Fast fixes for lazy gardeners
The Muddy jardin is a sorry state right now after about, ooh, three years of neglect. Sound familiar? But all is not lost! Here's how to create an fab garden in a flash.
I long for a lovely garden – striped lawn, an abundance of colourful flowers and a collection of neatly trimmed bushes. Damn you Instagram and your constant stream of floral of loveliness. The trouble is I lack the skill and time to actually make it happen. The lure of the sun lounger, G&T and a good book is strong.
But I am not alone. Jonathan Kitching, a horticulturalist and director of Rosebourne – a rather chichi farm shop and garden centre in Aldermaston – has noticed that time poor gardeners are very much a thing. Who are we to fight a trend, so, John’s going to give us some top tips to get our jardins ship shape, and you don’t need to be a Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winner to do it. Hallelujah.
The hottest trend right now is for container planting. Most us don’t have time to dedicate hours and hours to their garden, so planting up pots is quick, easy, and you can have fully flowering colour in an instant. What’s not to love about that? I’d recommend going for bigger pots –there’s more soil, therefore more moisture and you may get away with watering them 2-3 times a week. For immediate wow, pack in the plants. It might be worth investing in an automatic watering system to help keep everything alive – seven days without water, everything will be dead by the time you get home. Remember, if something outgrows a pot, you can always plant it in the ground.
If you’re looking to get colour straight into your borders too, then aim for year-round interest. You need to do a bit of research or pop along to a garden centre for some advice.The cottage garden is a style that never ceases to be popular. Herbaceous perennials like lupins, delphiniums and phlox are brilliant, long flowering plants (April to August.), so perfect for summer. Old fashioned roses are making a massive comeback too and you can’t go wrong with lavender. It need a bit of love to stop it going woody, but can give you lots if impact.
When choosing colour either go for one or tonal shades. There’s a move away from mixed planting. Calibrachoa comes in three stunning yet complementary shades of mauve, white and lilac that look fantastic together. If you want to be bold, go for colours that are opposites on the colour wheel. Orange and blue can look really dramatic, mixed in with architectural plants for a more contemporary scheme. Think about your garden in the same way you would your interiors.
THE GRASS IS GREENER
It’s never too late to get that green, green grass of home. If you’re starting from scratch you have two options: turf or seed. Turf is 3-4 times more expensive but ticks box if you want an immediate lawn. Seed is cheaper but takes 3-4 months to establish. The preparation is the same: level it, rake it, fertilise the soil and apply seed or turf. If you’re after stripes, choose a finer variety, for lawn that take a battering, choose a grass with rye in the mix. It copes much better with kids and animals. Gel seeds are good for non gardeners. They’re a bit more robust.
The best time to work on grass is April-May, but as long as you irrigate your lawn every day, the only time not to do it winter. If you’re repairing an old patches, scarify to get rid of moss and weeds, then loosen the soil, mix grass seed and compost, to help germinate the seed and water water water. Stay off it, until it is 2 inches tall, then give it a mow on a high setting. The more you mow the more it grows.
KEEP OUT NOSEY NEIGHBOURS
This is an increasingly common dilemma, as houses are built ever closer together. You can use verdant semi-mature to mature planting for scale and perspective. A single beautiful tree or group of trees perfectly placed can be transformative. I’m a big fan of Photinia (aka Red Robin). It’s an evergreen shrub that can be grown as a hedge or on a trellis. A small plant can cost as little as £10 and a 7ft trellised tree can cost £200. It’s fast growing, you can’t kill them and provide colour all year round. Bamboo is a good fast-growing screen too, but it can run wild. Grow it in a large pot or you’ll be hacking out the roots every couple of years. That said the yellow or black stems with the gentle rustling make a nice addition to the garden.
FOOL PROOF PLANTS
For bomb proof plants, you cannot go wrong with hydrangeas, viburnum, choisya sundance with its yellow foliage – all hard as nails, flowering shrubs that’ll tolerate lots of soils and positions. Roses are also super easy to grow and keep alive. Give them a good prune in late winter and it’ll keep on giving. Magnolia, clematis and lavender are also wondering, easy growers. For shady spots, ferns, hostas and grasses will do well.
Rosebourne, Basingstoke Road, Aldermaston, RG7 4LD. Tel: 0118 971 2123