• Smother a rockery with thrift
  • Delve into the world of Aquilegia
  • Prepare for bees with Pulmonaria
  • Create a carpet with Ajuga reptans
  • Go Mad with Gorgeous Geums
  • Plant Pick – Japanese Spiraea
  • Plant Pick – Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve
  • Plant Pick – Callicarpa
  • Plant Pick – Stachys byzantina (Lambs Ears)
  • Plant Pick – Foxgloves (Digitalis)

Guest Post – 5 Ways to Make Your Garden More Beautiful

I love quick tips and easy ways of creating a beautiful space. Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Ricky Peterson….I’ll let him take over;

Hi there, my name is Ricky. I love writing about gardening and I love being outdoors. I work at Swallow Aquatics, who sell various garden supplies and when I am not working you will probably find me in the garden (weather permitting!) Thanks for reading, and enjoy your garden this summer!

*****

No matter how big or small your garden may be, there is plenty you can do to make it look more beautiful and a nicer place to be – and if you can you should! Having a nice home is one thing, but having a nice garden will allow you to enjoy the summer months more fully and spending time outside is good for you.

So whether you want to add value to your home, or you want to live the outdoor lifestyle more often, we have some tips to help you make the most of your space:

Looking After Your Plants

The first step to a beautiful garden is of course getting the right plants and looking after them correctly. The best plants for you will depend on your tastes and how much time you want to spend tending to them.

1A rose in a garden, looking pretty

If you like a low hassle garden then go for a range of different coloured (flowers) shrubs and maybe some dwarf conifers to as to add interest but without blocking your natural light. If in doubt, here is a good guide to choosing the right plants.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind the maintenance, then you can pick based on what colours you like and which plants you like the most. Ideally you should try to add some plants which flower at different times of year. Be aware of maintenance needs though:

  • Roses will need pruning every year and feeding often
  • Bedding plants will need to be watered regularly in summer
  • Some perennials need cutting at the end of each season

The Right Garden Furniture

Although this might feel like more of an afterthought, your furniture is what will allow you to sit and enjoy your garden, so think carefully. Light weight furniture may not look great by the end of winter, so unless you have somewhere to store it safely, it may be worth investing in some hard wooden or even stone furniture.

Wooden furniture will need treating each year and probably need a good clean each spring if you want it to look its best, whereas stone furniture will be the lowest maintenance, but is not to everyone’s tastes.

Additionally, if you are leaving wooden furniture on grass over the winter the legs will start to rot sooner than if you place your furniture on stone or some other hard patio surface.

Add Some Aquatics

Building a garden pond isn’t as hard as you might think and it can add a real dash of interest to your garden – especially if you decide to keep fish in it.

2Your pond doesn’t have to be this big of course

Ponds can also be low maintenance and if you add a water feature such as a small fountain they make a great focal point.

Things to consider:

  • For a low maintenance pond, don’t put it directly under trees (leaves = mess)
  • A decent water pump will prevent stagnation and keep the water healthy
  • Add layers of different depths to maximise the bio diversity
  • Include a shallow area to allow animals to drink & in case hedgehogs fall in
  • There is a full guide on planning your pond here

Heating & Lighting

Finally, think of those long summer evenings when you could be enjoying your garden. The two essential ingredients for an extended summer evening are light and warmth. Fortunately neither are difficult to find.

3Outdoor lighting can look pretty amazing

A patio heater is one option, or you could also consider a chimenea in which you can burn garden waste whilst keeping warm.

4And so can patio heaters!

In addition, some strategically placed solar powered lights around the garden can instantly make a dark outdoor space feel magical and modern lighting options are generally very low maintenance. Just try to place your lighting in areas which won’t quickly become overgrown.

Invite In Some Nature

And what’s the finishing touch you ask? Simple, share your garden with the local wildlife. You don’t have to give up your modern comforts, but a few simple touches such as:

  • A bird feeder
  • Some bird seed or fat balls
  • A bird bath
  • Lots of bright flowers

Will all attract lots of nature and will help to make your garden feel alive!

