Tales of a Novice Gardener

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Originally posted 4 May 2018

Dear lovelies

I have had a garden for years now but I still consider myself a novice because it is only recently that I have been gardening with intention, patience, an open heart and with the long game in sight. Gosh that sounds like I have a strategy and that takes all the fluffiness and joy out of it. But what I mean is that I have finally understood that the seeds I sow and the bulbs I plant today and the hard work I put in now will make my garden what I want it to be tomorrow, or in the next few months or even years.

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Bridal Wreath – Spiraea Arguta

 

My current gardening style involves many mistakes, a lot of uncertainty, a dose of experimentation, but a great deal of care, attention, respect and love for nature. My garden is growing despite these mistakes and lack of know-how and I am growing with it. I am paying the garden back with a lot of love, joy and gratitude and a determination to learn and make more informed choices. Gardening only for instant reward and enjoyment doesn’t pay off because it is expensive and the enjoyment is short term. Hmmmm…this all sounds like a metaphor for life perhaps?

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Grape Hyacinth – Muscari

 

I’ve decided to document my gardening journey here on my blog. A gardening report if you will, about what I wish I had known starting out, what I am going to try growing, what is bringing me great joy and any tips I have picked up, without condescension because I am sure many of you already know what you are doing! If you do, I’d love to know what you know so please do send any comments, suggestions and advice my way!

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Apple Blossom

 

So without further ado, here are my very first tales as a novice gardener, some of the lessons that I have learnt so far…

Even half an hour of pottering, tidying and faffing in the garden pays dividends and elevates my mood and well being and when I am next in the garden, I am so grateful to myself for that little bit of time I spent getting things done. Last year we (my hubby and I) became the caretakers of the garden adjoining ours as the owner could no longer take care of it herself and we were desperate for more outside space for ourselves and the kids. The loophole is that it is temporary but we are determined to enjoy it whilst it lasts! At first it felt like we had a mountain to climb because it was overgrown and in an awful state. But last year we spent many hours sorting and arranging, planting and digging and this year we are so pleased we did because it really is starting to look promising.

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Primula

 

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Bamboo, Sedum (back), Centaurea Montana, Saxifrage/London’s Pride (front)

 

Making a little attractive seating area that is located in a bright, sunny spot was one of the first jobs we got done this Spring and it was such a good decision! Now, when we have worked hard and on a sunny day, we can sit with a cuppa/glass of prosecco and enjoy our labour of love whilst topping up our vitamin D levels! This is one of the pleasures I look forward to towards the end of Winter. My first cuppa in the garden each year is bliss!

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Getting organised and having a flexible plan (I’m thinking of the weather, yawn!) pays off. We find it works best for us to think of just one job that we want to get done rather than too many, although I am always aware of the overall goal and wishing for more hours in the day! I have a dedicated gardening notebook/diary, a place to jot down the lessons I have learnt, a to-do list, reminders to look up specific plants and plant care and to draw out a garden plan.

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Tomato and Thyme – a wonderful pairing

 

Watching Gardener’s World each week is a joy! I sit with said notebook and write down the names of plants that have caught my eye and nuggets of wisdom courtesy of the wonderful Monty Don! I unknowingly absorb information and when I am next in the garden I realise I know a little bit more about what I am doing! I also find it a little daunting to see the beautiful established gardens on the programme and I sometimes feel I will never get to that point. But then I remind myself that the gardeners who created those gardens started somewhere, it has taken years of hard work and it is a long and rewarding process.

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Snake’s Head Fritillary

 

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Fritillary

 

Preparing and thinking about the area to be planted before I purchase the seeds/plant/bulbs etc is much more effective than taking a trip to the garden centre, falling in love with ALL the flowers, pictures on the seed packets or the idea of growing veg. Last year, I thought it would be a great idea to grow potatoes. I bought the seed potatoes but hadn’t prepared the area where they were to be planted. I then couldn’t find the time or energy to create this area and so my potatoes didn’t get planted which was a real waste of an opportunity, money and food.

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Little Beauty Tulip

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Timing can be key. Last Autumn I planted bulbs and I have enjoyed them beyond measure this Spring, but they have died down and my garden is currently lacking in blooms, apart from the lovely apple tree whose delicate white, papery blossom is lifting my spirits everyday! I would like to learn more about the times that plants flower so that once Spring has begun, the garden is filled with colour all the time.

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Bay Laurel

 

Some plants self seed and will crop up in the soil as a new plant. Unfortunately I have ignored them before now and dug them up like weeds (oh the shame!) but I am going to pounce on them from now on and repot them and when I do this I am going to feel smug because I know I will feel like I’ve got a new plant for free!

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Bridal Wreath – Spirea Arguta

 

Other plants, called herbaceous perennials, such as Sedum, die back in the Winter but are still alive under the soil, will pop back up with a vengeance in the Spring and may also benefit from being divided. Again, to me, this means more plants for free, although I must confess that I haven’t had the courage to split my Sedum yet!

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Sedum in bloom

 

The instructions you find on seed and bulb packets are useful but are really just guidelines and don’t need to be followed religiously. Next year, I will definitely not be planting my bulbs the recommended distance apart but much closer to each other in my pots because I think they look more attractive that way. I realised this after seeing the display of breath taking bulbs on Monty’s potting table!

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A posy of Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Chionodoxa (Glory of the Snow) and Puschkinia

 

It feels really good to reuse, recycle and have the environment in mind. I made a brick path from broken bits of brick. It is not perfect but I love it because I made it! We are not throwing away plastic pots but going to use them to plant seeds and we are going to repurpose an old tyre found in the garden by turning it into a planter. We are also reusing old broken pots, crockery, tiles and other stones and rubble as drainage in other pots. We are composting all of our green garden waste and I can’t wait to reap the rewards and use it in our garden.

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Garden finds and Spiraea

 

Finally, visiting other gardens, such as those belonging to the National Trust is truly inspiring. I am constantly observing what plants are being grown and how their brilliant gardeners have used a space. I have even bought plants I have admired from their garden shops and planted them in my garden.

All the pictures in this post are of herbs, shrubs, bulbs and other plants that we have managed to grow in our garden and that have survived despite my lack of gardening know how and I have labelled them if I know what they are! Perhaps in a later post, I will share some more specific plant knowledge with you, once I have learnt it myself!

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My hubby and I enjoying a well earned cuppa (pic taken by our 7 year old)

 

For now, I am signing off whilst being slightly distracted by my view out of our back doors into the garden, which is reminding me that there are jobs to be done! I’m looking forward to a bank holiday weekend full of sunshine and gardening. I hope you have a gorgeous one too!

Lots and lots of love,

Lucy

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