Lock down. Week three.
It still feels like normal life to me. Just a little bit quieter and so far (thankfully) I’m continuing to work as usual. Being a self-employed garden designer means that there is always something to do and I’m fortunate to have a number of ongoing local projects to focus my attention on. Luckily most of my work is done at home anyway (in my garden studio in Cheltenham), with the odd site visit to meet with clients or to survey gardens. My client meetings can now all be done online (what a wonder the internet is) and my garden surveys are usually done in isolation anyway so I can carry on with these as needed.
The biggest change for me has been having the weekends to myself. Not heading off to a mountain biking event, camping trip or to visit family or friends. So now I can dedicate my weekends to my garden (and other much less interesting DIY projects which I will still do my best to avoid. Perhaps my husband can do those?).
New to gardening?
I wonder how many of you don’t usually have a chance to spend time in your garden and now find that you have the time but aren’t sure what to do or where to begin? There are hundreds of online guides and books that can get you started but, like so many things these days, there is almost too much choice. A google search on gardening will pull up hundreds of links and it can be difficult to know where to start.
When I moved into my current house we had a large patch of lawn, three fruit trees and a handful of lonely looking shrubs. I didn’t have a clue about gardening but wanted to get stuck in and wanted to create a functional space that was enjoyable and relaxing to be in.
Over the years I've developed the space in a very organic and haphazard way. At the beginning I was fortunate to have a lot of guidance from my West Indian neighbour. I distinctly remember the day when he hopped the fence into my garden with a bag of shallots in one hand and his gardening machete in the other. With his help I planted my first vegetable crop and haven’t looked back since.
To all you new gardeners out there – don’t rush in.
Take time to observe your space and make a list of what you want to incorporate. Whittle your list down to a maximum of seven key desires and think practically about what fits within the space. For example, my list would be:
habitat and food for wildlife
vegetable and herb garden
It is also helpful to decide on a garden style. Think about gardens that you have seen that you like or browse the internet for colour schemes and garden ideas. There are thousands of resources out there (one of my favourite online resources is Gardenista). Use a resource like Pinterest or Canva to create your own mood board showcasing the images that you like. Or go old fashioned. There is something quite lovely about sitting at the kitchen table with magazines, scissors and glue. Cutting out images that you like and compiling into a work of art.
Once you have an idea of what elements to include in your garden and the styles and colours that you want to use, I would suggest wandering around and taking notes of the existing elements. Spend some time (the longer the better) observing the space so you know which areas are shady and which are sunny. Where the frost sets in stronger and lingers for longer. What existing wildlife already visits your garden and what it is that entices them in.
Then draw up a very simple plan of your space – ideally to scale but it doesn’t have to be – and arrange your own garden elements onto your plan. Think of it like an artist’s drawing. The various elements should fit together well and should complement each other. You should be able to easily move from one section to another. Ideally you should create continuity and flow within the space while also thinking about the practical elements. For example, you would not site a raised border for vegetables or herbs in the shadiest part of your garden.
Amending an existing garden?
If you have a garden that is already set out and you don’t want to move or add any structural elements, I would still suggest taking time to wander around the space to familiarise yourself with it. You’ll find that different plants appear at different times of the year and that different plants reach their peak at different times. Make a note of any elements that you aren’t particularly happy with or want to rejuvenate.
The joy of a garden is that it is a constantly evolving space. Plants, like people, reach old age and disappear back to the earth. It is okay to remove plants that have come to the end of their life and to move other plants around.
If you are unsure about what a plant is, ask for advice. Take a picture, post it on the Shoot website plant finder or speak to a gardener or garden designer who will be able to provide a garden consultation and advise on what it is.
Remember, a weed is only a weed if you don’t want it there (and it won’t be long before you notice which plants will start to aggressively dominate the space) and nature is pretty good at working things out for herself. The only advice I would ask you to follow strictly is to garden organically. Don’t use pesticides. Don’t use chemicals. They are not necessary and are toxic not only for our own health and the health of our families but for the health of our planet.
Don’t be afraid.
Nature is resilient. Some plants may die. You might pull something out that you didn’t mean to or plant something in the wrong place or prune at the wrong time of year. As with everything – it is through making mistakes that we learn. And thankfully nature is forgiving.
To discuss garden consultation packages in Cheltenham and throughout Gloucestershire get in touch with Emma Reuvers at Wild Edge Garden Design. If you live further afield I can work with you remotely to create planting plans suited to your garden.
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