Pond Maintenance; quick tips for a spring spruce-up

© Geoff Wakeling

’tis the spring, and despite an orgy of frogs, you may need to do some pond maintenance.

I’ve always been hugely into nature, from caterpillars in jam jars and escaped stick insects being allowed to eat my mum’s house plants, to digging out my own little pond and watching the waterworld develop. At this time of year, even if you had a good clear of your pond last autumn, it’s a good idea to give it a once over before spring really gets on its way.

Unfortunately, being middle of terrace in the middle of a long street, in the middle of a large suburb, I don’t get a lot of aquatic life. That being said, a solo frog has managed to find its way into my garden and has taken up residence in my pond several years running. So far it hasn’t appeared this year, so I’m waiting with baited breath and hoping it’ll reappear (though, if it’s lucky, it’s moved on and found some other froggy friends). After the last of my fish died in 2013, I gave the entire pond a complete washout (if you read regularly, my ‘pond’ is just a huge plastic container sunk into the ground), cut back the weeds and left well alone since. However, now spring’s here and things are starting to grow, there’s a few important tasks that need doing.

  • Fish out any extra fallen leaves that might have collected over the winter.
  • Cut back dead or dying plant material that could sour the water.
  • Buy new, or cut back, oxygenating weeds, depending on its voraciousness. Particularity in small tubs, it’s a good idea to have oxygenating weed to maintain a healthy eco-system. This might need topping up with fresh plant material, or cutting back depending on last year’s growth.
  • Top up water levels if required. In large ponds its not normally possible to fill with distilled water. However, with smaller tubs, fill a few buckets of water and let them sit outside for 24/36 hours. This will not only allow them to match the ambient temperature, but additions, such as chlorine, can be allowed to escape.
  • Check pond filters and pumping solutions. In my tub I have a little solar-powered fountain, and the filter often needs a quick clear out, whilst the solar panel needs a wipe down. You might think that using pumps for a water feature is a hassle, but there are lots of companies who can install and help maintain equipment, allowing you to get on with the gardening and enjoy the sound of water in your oasis.
  • Ensure steep-sided ponds have escape routes for wildlife. One of my clients has an old bathtub sunk into her garden as a pond. The steep sides make it perilous for nature, and despite my efforts to grow plants around the edges to act as a bridge, there’s been a couple of drowned creatures. To avoid this, provide banks of stones or wood at the edges, and use water planting (both in and out of the pond) to give extra escape routes.

I adore ponds and water features in a garden. They make such a vast difference to the entire ambiance of an outside space. And, whether you’ve got a huge reservoir or a tiny tub pond, a quick spruce-up this weekend will ensure you have nothing to do later in the year other than enjoy the buzz of dragonflies and the babble of water.

Guest Post – The Problems You May Have With Japanese Knotweed

JapaneseKnotweed

Japanese Knotweed quickly becomes a problem. © Dankogreen – Flickr

If you are a keen gardener in the UK, you will likely be familiar with some of the invasive species that are damaging the habitats of our native ones. This is something that receives a fair bit of attention in the press, as well as on programmes such as Countryfile. One such rogue plant is the Japanese Knotweed, which is now said to occupy a site in every 10km of England and Wales, and is also present in Scotland [1].

This invasive species is causing problems to homeowners and businesses throughout the United Kingdom, especially in regards to structures such as concrete, tarmac, brick walls and foundations. The issue with Japanese Knotweed is the rate that it has spread, and the destruction to well cultivated gardens and even buildings.

Here are some of the specific problems caused by Japanese Knotweed [1]:

  • Damage to paving and tarmac areas

  • Damage to retaining wall structures

  • Damage to building foundations

  • Damage to flood defence structures

  • Damage to archaeological sites

  • Reduction in land values

  • Aesthetic issues

  • Reduction in biodiversity through out-shading native vegetation

  • Many insects / wildlife that are dependent on our native plants are lost or in danger

Some of these will be more relevant to you as a gardener, such as damage to paving, aesthetic issues and reduction in biodiversity. In rare cases, some would-be homebuyers have been refused a mortgage for properties when this plant is present, so it is something to watch out for in the future too.

