projects transform your vegetable plot into somewhere more productive, more attractive and more secure.
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