How to Start a Garden

How to Start a Garden

Introducing flowers into the garden

There are many ways in which flowers can play their key role in the garden, and several places in which they can be planted, in addition to the obvious flower beds.

Beds and borders

The mixed border, for all the favourite summer flowers — roses, perennials and summer bedding plants — should always be sited in your sunniest spot. Most gardens will have an equivalent shady bed on the other side, which will give you a chance to exercise imagination and do some research as to what plants would do well in such conditions. The plants you use for this bed depends very much on what type of shade it is. And there is no reason why this bed should be any less visually stimulating than a sunny bed. Indeed, some of the most beautiful plants we can grow are shade-lovers, such as Kirengeshoma palmata and K. koreana, Meconopsis, Smilacina racemosa, toad lilies (Tricyrtis) and Helleborus.

Raised beds

Some plants, either too small to survive the rough and tumble of the mixed border, or so special that they warrant close inspection, are better accommodated in a raised bed, made of local stone or old bricks (see below). On well-drained soils this needs to be raised no more than about 30cm (1ft), on heavier soils perhaps 60cm (2ft). Particularly if your site is totally flat, giving it height here and there with raised beds immediately adds an interesting new element to the design. At the same time it opens the door to a whole new range of plants, for which you will suddenly have the right spot — wild plants from the mountains of the world, alpine plants, for which the prerequisite is impeccable drainage, as well as all the sun and light going.

If the retaining walls of your raised bed are built of dry stone, you will be able to grow plants in the cracks between the stones, to tumble down the sides. Raised beds can also be made out of bricks or railway sleepers. The bed should be positioned in full sun, well away from the drip of trees.

Some alpines (usually those from high altitudes) require an even grittier, well-drained compost than that described below. If your garden soil is heavy, the bed for these plants should be prepared to a depth of 60cm (2ft), use a mixture of two parts sharp grit, one of soil and one of leafmould

Paved areas

garden landscape design ideas - how to start a garden In very small gardens, where too much valuable planting space would be used up by a lawn, or in larger ones where you want to create a different mood by making a garden ‘room’ enclosed by a yew or beech hedge, an area of paving can be remarkably labour-saving as well as providing homes for little carpeting flowering plants.

If you have a small town garden with a deciduous tree, one way of dealing with the shady area beneath it is to lay paving. When preparing the soil and laying the paving (as described below) do not damage the tree’s roots and be extra careful not to change the existing soil level round the trunk of the tree. The tree’s roots will be happy underneath the stone slabs, and you can leave occasional spaces in the paving for suitable plants. Once established, Dryopteris filix-mas, (the male fern), is remarkably tolerant of dry positions, and would look most appropriate. Periwinkle (Vinca minor), Viola labradorica, Hypericum androsaemum, solomon’s seal (Polygonatum) and ivy (Hedera) are more suggestions of plants that would thrive. You could arrange a specially large space for autumn cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium). Utterly hardy, its little pink and white flowers in autumn are followed by leaves, beautifully marbled in silver-grey, that remain fresh and decorative all winter. A plant you can never have too much of, it will seed itself happily each year.

Planting between paving stones

The soil below the paving should be well-drained and of good quality. First level it and top with a 5cm (2in) layer of sand. Leave spaces between the paving slabs of about 4cm (1-1/2in) and fill them with a mixture of two parts good soil, two parts sharp grit or horticultural sand, two parts leafmould. Water the plants before taking them out of their containers and tuck their rootballs well down between the slabs. Make sure the stems and leaves of the plant are arranged nicely on the surface of the stone, so the plants will be able to sun themselves on the stone as their roots search beneath for food and moisture. Water well to settle them in. You might want to leave out a whole slab here and there, making in effect a mini-flower bed for a few larger plants.

Gravel surfaces

One way to solve the problem of lack of time to mow the lawn, is to use gravel instead of grass: you get a similar effect of a wide expanse of space. In small shady town gardens, under the drip of trees where grass would not thrive, by using lots of evergreen shrubs and shade-loving plants you can make a cool retreat centred on an area of gravel, a private place in which to sit and dream. The tiny, creeping, corsican mint (Mentha requienii) would make a delicious minty smell at your feet (you might have to replace it after a hard winter).

Sunshine and gravel gardens mix just as well and there are endless possibilities as the little stones act as a mulch and plants love growing in it. If you have lots of space to fill, make rainbows of thyme in mauve, purple, pink and white or if you have run out of room to try out yet another plant, you may well find a place for it on the edge of a gravel path or drive.

Planting in gravel

Prepare the soil for any flower bed then level it with a rake. To firm the soil, walk backwards and forwards with little shuffling steps, keeping your feet close together, all over the area. Rake the soil again, and remove any large stones. Plant any large trees and shrubs before spreading about 10-15cm (4-6in) of pea gravel or washed pebbles, such as you would put on a gravel drive, and raking it level. Small-stoned gravel is best: larger stones are noisy and uncomfortable when walked on.

Arrange the plants to your satisfaction. Make sure that their roots are moist by watering them an hour or so before removing them from their pots. When planting a medium-sized plant, such as a hosta, scrape away the gravel in the chosen position and remove the plant from its container. Using a trowel, make a generous hole in the soil, larger than the plant’s container, and loosen the soil at the bottom a little. Work in half a bucket of garden compost and a good handful of bonemeal. Put in the plant and top up with soil, firming gently as you go. Tuck the gravel under the foliage of the plant. With a very small plant, make a hole in the gravel, and raise the level of the soil 5cm (2in) or so with good soil and then plant, leaving room for 5cm (2in) of gravel topping on the surface. Using a watering can with a rose, water the plants in and wet the gravel as well, to wash off any soil.

Pots and tubs

container gardening ideas - how to start a garden You can be as daring as you like in your choice of plants for containers, for this is the place to grow plants that would look out of place in a border: exotic-looking tender plants like Brugmansia, tender Fuchsia cultivars such as ‘Thalia’, pots of sumptuous Lilium auratum and L. speciosum var. album, pots of basil for tomato soup and an indispensable pot of lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla) for the scent of its crushed leaves. By planting in containers you have scope to use special soil mixes to suit plants that will not grow in your garden soil: if your soil has lime, by filling your pots with ericaceous compost you can still have pots of camellias and rhododendrons or, for once, have beautiful blue hydrangeas.

Pots and tubs of tender perennials and shrubs outdoors for the summer are joined by the throng of half-hardy annuals visiting for the season. The ambience of the terrace or paved area should be a cornucopia of plenty, with a profusion of plants spilling out of the pots. If these are small pots, group them all together, to give an impression of a tumbling mass of colour and scent. When assessing the number of plants for a container, always overestimate what you think you need. For example, a 35cm (14in) diameter container could have five petunias, five Verbena ‘Silver Anne’ and two Helichrysum petiolare, while a large wooden tub 60cm (2ft) in diameter could hold one Canna, three Fuchsia magellanica ‘Versicolor’, three Argyranthemum, three Plecostachys serpyllifolia, seven petunias and seven verbenas. To keep tightly packed plants in the pink of health, they need regular doses of liquid feed.

26. December 2010 by admin
Categories: Planning and Design | Tags: | Comments Off on How to Start a Garden


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