It can be highly irritating to have a mature garden with native species affected by this invader, so you will want to find a solution of how to eradicate Japanese Knotweed effectively.

What to do if you suspect you have a problem with Japanese Knotweed

Due to the spread of Japanese Knotweed, it is now classed as “controlled waste” under the Environment Protection Act 1990. This means that it requires disposal at licensed landfill sites. In short, it should never be included in normal household waste as you could be committing an offence by causing or allowing the plant to spread in the wild (listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).

If you want to verify that you have a problem, you can use online resources to compare the stems and leaves of your plant with a photo of the real thing. Of course, you may want to hire a team of experts to do this for you, as it is probably better to be safe than sorry.

When it comes to actually getting rid of the plant, there are a number of ways it can be tackled. Experts may use chemicals, excavation, biological, composting or incineration tactics depending on the scale of the problem and the location. Professionals will be able to get get of the Japanese Knotweed in a safe and effective manner, and should offer you an insurance backed guarantee as well.

Sources: [1] http://www.jksl.com/why-is-japanese-knotweek-a-problem.htm

Easyart; Botanical Illustrations Review

As much as I like gardening outdoors, I have to be rather realistic; I live in Britain and there are going to many days when it’s pouring. It’s on days like those that it’s rather nice to have something a little horticultural inside. However, I’m not very good with house-plants. I’m terrible at remembering to water them, and anything more than the odd succulents or drought tolerant butterfly palm, tends to die. Luckily, even just a few garden-inspired prints and photos help lift a room, especially when you’re unable to get outside. And EasyArt have a beautiful range of Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Art Prints.

When I was first alerted to these prints, I was pretty impressed. There’s an immense range, so whether you like details flower illustrations, botanical prints or exquisitely drawn canvasses of fruit and vegetables, you’re in for a treat. I, myself, am rather partial to trees…particularly leaf shape, branches, catkins, that sort of thing. So, it was natural that my eye gravitated towards a couple of pieces that leapt of the page.

A pair of beautiful RHS Art Prints; Alnus Cordata and Pinus strobus

If you’re looking for some new horticultural-inspired artwork, then I’d highly recommend these. The prints themselves are extremely well crafted, and it’s well worth getting them correctly framed so that the pictures really pop. They’re expertly packaged too; it’s often these little things that make a difference. And, I have to say, despite the sun having finally come out in England, I’d quite happily stare at my new prints for more than a mere, passing moment.

Hanging on the wall. Yes…that is a dead bat…my partner likes taxidermy! :|

 

Five Fantastic Evergreen Border Plants

I’m dreaming of a…..no, not a white Christmas, but a brand, spanking new home. Of a garden that’s a complete blank canvas. Actually, no….more like a wreck of garden that I can go mad pruning, cutting back and shaping back into a gorgeous oasis. Of French Doors or a large sliding glass wall that I can throw open in warm weather and let the outside in. Of shutters in all shapes and sizes, so that I can get rid of the curtains and have a blissful, clean and crisp look. Of course, all of this is, as I’ve already suggested, a dream. I’m not moving, at the earliest, until this winter, so there’s a whole gardening season ahead of me. However, with family members moving and friends taking the last few days of warmer weather to spruce up their gardens, it has got me thinking about plants.

For many of us, a trip down to the local nursery is a delight. All too often, we fill our trolleys with bright flowers and beautiful blooms with the excitement of getting home and planting. However, after a few months, those petals have withered and disappeared, there hasn’t been the time to deadhead properly, and the garden looks a mess – all over again. And it’s in shopping for plants that the mistake has been made….I’ve learned this the hard way. Instead of being attracted by the glitter and dazzle of flowers, if you want a relatively stress-free and easily maintained patch, it’s evergreens that you need.

I’m going to do a couple of posts about good evergreen plants, and in this first one, I’m concentrating on low growing border and pot plants that’ll look great all year around.

Creme Brule HeucheraHeucheras (right) – Oh, be still my beating heart. I love these plants. What you see as a pile of leaves, I see as a beautifully patterned specime that will survive around the year, creating great mounds of lush vegetation. Heucheras come in many shapes and sizes, and various varieties thrive in sun or shade. That, in my opinion, makes them a perfect garden plant. They flower in early summer, so there’s a little maintenance chopping off the stalks after they’ve finished blooming. They’re slug and snail resistant too!

