Gardeners’ World star Arit Anderson reveals how to get the perfect garden WHATEVER your space: from window box blooms to chic courtyards (and explains why fake grass is a huge fail)
- Garden designer Arit Anderson reveals how you can transform your green space, however big or small, by picking the ‘right plants for the right place’
- Presenter of Gardeners’ World says wild gardens that promote biodiversity – including attracting birds and pollinators – are replacing manicured spaces
- Grow salad crops, herbs and spring annuals in window boxes and pots of colour – including honeysuckle climbers and geraniums – if you have a balcony
- Those with bigger spaces should plant trees to give structure to larger gardens
Whisper it…but summer is creeping up on us, meaning it’s the perfect time to get planting – even if you have limited green space.
Whether you own a modest window box, a city courtyard garden or a sprawling emerald lawn, there are green-fingered tricks galore that can help make the most of what you have.
Next week marks National Gardening Week, which runs from April 27th to May 2nd, and the key to growing herbs and blooms, says Gardeners’ World star Arit Anderson, is simply having a go.
The presenter, who lives in South West London, tells FEMAIL: ‘Experience grows from the minute you grow a seed, or you grow a plant, and it doesn’t die – that then inspires you to try and grow something else.
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A return to nature: Gardeners’ World presenter Arit Anderson told FEMAIL that it doesn’t matter how big your green space is -be it a courtyard garden or a window box – there are always opportunities to have a go at growing something
‘Gardening is experimental and you shouldn’t be afraid to try – there’s so much help and advice out there, from the Royal Horticultural Society website to your local garden centre.’
The garden designer, who had a successful career in fashion before turning her attention to the world of horticulture, says following the mantra of famous gardener Beth Chatto, who said that gardening was all about ‘right plant, right place’, can help to keep nervous planters on track.
‘Try and think about where your plant would grow in the wild because they don’t just grow in garden centres! For example, a nice Mediterranean herb like rosemary or lavender – try and consider the conditions those plants would grow in if they were in their natural space – with lots of warmth and sunlight.
The garden designer, pictured being filmed planting herbs in a window box, says that gardening is an experimental art and you shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes
‘Success often comes down to the basics of knowing what your plants like; if you buy a plant that loves a boggy situation and you put it in a dry, hot border then it won’t thrive.’
And the good news for those who feel like a perfectly manicured lawn or pristine border is beyond them; it’s never been more fashionable – or eco-friendly – to have a wilder green space.
‘What we have to increasingly think about – particularly with climate change having an impact on our weather – is what will your garden look like in 100 years’ time? What would still be standing?
‘We’re custodians of the land, however big or small, and we simply pass that on to the next generation. So, plant trees if you have a larger space – they give structure and could well still be standing 200 years from now. What’s fashionable in gardening in 2021 is a return to nature.’
Neat as they are, artificial lawns, she adds, are a huge no-no in the gardening world because of their lack of planet-friendly credentials.
Even if you don’t have the luxury of space, grow your own micro garden in a window box
‘A real lawn is cooling for your plants, attracts pollinators and wide biodiversity – your garden feels alive when things live in it. The more you give over to man-made materials, the less inviting it will be to the biodiversity that keeps it healthy.’
The pandemic has, she thinks, made people appreciate the outdoor space they have, and yearn for more.
‘When we were locked down, people realised that their garden is the only space around our home that changes every single day.
‘In my kitchen, for example, everything’s static but when I look out of the window, there are birds, squirrels, leaves changing colour…’
Here, the gardening guru reveals how to make whatever space you have access to this summer spill over with colour – and bring in the birds and the bees.
WINDOW BOX – GROW HERBS AND SALAD CROPS
Add a splash of colour to a window box with summer bulbs such as violas
Window boxes are also great for growing edibles such as herbs or salad crops
‘A window box is a quick and easy way to cheer up a space. It’s like having a micro garden and you can be playful with what you put in there – either edibles or more visual plants such as annual flowers – any of the summer bulbs would be a good choice.
You can grow herbs and salad crops too, which is a really nice thing to do because you can then pick them and add them to your meals. Little lettuces work surprisingly well.
The bigger you can buy your window box, the better, because if you’ve got more soil, that means there’ll be better water retention in there to help things grow better.’
What to grow: Salad crops, herbs such as basil or spring annuals – violas work really well
BALCONY BLOOMS – DRIVE PLANTS UP THE WALLS
Using every part of your balcony space, including the walls can make you feel surrounded by greenery
Climbers and creepers: This bijou Clematis flower is a good option for using vertical space
‘Balconies take things up to another level because you can get bigger plants – but what’s crucial is that you know the aspect of your space, so if you have a sunny facing garden or shade, or partial sun and shade.
When you go to the garden centre, make sure you’re picking plants suited to the area you have. Space is at a premium but you can really brighten up a balcony with an outdoor rug and a bistro table.
Are you able at all to use any of your verticals to grow plants up walls? Having climbers such as honeysuckle can make you feel like you’re surrounded by greenery.
You can also buy pots that hook onto a trellis system – you can have some salads in some pots, some flowers in others – both will encourage bees and pollinators into the space as well.
What to grow: Clematis ‘Bijou’, Erodium x variabile ‘Album’, Wallflower ‘Sunset Purple’
COURTYARD GARDEN – A CHANCE TO GROW YOUR OWN
Where is the sun? Where is the shade? Gardening fans with a courtyard garden have to make different choices to those who have bigger spaces but a mini veg patch – on raised wooden crates – is still possible
Honeysuckle is versatile and will add scent and attract pollinators in a courtyard garden
Geraniums will also add an easy splash of colour in smaller spaces
Courtyards, unlike bigger gardens, require really careful thinking about what to plant, you need to make different choices if space is limited.
However, you can easily get a small tree in a courtyard garden and large shrubs too, which give you a sense of enclosure. In smaller gardens, it’s sometimes worth forgoing a lawn to give more planting space.
Ask yourself what you want from the space; are you going to dine out there in summer? Where is the sun? Where is the shade? Where might your plants thrive? You can even make a mini vegetable growing area using raised wooden crates. Squeeze in some grow your own, even one or two will leave you feeling really good.
What to grow: Malus ‘Laxton’s Superb’ (apple tree), Lonicera periclymenum ‘Belgica’ (honeysuckle climber), Geranium sanguineum ‘Album’
A GRANDER GARDEN – PLANT TREES FOR STRUCTURE
Plant for the next generation: framing your garden with trees offers structure but also promises a garden that will endure through the decades
The magnificent magnolia tree offers scenic drama in a larger garden area
Lovely lilac trees: owners of larger gardens should try and keep their spaces wild and buzzing with biodiversity
‘If you’re lucky enough to have a larger garden then it really is all about the return to nature this year. Don’t be afraid of some of the predators – including slugs and ladybirds – you need to let nature in to allow your garden to thrive.
A garden’s aesthetic is of course important and we can manipulate nature with positive effect – it can enhance our well-being.
However, it’s sometimes better to relax and not worry about spraying roses or getting rid of leaves that have been munched. If a tree grows a little larger, often your neighbours who don’t have trees in their gardens will enjoy the ‘borrowed’ view of yours.
When you go out walking in nature think about what makes you feel good and try and recreate that in your own garden.’
What to grow: Osmanthus x burwoodii, Magnolia ‘Susan’, Syringa vulgaris ‘Katherine Havemyer’ (lilac tree)
To book a garden consulation with Arit Anderson, visit diamond-hill.co.uk. The latest series of Gardeners’ World is on Fridays at 9pm on BBC Two until April 30th.
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