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Trying to cultivate some green fingers

I’ve always been interested in gardens – listening to Monty Don talking about pelargoniums and cotoneasters is lovely and soothing, as is watching coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show and dreaming about having a garden like this:

The Gold medal winning Alcove (Tokonoma) Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show, 2013

Until recently, though, this interest stopped short when it came to actual gardenING. When we moved into our house four years ago I appreciated the fact that it came with a garden, I really did, but not so much the reality of it. Reader, it was an ugly, unloved space. Shoddy decking, nasty crazy paving, most of it in permanent shadow thanks to next door’s hideous light-stealing, needle-shedding conifer. We got rid of most of the crazy paving (fun with pneumatic drills!), replaced the decking, laid some turf and put some plants in pots in the corners. Due to inexperience we made lots of mistakes – the replacement decking is a bit rickety, we really shouldn’t have laid turf under that conifer – and due to my laziness many plants have had short, spindly lives. My garden is a prime example of survival of the fittest. In spring I’d buy some pretty but cheap plants, pot them up rather carelessly, water them occasionally and feel rather pleased with myself if they survived until the autumn. I know all that stuff about the garden being another room but it’s one I didn’t really spend much time in. Once winter arrived I wouldn’t set foot in the garden until, oooh, April…..

This year, I have decided, will be different. I’m going to make an effort. I’m going to water and feed regularly. I’m going to dead-head. I’m going to treat my garden with a combination of respect and dedication, and, hopefully, as a result my garden will flourish.

I have learnt a few things in the last few years as a negligent gardener. The first is that hostas are wonderful, miraculous thrivers – they’re happy in shady areas, thus perfect for that gloomy corner under the aforementioned evil tree, and they don’t require a lot of attention (although slugs and snails LOVE them, so do use pellets, or rub the rim of the pot with Vaseline). I thought that I had managed to kill mine over months of wintry neglect, but no, green shoots appeared and a couple of weeks later, this glorious, abundant green:

There’s nothing wrong with buying cheapo plants from the supermarket. Those pansies at the top cost me £3 for 20 little plants, and they’ve given a gorgeous drift of colour despite this cold spring. Okay, so I’m not exactly sure what to do with them when they stop flowering, but that’s what the internet is for….. I’ve also bought acers from the supermarket, for as little as £3 (more robust garden centre specimens tend to be quite expensive), so I can try and create a little Japanese garden all of my own:

I’ve finally realised that watching something grow can be quietly thrilling – a few weeks ago I planted a couple of tiny clematis plants, and watching their tendrils curl around the metal stake, reaching ever upwards, is so very pleasing. When they flower I might just cry.

How does your garden grow? If you have any tips for good things to grow in pots I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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5 comments on “Trying to cultivate some green fingers

  1. bodhimoments
    May 27, 2013

    My grandmother used to love gardening. She would buy plants by the dozen and plant them all in pots on her rooftop garden in the blazing heat of Kolkata. Then they would all be tended to with lots of water and manure regardless of what their needs were. Very soon a goodly number would die and she would go out and buy some more. If any of her sons tried to tell her that she was killing the plants with incorrect care, she would hmphh! “They’re plants, aren’t they? They need water, don’t they? And ALL living things die, in case you had not noticed”

    So…. One thing I do know about gardening. Do not water plants too much. Other than that, all I can say is, “well done!”

    • Anne-Marie
      May 28, 2013

      Oh yes, I have heard that plants don’t tend to like too much water!

  2. Susan
    May 27, 2013

    I’m always really impressed with anyone who can look after a garden. My mum and dad love gardening and their’s is beautiful. They have an allotment too which is amazing. I, on the other hand, can kill a plant within two weeks. Good luck!

    • Anne-Marie
      May 28, 2013

      I’m a bit rubbish with house-plants, so I’m hoping I have better luck with the outdoor kind!

  3. I tried hostas once and they did really well but then vanished overnight when the slugs found them. They weren’t in pots though, so your vaseline trick wouldn’t work. Lupins are the same – I love them but so do the slugs.

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2013 by in Bea Creative, Bea Inspired and tagged , .
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