Phormiums – Some people love them, others hate them, but I generally regard phormiums as an ideal plant if you want an easy maintenance border or pot. Often called New Zealand flax, phormiums comes in a variety of colours, from pale and striped green leaves, to bright, pinkish red. The arrow-shaped foliage is the perfect contrast to other rounder-leaved garden evergreens, so you can clash both colour and shape. They’re miraculously easy to grow too. One downside is that slugs and snails like to hide away in the core – a place that’s pretty hard to get to. But if you’re ‘evergreening‘ your garden up, you probably won’t note a lot of mollusc damage anyway.

Grasses – Grasses have come in and out of fashion, but I love the fact that they’re available in such a vast array of varieties. Tiny dwarf and slow growing varieties are ideal for pots and the fronts of borders, whilst larger, shrub-sized plants can be used around the year as structural garden plants. To get the best from many varieties, you DO need to chop them right down in winter. However, that’s just once a year compared to lots of deadheading throughout the seasons – I see the benefits!

Ophiopogon contrasts against BergeniaOphiopogon (right) – Commonly called ‘Lily Turf’ or ‘Lily Grass’, this plant looks like a grass but, as its name suggests, is actually a lily. It has jet black leaves that last around the year. Grown against green or silver foliage it’s simply stunning. It also works well in pots where you can use pale gravel to really set it off. It’s very slow growing, so don’t expect it to cover a vast area very quickly, but it is a great talking point.

Hebes – If you’ve had to dig out your buddleia because it’s got monstrously leggy (I had to), then hebes are an ideal alternative. You’ll still get the benefit of nectar rich flowers for butterflies, but these treasures are more compact, often slow growing and make ideal evergreen specimens. Like many evergreen plants, they don’t always look their best in winter, but they WILL give a backdrop that’s better than bare and brown stems.

Whilst flowers look nice in the short term, there’s generally far more maintenance involved than if you’re growing shrubs and greenery. And, if you want a garden to look lush and vibrant around the year with very little effort, I’d definitely consider using evergreen plants that provide a constant backdrop of foliage.

Four Gardening Jobs for A Rainy Day

Eh? MORE rain? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but what with the past three days in London being dry and relatively sunny, I think I was lured into a false sense of security. Those three days were probably our summer. But, anyway, to business.

With rain having returned, it got me to thinking about what garden jobs I need to do in the off-chance that the sun comes out and gardening can recommence. I’m a bit of a multi-tasker and I hate down time, so when it’s pouring outside, it’s the perfect time to focus on other things (though, with the amount of rain we’ve done, you may have already completed most of these tasks).

Pot Washing

I know, it’s not exactly glamorous. However, washing out your pots is an extremely good idea if you want to promote seed germination and reduce the risks of bacterial and viral diseases. For the worst, scrape off dirt with a stiff brush before leaving to soak in a bucket of nine parts hot water and one part bleach. Rinse off well when you’re done.

 

It's the ideal time to clear algae from paving. © macoto - Flickr

It’s the ideal time to clear algae from paving. © macoto – Flickr

Hard-Landscaping Repairs

So, you can’t really do this whilst there’s a downpour, but it’s the ideal time to make a few landscaping repairs before things really get growing. Of course, you won’t get cement to set in this weather, but loose brick walls can be cobbled back together easily. With the soil soft, it’s an easy case of replacing fallen masonry and stones. The continuous rain also helps to settle soil again once you’re done.

Meanwhile, moss and algae that’s begun to grow on fencing, paving and ornaments can also be scrubbed off using a jet washer (or hose with a strong jet fixture) and a stiff broom, whilst it’s also the perfect time to replace fencing which isn’t readily accessible later in the year when climbers are in full growth.

