It's now been just past the eighteen month mark of us living here now and it's pretty amazing to see just how much the garden has grown up in that time. For instance, the borders in this picture did either not exist till about nine months ago (in the case of the one on the right) or were full of weeds (the one on the left). The main thing though, is that we've learnt an awful lot about how to create a garden for relatively little cost, so I thought I'd pass on the tips that we've learnt along the way.
1) Firstly, assess your space, see what existing elements of the garden you'd like to keep and what you'd like composted or put in a brown bin (acquiring a brown and a compost bin is a good step too). Get to know your soil as this will save you a lot of grief later on. We've also inherited quite a bit of stone and plant pots too we've repurposed and up-cycled for free.
2) This relates to the point above, but do your research. It will save you a lot of grief and money, if you learn about a plant's soil and sun or shade preferences. When we're all allowed to visit gardens, then do so if you can, but in the meantime, look online, follow garden accounts on Instagram, read magazines and books, think about join the RHS but at least use their website, watch Gardener's World etc. All of this info will filter into your brain and you'll absorb it more than you think.
3) Sow from seed as much as possible. Not every plant will grow well from seed, but for those that do, you will save lots of money for instance, mature foxgloves in flower are regularly £10 or more from garden centres, but will die after flowering as they are biennials. However, a packet of foxglove seeds is tons cheaper and you get so many more plants from the seed packet (hundreds if not thousands) and they grow very easily from seed. Of course, seed sowing requires more time and patience but is worth the extra effort.
4) If there is a perennial plant that you really like the look of, then forget the 'buy and plant in threes or fives rule,' buy just one of them, then when they grow, you can very often either propagate from them from cuttings or divide them in the following Autumn or Spring. We have stuck by this rule and saved lots of cash by doing so.
5) This point relates to above in that use your existing plants to create more for free. Collect seed from plants like poppies, foxgloves and calendulas. Take cuttings from rosemary, lavender and curry plants, these latter plants are more important than ever to take cuttings from, because imports from Europe of these plants are to cease due to the xylella virus, so we could see a shortage in the UK in the future. Also, as mentioned before divide perennials like hardy geraniums, astrantia, bearded irises, grasses etc. All of these steps will ensure that you can fill your garden borders for no cost, aside from the initial outlay.
6) Always be on the look out for deals. Nurseries and garden centres often have sales online or in the actual venues themselves if you can get there. We have in the past picked up some real bargains from the off season sale table where the plants themselves look dead or dying but if they're perennial then they will re-flower and come back strong next year. Subscribe to e-newsletters from nurseries as they will often give you early access to sales and deals and money off vouchers.
7) When they come back post Covid, plant fairs, fetes, markets and flower show stalls are places where you can often find something rarer and at some of these events you can get great deals too. If you see a perennial you love but buying several of them would be too expensive, then just get one (see point 3). Also, buy the smallest type of plant, tree or shrub available (e.g. bare root versions) as they will soon grow up and this will also give them time to develop good strong roots.
8) Again, this may apply more to a post-Covid world, but in the future when it's safe, try to share and swap plants and seeds with friends and family. This way you are sharing the joy of gardening for free!
9) Get to know rough prices for plants, seeds and bulbs and then compare different websites for the best deals. I've just spent a Saturday afternoon doing this for our Autumn bulb order. With bulbs too, bear in mind which ones will naturalise (naturally multiply by themselves), as you can buy these in smaller amounts because they'll do the work for you! Also, if you get to know roughly how much plants should cost, then you can spot bargains and deals more easily. We recently bought a rose that was £12 cheaper than it would have been elsewhere!
10) Most of all be patient! Gardening on a budget does take longer and is a bit more effort than buying the biggest most mature plants (instant gardening) but that costs so much more, so budget gardening is more satisfying.
These are the tips that I have found most useful but am sure there are lots more! If you have any suggestions or advice then would love to hear them, so please leave a comment or contact me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
When we moved we inherited an established garden that had structure but not much else aside from trees and hedges and a few plants, some of which we kept and some we composted. Our original aims are to create a garden that is both productive in terms of vegetables, fruit and cut flowers but that also looks good throughout the seasons.
First up, boundaries, to stop the odd rogue horse coming back, (though that only happened once to be fair), we plan to clear the end of the garden which is currently wilder with a few brambles running through it. We want to have a wilder feel into the field beyond and encourage smaller wildlife from visiting, such as the pheasants, so we are planning a line of fence posts which will be planted a dark colour and we'll have plants will grow up against them. This should hold back the larger wildlife but still give us our view of the field. In the Winter, the site is quite windy as we're on a hill, so putting up a solid fence barrier would be a complete waste of time and money! 😂
Our other main issue here is the soil, which is heavy clay so we will need to keep adding lots of compost to it as well as growing plants that will work with it such as roses, which love clay soil. We've planted a total of seven roses so far, (x3 Gertrude Jekyll, x1 Darcey Bussell both David Austin roses, x1 Mme Isaac Perriere, x1 Rose de Rescht and x1 Charles De Mills). The roses vary in colour from a mid pink to a bright magenta and all them are scented. Hopefully, they'll do ok and that we get enough this year so I can bring the blooms into the house and also give to friends and family.
