Updated: May 28, 2019
It’s the week of the Chelsea flower show…by the skin of my teeth. It’s been one of those weeks where I feel like I’ve barely come up for air, so this blog post has been moved to the back of the list a few times. Never the less gardening is what you’re getting, timing's on point!
My gardens an extension of my home in the summer, it’s so well used that it seems only right to invest my time and money into it. It’s my sanctuary, an area in which I can sit in the present moment, without a screen in my face, and just be. I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a garden nerd!
I have a strong passion for landscape design and have developed a good understanding of plants over the years, which makes it much more of an enjoyable pastime for me. I don’t believe that you have to be a keen gardener to enjoy a full, luscious garden though, it helps, but if planned right you can achieve a low maintenance space that can give you just as much fulfillment as designing a room in your home (if not more).
To start with, it’s important that you determine exactly what you want from your garden (this ideology applies to any space you’re designing though, not just a garden). For me, I want a simplistic family-friendly space, where my Son can play football and my dog can run wild, yet at the same time I want a feeling of sophistication, and a space to entertain. I'm lucky enough to have a fairly large garden considering my suburban location, which means I am able to achieve this. Smaller gardens are more limiting in terms of how much you can get out of them, but you can create some incredible things in small spaces, so don’t be put off by a smaller garden to work with.
Every garden I have ever designed has pretty much always fallen under this same brief; family friendly, striking, and low maintenance so this is what I’m going to cover over the next couple of weeks. Starting with plants this week, and then next I will cover garden furniture, and entertaining.
Like most things design orientated, a garden looks best when pre-planned. If you’re starting entirely from scratch then get some graph paper and a tape measure out and draw out a simple floor plan of the space you have, to help decide where you want beds placed and garden furniture to sit, etc.
It’s really important that you determine what plants are going where, simply because not all plants will thrive where you place them.
It’s key that you find out what areas have full sun, part sun and shade before you spend as it’s not something you want to learn the hard way. Plants can add up, especially when buying in bulk. It pays off to plan and get it right.
So let's cover some shade lovers, ferns, for instance, one of my all-time favorite shade-loving plants. There are so many beautiful varieties of ferns out there, which look stunning when placed together, merging different heights and shades of greens, textures contrasting from rubber-like leaves to delicate feathery stems. You can then add height with tree ferns, which are incredibly dramatic almost all year round. That's what’s so satisfying about ferns, they give interest for so many months of the year. Even when their leaves are dying back, there’s still beauty here. They need cutting back in spring to encourage new growth, which can seem a bit brutal at the time but they quickly unfold into boisterous greenery again.
Hosta’s are another old faithful, they do well in part shade, so as long as they get a bit of sun throughout the day they should do well. Their leaves vary from yellows to blues and silvers. I'm very drawn to blue and silver shaded plants, I find they have a more contemporary edge and catch the light nicely.
Hosta’s look best when grouped, much like ferns, or like I’ve done this year, with ferns. I have a shaded patch where my office is, little light gets here throughout the day so it's my designated fern area, which is now accompanied by many varieties of hosta, some small, some large and all contrasting in colour. The impact is beautiful, and almost daily I see a difference in fullness. Hosta’s do dye back in the winter though(they reemerge in the spring), something to bear in mind if you’re looking for ground cover all year.
Euphorbia do well in part shade, I’ve planted some in full shade which have also done well and are evergreen so continue to add interest in our winter months. The euphorbia I enjoy using in our climate are Spurges, particularly Euphorbia Martinii. Spring is the best time of year for a these, they sprout dainty little lime green cupped flowers with red centers that add a feminine touch to the area.
Quick fact for ya, Euphorbia is often mistaken for cacti, not the strain I’m referencing here though. A lot of the cacti we're sold in this country are in fact Euphorbia. You can tell when the plant has been cut as they seep a sticky, milky like substance (FYI this can be dangerous if eaten or in contact with skin & eyes so wear gloves). There are thousands of plants within this family, which vary in looks substantially but all have the same milky like substance.
So then we have our full sun lovers. There are so many more options when it comes to full sun-loving plants, but for now, I'm going to stick to a few easy carers.
Olive trees, one of my all-time favourite trees, their ancient tangled branches are some of the most alluring you can set eyes on. Their evergreen foliage has a silvery tone and glistens especially during that golden hour period we all chase.
Considering their Mediterranean roots, they do particularly well in our climate too. I have three olive trees in my garden, which give me year-round greenery, and even the odd olive in autumn, I’m yet to try… I bought these thriving tree's from the prestigious independent supplier Villaggio Verde. They have won gold medals for their tree's countless times, which is clear when you receive one of your own. The level of quality they produce is the best I have come across. Which is exactly what keeps them at the head of their game, and despite their compatible prices they have very kindly provided me with a discount code for this bank holiday weekend, winning! Enter NativeLivingOlives for a generous 15% off site-wide.
Then there’s Agave, which I adore! These Mexican natives are best presented in pots in my opinion. They don’t like wet conditions, so potting them will allow for substantial drainage. My ideal would be to place one in an oversized terracotta urn, these are the design classic of pots. They add a touch of tradition and improve with age as they patina. You can plant these in beds too and some can grow up to 2 meters high. There was a house just down the road from me that had two giant agaves in their front garden, the most stunning and impression leaving plants, I found out yesterday that they’d be dug up, feeling a little bit devo about this! Such a must have plant for anyone who appreciates an architectural touch.
Then there’s Buxus hedging. I'm including these because of how ideal they are for a low maintenance space. They grow very slowly, which is perfect for anyone who’s not overly keen on gardening. They need attending to twice a year, which is manageable by yourself or your gardener. These are the most traditional of the plants I have suggested so far, which may not appeal to anyone who is going for a super contemporary look. But since I love to mix traditional with contemporary I feel these actually can look great in a contemporary setting if placed, and cut right. They also give year-round coverage.
Must mention that all these plants I have suggested are perennials, and hardy, which basically means they come back each year and can withstand our winters. The Hosta’s are the only ones that are not evergreen, these dye back in the autumn and basically hibernate until spring hits, so don’t be concerned when they appear to have vanished. They are also are very loved by slugs, so when you do see re-growth, be sure to get some organic slug pellets or copper strips surrounding them.
I will cover more traditional plants in a few weeks too, as I have a huge love for roses and that English country garden vibe. But for now, I do hope this has helped leaving you feeling inspired, just in time for the bank holiday weekend.