 

Equipment Maintenance

I have a confession – I’m not terribly good at maintaining my garden gadgets. Okay, so I knock off excess soil on spades and forks, and I keep my glovers washed and clean (mostly). However, when it comes to the lawnmower, the blades need sharpening. The strimmer needs some new twine and a damn good wipe-down, and I really look carefully pick through the teeth of the electric saw to remove old bits of twig. If something’s old and a little worn out, it’s also a good idea to replace a few parts. In this consumer-crazy era, it’s easy just to go and buy something new. But places like Pat’s Small Engine Plus offer replacement parts for many major brands, so you can save yourself a few quid whilst also getting a better working tool.

 

Get some early seeds on the go.

Get some early seeds on the go.

Seed Germination

You didn’t think you could get away without any growing, did you? It is warm enough to get a few plants going, especially if you have a heated propagator or a sunny, indoor windowsill. Spring onion sets and broad beans can be planted at this time of year, and I’d be tempted to start them off in pots as the soil’s a little warmer and you’ll get a decent headstart with germination. If you’re growing annuals and want some early seasonal flowers, get a few pots on the go now. This ensure that long before the rest of your plants are blooming, you have mature little plants to pop into borders nice and early.

I’ve already got some seeds on the go, and have my pot washing on the go, but there’s definitely some paving that needs a damn good scrub.

Backyard Blueprints – A Book Review

Spring has certainly come to London over the past few days. There really is nothing quite like a little bit of sunshine to lift the mood. I finally managed to get back out into the garden and discovered that what I thought was a slightly overgrown patch of ivy was actually a thriving mass of plant which had begun to attack my home. Spring bulbs, pulmonaria and hellebores are all bringing the borders to life. Meanwhile, the succulents for the wedding are growing quickly now that a few hours of extra sun are on them. As an aside, Columbia Road Flower Market is useless if you’re looking for succulents. So far, if you’re looking for healthy and affordable plants that you can split and propagate, Kew Gardens is, by far, the best option.

I have LOTS occurring this year, including a move. Whilst I’d love a tiny house on a huge plot of land, I’m not quite at that level of wealth yet, and so I’ll be moving from a postage stamp BACKYARD BLUEPRINTSgarden to a slightly larger suburban garden. With that in mind, I’ve been seeking inspiration. And for this, a new book by David Stevens and published by Jaqui Small (www.jacquismallpub.com | @JacquiSmallPub) has been ideal.

Let’s face it – most of us don’t have the vast gardens that so many garden books cater towards. Yes, these gardening bibles suggest to simply scale down the size of borders for smaller spaces, but that really doesn’t work because it’s not space efficient. That’s why I’ve really fallen for ‘backyard blueprints‘ in a big way; it’s a tome of fantastic ideas that can easily be put into the regular ol’ garden plot. You could copy an entire garden plan, or just pick out highlights to make your tiny garden not only seem bigger, but become a place you really want to explore and live in.

The other thing, as the name suggests, is that the book provides some interesting blueprints to work from. There are three distinct sections; those on design, furnishing and planting. Each has tips to work from and beautiful images which could prove inspirational. Say, perhaps, you have a garden plan in mind but want to incorporate lighting or a working space. Simply pop to the ‘Blueprints for Furnishing‘ section and, hey presto, here are some ideas. The same is true for advice on plant texture and colour, or choosing materials to best suit your needs.

I’ve really become quite enthralled with this book. Perhaps its the imagery, or perhaps that fact that I’ll be moving within a year to a new blank garden to fill. When I moved to my current suburban house, I built the garden from scratch. But that was 13 years ago; I didn’t know nearly as much about gardening as I do now. To get my hands on a new plot is extremely exciting and I know, that amongst my toolkit, I’ll be armed with this goodie of a book.

Backyard Blueprints is available in March 2014, for £20 in hardback. However, you can also order for just £16 including P&P. To do this, simply ring 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG91.

Alternatively, send a cheque made payable to:

Littlehampton Book Services Mail Order Department
Littlehampton Book Services
PO Box 4264,
Worthing, West Sussex
BN13 3RB.

Please quote the offer code APG91 and include your name and address details.
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Succulent success (propagating succulents)

So, as some of you may have read in my December post, I’m getting married in May and am using succulents as one of the flower varieties. Thus, every windowsill in my house is currently covered in these plants – when the cats aren’t knocking them off, of course!