It's funny because I used to like the idea of a restrained palette of colour in a garden, mostly blues and whites, but since discovering dahlias, which we planted in pots last year, I've really grown to love more powerful vivid colours. We had quite a few dahlias and cosmos last year from pots which did OK, though this year we are planning to plant the dahlias in the ground so that they produce more blooms. They really are a great cut flower though and last ages in vases! If you're looking to grow your own cut flowers then I'd definitely recommend you try dahlias, even if you just have room for a pot garden.
We plan to add more vivid colours to our garden this year not only from the cosmos and dahlias, but also earlier in the season from tulips and sweet peas. Sweet peas are something we have grown in our previous garden but the soil there was sandy, so we're hoping that they'll do better in our richer soil here as they are hungry plants. We tried to choose varieties that are as scented as possible (Hi Scent and Matucana, Cupani are some of the varieties we are growing), as not all sweet peas are that scented, we've grown some before that seem to not have any scent at all!
Aside from the flowers, our veg garden will need to take shape this year. We are planning on adding raised veg beds to the back of the garden that will be near to the two apple trees, plum and greengage that we planted in January. I would love to maybe add a thornless blackberry here in the future but we'll see if there's enough space! The fruit trees may take two to three years to mature so we're not expecting much, if any, this year but hopefully they'll get going next year. As for veg, we plan to grow crops we're familiar with such as french and runner beans, sugar snap peas, kale and courgettes. We'd also like to try growing sweetcorn this year, so that should be interesting to see if it does well. In pots we'll be growing radishes and salad leaves like mizuna and rocket.
Currently, the back garden has a concrete path in it that we are going to gravel over and we're also creating a herb garden in the middle part of the garden by lifting some of the concrete slabs and planting herbs within them. This should hopefully soften the hard landscaping and give us some Mediterranean herbs for cooking that like the free draining soil that this environment will provide.
I haven't even had time to mention the front garden and this is all suddenly feeling quite daunting! 😬 I realise that we're being quite ambitious with our plans, but if we don't achieve all of them this year, then hopefully, they'll get done next year!
Hello! This is the newly relaunched blog for Cultural Life Connection. It is a space where I'm going to talk about not just culture but also include topics that will encompass 'life' / lifestyle and 'connection.' So you'll find a bit about books, films, art but also gardens, decor, beauty, relationships and health.
For this first post, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write a little bit more about myself. Above this post is a photo that was taken in the Spring of 2000, so at the moment, it is around twenty years old - yikes! It is a photo of myself and my husband Matt, a few months after we first got together and we are together still, after all this time and many house moves later!
When I was seventeen years old I visited a fortune teller who looked at my palm and began to tell me lots of interesting things about what my life would be like. I went to see them, not really convinced that what they would say was true. The most remarkable thing that they said was that I would have one significant romantic relationship in my adult life, which at the time I thought was complete rubbish! At the time, I had images of being this kind of jet setting person who wouldn't have many ties of that kind. However, after what is now twenty years with Matt, perhaps there was some truth to that part of the prediction! 😂 I am often asked by friends for relationship advice or how to keep a successful long term relationship going, so thought I'd write what I've learnt from experience on here.
I met Matt at my Saturday job at Watersones in my home town of Chelmsford. We were friends for a year before we dated. We had not been together long (only a month) when I got viral meningitis, followed a month later by glandular fever. Unfortunately the legacy of these illnesses persists with me still, as I have a chronic long term health condition called Chronic Systemic Angioedema that affects my day to day life. However, I don't let it get me down and have found lots of easy everyday things that help and keep me upbeat in the face of challenges. My illness doesn't define my identity or who I am though it does place limits on what I am able to do, I am positive in the face of overcoming challenges and am always looking for solutions to things. I want to use this blog to talk and share things that I find help with long term health conditions and also things that don't. (I am not a medical health professional so will use signposts where appropriate). I will talk a bit more about my personal health journey over time and am always keen to learn from others too, so hopefully we can get some dialogue going on the matter.
As for Matt and I, it seems amazing that we've been together for over two decades now. We moved house earlier on this year and are excited about sorting out the garden we've got to play with, so I look forward to sharing info about that here with you all. It would be great to hear about you too and what you'd like me to include on here, so feel free to comment or get in touch via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.