Wednesday, 20 July 2011

urban jungle - introdution

If you're lucky enough to have some outside space, make the most of it! It doesn't matter if you have a tiny balcony, a patio, a huge plot or just a window box, having some plants, a nice view and perhaps somewhere to sit and escape the rest of the world is good for the soul. While making internal alterations may require negotiation with your landlord, few are going to object to a tenant who wants to get involved with the upkeep of the garden.

I'll be posting various urban jungle bits with my favourite plants, design ideas, places to buy equipment and progress from my own garden... two corners of which are below:

Cordyline in zinc planter

Oleander, Butterfly Lavender, Black Cala Lillies & House Leeks

Most people I know who don't do much with their garden say it's because gardening is difficult & time consuming, what do you plant? Where? How do you not kill it? Gardening is as easy or difficult as you want it to be, you just have to be willing to put in a little time and know a few basic things before you start. Most of my gardening experience is through a lot of trial and a little error, I'm not an expert, I don't have a gardening calendar & I don't know the Latin names for everything but I have arrived at a set of three criteria for any plant that I bring into my garden. 
  • One, it's likely to be evergreen [I don't want to be looking at a bare space come winter] 
  • Two, it has to be hardy [because I can't be doing with lifting roots and I have nowhere for the plants to spend the winter inside]
  • Three, it has to be able to survive on it's own with little intervention from me [because I want to spent more time sitting in the garden with a beer looking at it, than I do maintaining it]
Things in those categories seem to do well and the plants and I get along without too many casualties.

The one piece of advice I remember form watching some gardening programme or other, was from Alan Titchmarsh... if you're going to go to the bother of buying a plant and putting it in your garden, take a few minutes [read the label or look it up on line] to find out the three things that will keep your plant happy and looking lovely. One, the type of soil it prefers, two, the position it likes best, three, how much water and/or food it needs. There's no point in buying something that likes a well drained sunny position and requires little water and putting it in heavy London clay in the shade. At best it will struggle and not look great, at worst it's roots will rot and the plant will die.

You also have to work with what you've got, I have a patio so I have planters and pots. That rules out certain plants and means a bit more watering that plants that are out in the ground, but the offset is I don't have a lawn to mow. 

I think the most important thing though is to make it your own, whether it's a formal, minimal space, a rambling cottage garden or you put plastic dinosaurs in your window box like my friend Kat. Your garden should be an enjoyable space to be in and look at.

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