All my aloe leaves rotted away.

Using a heated propagator to keep the soil levels up, I’ve attempted propagating a few species, despite it being the middle of the winter. The sempervivum’s were ridiculously easy and I simply removed the small ‘chick‘ plants, popped the root into soil, covered with gravel and left them. I’ve been watering every two weeks with a succulent and cacti feed and they’re doing quite well. The aloe, on the other hand, was a complete disaster. Not only did I lose all of the removed leaves, but I lost the mother plant as well. Unfortunately rot set in and a ghastly, air-filling smell began to float out of the yellowing stems. I’m not sure whether I should’ve allowed the removed plants to sit around for several days before planting; perhaps this would have helped seal the wound and prevented rot from setting in. Either way, dismal failure and, as you can see from the picture, they quickly wilted and rotted away.

However, the echevaria leaves have developed roots.

 

However, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom, for the echeveria leaves have worked. Not every one began to develop roots, but I’ve got half a dozen or so new plants quickly putting out life into the soil. A couple have already begun to bud new leaves too, so growing in a heated propagator seems to work when the weather’s too cold outside. I had thought the minimal sunlight would affect growing; seems not!

I still have quite a few more plants to buy before the big day, so it’s wholesalers and Columbia Road Flower Market hear I come. But, for now, I’m happy with the success so far! :)

Guest Post – Integrating a garden room into your outside space

It’s the New Year, can you believe it? I think part of my difficulty comprehending that spring’s on the way is because we really haven’t had much of a winter. To start of 2014, I have a great great post from Oaktree Garden Design. They’re a Hertfordshire company serving London and the home counties, specialising in producing stylish and practical gardens. And, if you want to spruce up your space and make it more usable this year, then Oaktree Garden Design have some great tips.

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Garden rooms are a fabulous way of adding square-footage to your home. While it may seem counter-intuitive to take up valued garden space, especially in gardens that are already quite small, there is the huge advantage of being able to enjoy your lovely garden while working, studying, or exercising.

Garden rooms don't have to be shed-like.

Garden rooms don’t have to be shed-like.

The issue when choosing a garden room to complement your home and much-cared for garden is that there is a danger of the room looking like a glorified shed. Although there is merit in really going for the rustic shed theme on the outside while having a hi-tech and modern interior, there are so many stylish and contemporary garden rooms available that there is no excuse for not having something that is a wow-factor and that has genuine potential to add value to your home.

Modern garden rooms are sleek, light, and can be made to measure to suit your exact needs, taking into account the space available. I particularly like these garden pods from Green Studios, which include windows in just the right place to make use of the natural light, and huge glass doors to really bring the outside to the inside.

Large folding glass doors are a brilliant way of integrating the inside of the room into your garden. This will not only maximise the light available during the day, but means they can be folded back in the warmer months giving an outdoor feel.

As modern garden rooms can be finished internally, you can integrate the new room by decorating the interior as you would a room in your home. Use floral décor, and shades of green to really push the garden theme. Custom-made canvas prints of your treasured flora and fauna hung in just the right place can compensate (a little) for the reduction in planting space outside. Even better, you can use pots to bring the garden right inside the garden room!

One amazing feature I have seen recently is to continue the external finish into the interior. For example, by having a decked area outside which you can match on the inside with wooden cladding. This makes the room appear like one long flowing building, which looks even better when paired with glass doors, whether they are open or not. This works particularly well with garden rooms which are not square – no-one said garden rooms have to be boxy! It’s well worth consulting a specialist designer who can use their experience to help you get your new room just right for you and your property. They will have lots of knowledge of what is possible, and will come up with ideas that you didn’t even think of.

Garden rooms can be a genuinely good way of adding value, space, and flow to your home. When you need that bit of extra space, whether it is for a home-office, or an art studio, then it really is something you should consider. If you have written off the idea of a garden room for fear of it being a cold, unwelcoming eyesore, then take a look at something more stylish and modern and see what is possible.

Get an easy-maintenance garden for 2014

These days I don’t have nearly enough time to spend in my own garden. It manages to tick along fairly well without too much help though, meaning that I only have to do major clean-ups once or twice a year. As much as I’d like to get out there, life seems to get in the way. If you want to spend less time working in your garden, and more time enjoying it, here are my top tips for 2014.

