With Chelsea Flower Show just around the corner, award-winning flower growers Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy – aka The Land Gardeners – offer simple gardening tips to make your outdoor space beautiful in no time.
CREATE A MINI OASIS
Do you have a balcony or a pocket garden? Then filling it with potted herbs and foliage will create a feeling of abundance.
Here, the cosmos and dahlias provide a welcome burst of color, but Bridget also suggests trying Salvia ‘Amistad’ (a bushy upright plant with dark purple tubular flowers). “It’s ideal for balconies as its long stems add height and color.” Also try Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’, which, as their name suggests, look like butterflies moving in the breeze and will add movement to your small space. They also look great planted with Erigeron karvinskianus daisies because they are delicate and light.
If space is really tight, consider growing your garden uphill. ‘Clematis are tall climbing plants; they have long twisted stems while adding lots of color,” says Henrietta.
SHOW YOUR LAWN SOME LOVE
A quick cleanup of the grass margins will freshen up your garden in an instant. For super straight lines, mark where you need to cut with a wooden board or string and follow with a half-moon edging tool. Alternatively, cut following the curves of your lawn.
“Spraying your lawn with a microbial compost ‘tea’ is integral to increasing its nutrients,” says Henrietta. To do this, fill a watering can with five liters of rain or filtered water, add a handful of compost and stir until it is mostly dissolved. Use it immediately on a dull day in the morning or evening as direct sunlight can harm germs.
READ MORE: How to go green in an urban space
START SMALL WITH A HERB GARDEN
Easy and economical, an herb garden is a great way to experiment with plant life while adding greenery. ‘Herbs such as mint [seen here], rosemary, basil and lemon balm are delicious in dishes and cocktails,” says Henrietta, “but they also smell great in a smaller space. If that works well, take the next step and try pre-grown baby fruit and vegetable plants, such as zucchini and squash, which you can simply put in a pot and water.
GIVE YOUR SOIL A BOOST
Good soil is vital for healthy plants. To check its condition, take a handful and squeeze it. If it’s both crumbly and sticky, with a slight sweet scent, your soil is in perfect condition to support plant growth. If it’s dry, hard, or lumpy, it needs a little TLC.
“To do this, start by sprinkling a light layer of compost and, using a wide pitchfork (or hand fork), gently lift the soil to allow the compost to drain. The goal is to gently allow air to enter the soil for microbes,” says Bridget.
“Then sow green manures such as phacelia and buckwheat (crops that build and maintain soil fertility and structure). This helps feed the soil microbes which, in turn, will feed your plants.
Here, agapanthus, petunias and lilies add pops of color. But don’t panic if your garden is currently bare as there are plenty of seeds you can sow now that will look great in the summer months.
‘We love all types of cosmos, Uppercase ammi and Ammi Visnaga (sarahraven.co.uk has a large selection). Dahlias are also great and if planted now they will grow by the end of summer,” says Henrietta. They are also a good example of “cut and return” flowers (those that will continue to produce if continually cut, giving you a bountiful flower shop outside your back door).
THE LAND GARDENERS, CLIVE NICHOLS, FUTURE PUBLISHING LTD, CUPRINOL.CO.UK, GETTY