Making the most of your garden - hints and tips from St George in Bloom
SOME hints and tips for your garden from Grenville Johnson, chair and founder of St George in Bloom
Gardens and gardening activities help us all to reconnect with nature and wildlife, and gain new skills.
Many of the hints and tips are based on my own experience of developing my urban garden, and the joys that my garden gives back to me, my partner, and my friends.
With the recent coronavirus and the impact this is having on the way we are currently leading our lives, it is very important to use any free time we have to gain some useful exercise, but also the need for us all to take some valuable time to reflect on the awe and wonder of our natural world.
Nature follows a cyclic pattern, and we are also part of that pattern.
Gardening provides us as human beings with a unique opportunity to do this, and, in addition, we can appreciate and learn to respect all the wonderful features that wildlife and the natural world has to offer.
Gardening also increases our health and well-being.
Gardens can also be places that dramatically assist our healing during periods of ill health, or during times of personal hardship, sadness or anxiety.
Here are some ‘hints and tips’ that you might wish to consider: -
*Even if you have a small garden, you can make your garden a very special place where you can relax and spend some time outdoors.
*If you do not have a garden, you might wish to think of ways in which you can grow some flowers or edibles in a window box, or pots or other containers.
*Think about incorporating bird nesting boxes or insect and bug hotels into your garden. Within our cities and urban areas, we are seeing a decrease in the numbers of wild birds. You might wish to give them a helping hand by providing some bird feeders, particularly during nesting times or during the harsh winter months.
*You might wish to reserve an area of your garden where you can grow some vegetables or fruit, or you may wish to hire an allotment plot from your local council.
*Consider adding a water feature, pond, or bird bath to your garden.
*Incorporate a table, seating area, or benches where you can sit, relax, or have a meal or socialise and meet outdoors.
*Think about making provision for bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects by incorporating plants that provide rich sources of pollen and nectar. Many species of bees and other pollinating insects are currently under the threat of extinction or their numbers are in serious decline.
*Think about incorporating areas where insects and bugs can find sheltered spots or places for winter hibernation. A log pile or a ‘stumpery’ made from planted-up hollow tree stumps or clusters of driftwood provides a natural habitat for insects and other bugs.
*Make provision if you can for hedgehogs, frogs, toads or other amphibians.
*When planning your garden layout, think about incorporating shade-loving plants for the areas of your garden that receive low levels of light. For the sunny and warmer areas, add plants that provide vibrant colour or tolerate full sun or higher temperatures.
*Think about selecting plants, trees and shrubs that can contribute to adding colour, texture, pattern, height, structure and form to your garden space.
*Think about how you might wish to disguise the outer boundaries of your garden by adding fences or large trees or plants. Trees or other features from neighbouring areas can also add to the illusion of the garden becoming larger by extending your eyes beyond its existing boundary. This is known as the ‘borrowed landscape’.
*Statues, urns or other architectural features help to accompany your plants and add additional interest.
*Think about creating ‘areas of mystery’ in your garden that invite you, your friends or your visitors to explore and take a closer look.
*A garden can be divided into garden ‘rooms’ or themed areas, eg a rocky outcrop, a fernery, a wild flower garden, a Mediterranean garden or a colour themed area. Try unusual or exciting colour-themed planted areas or pots. Planting colour schemes can be visually exciting and attractive, eg orange and yellow, brown and purple, blue with shades of red, silver, white and green etc. I call this ‘painting with plants.’
*Incorporate plants that add scent to your garden, or plants that can be safely touched, and plants that have an interesting shape or texture.
*Make provision in your garden for pets and young children, or those with disabilities, and if necessary, take expert advice before you add plants or other features that might endanger adults, children, pets, or those with any allergies.
*Encourage your children to help in the garden. This will help them to engage with nature and learn valuable skills and, in return, gain valuable experience for their later lives.
*Keep a photographic record of your garden during the year, so you can appreciate the changes from season to season, and the adaptations or improvements that you have made over the years.
When you can, visit other gardens or public gardens or flower and horticultural shows, and if you can, talk to the owners or experts. This can prove to be a valuable experience.
The RHS has some excellent advice for gardeners on its website.
For more information about St George in Bloom and our voluntary work please visit our website.
Have fun and enjoy your garden space!
Chair & Founder of St George in Bloom
Photos by permission of Alan Elms.