Flowering Shrubs
Seriously, if you’re looking for less work, ditch the herbaceous and annual plants and opt for flowering shrubs. Not only do these require little pruning – particularly the slower growing specimens – but if you utilise evergreen plants, you’ll have a green oasis around the year. Shrubs can be shaped, come in a variety of sizes and have a plethora of varieties so you can get something perfect no matter what your colour scheme may be.

Succuletns

Succulents are a low maintenance pot plant.

Pots 
You’re probably reading this thinking ‘pots, less work? Yikes!‘ but hear me out; it depends what you put in them. It’s true that pots sometimes need a lot of watering and care, but not if you plant them up with drought tolerant species such as thrift and succulents. Alternatively, a little work in the autumn or summer to plant pots up with bulbs or winter pansies respectively also results in fairly easy-maintenance displays. If you have gaps in your flowerbeds which you’d normally shove a new plant into and thus have to water every day, you can just shove a pot in. They’re easy to move around the garden as you please, and as long as you top up the upper inch with new soil every year, your pots can keep going for many years.

Mulch
If you want to stop weeding, mulch EVERYTHING! In pots I tend to use cobbles or pea shingle, whilst in flower beds I’ll use bark chippings. If there’s a spare spot of soil, something will try and go. Swathe it in plants if you can, and if you can’t, use mulch (it helps maintain moisture in hot summers too). If you’re using gravel or stones in your flower beds, be sure to put down some form of membrane first, otherwise you’ll find cobbles sinking away into the ground over time.

Ditch the lawn
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know how I hate lawns. They are EXTREMELY hard work and tend to look scruffy unless you put in A LOT of time. You can use artificial grass from 1Grass which gives the benefit of space and the fact that you can vacuum and slosh it down with water to keep it clean. Also, if you have a female dog, it’s practically the only way to avoid burnt patches of grass. Alternatively, ditch a green space completely and divide gardens into rooms using hard-landscaping such as walkways, pergolas and seating areas.

Heucheras are a great option for foliage.

Heucheras are a great option for foliage.

Use foliage, not flowers

Whilst flowers look pretty, the more you have, the larger amount of upkeep needed. From spraying emerging buds, to deadheading and pruning, you’ll have a lot of work ahead. By replacing flowers with contrasting foliage, you can get the same vibrant clashes of colour without having to constantly be in the garden snipping. Heucheras are ideal for green and purple foliage, whilst eucalpytus and lambs ears are fantastic silvers. Grasses, meanwhile, work extremely well for offering interesting alternative leaves shapes and also come in a variety of hues.

So, if you want to enjoy your garden a little more next year whilst reducing the effort you put in, there are several things you can do. There’s no need to have a bare and barren garden even you want a maintenance free zone; just use the right plants and structure to let nature get on with it.

Welcome to The Guide to Gay Gardening's new look!


Living in the grey smog of London utopia, I forge my little existence in a slightly loopy, hermity, hippy manner, sharing my life with the hens, cats and other menagerie that have somehow taken over my life.

If I'm not enjoying the great outdoors with my netbook in hand, I'll be snipping, pruning, planting, cutting, propagating, shovelling, or just plain admiring. You can even catch the occasional glimpse of me on the TV now and then!

Take the weight off for a while. Sit back, relax, read, send me feedback, but mostly just take a moment and look around you.....mother nature is beautiful.


Geoff Wakeling

Mail Me: geoffwakeling(at) theguidetogaygardening.com


















Daily Images

  • Creme Brule Heuchera

  • Ophiopogon contrasts against Bergenia

  • Garden rooms don't have to be shed-like.

  • Heucheras are a great option for foliage if you're trying to avoid higher maintenance plants.

  • Succulents are ideal for low maintenance pots.

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"I've been listening to the Battlestar soundtracks for about a month now. I'm starting to forget what normal life sounds like."
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"Couple of hours tennis played...I'm getting better!! It was still 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, but I AM playing someone who's got a decade of experience!"