Monday, 29 July 2013

My Fledgling Garden - A Series

Hello there. How are you? All fine and dandy warhol I hope.

Here is my first post in a little series about creating and growing a fledgling garden. I'm not trying to teach mine or any other grandmother to suck eggs, so I'm sure that for many of you this may be a stating the obvious read. But when I started gardening in earnest, I had very little idea what I was actually doing. I just wanted to grow a pollinator friendly garden that Olly and I could enjoy together. It wasn't completely straight forward however, but it was the start of an all consuming journey that has given me an insane amount of pleasure. I am almost evangelical about the restorative power of gardening. It ticks all the mental health boxes. It is social. It is fun. It is rewarding. And you can give as much or as little of your time and energy that you want, and still reap untold rewards.

Getting Started

Most of us are lucky enough to have a garden. In fact it's probably taken for granted, in the UK at least, that if you live in a house it comes with a piece of land. This may be big or small. It may be grassed, paved, decked or a bit of all three. Your garden may already contain some established shrubs or flowers. You may be lucky enough to have a tree of some description. A pond perhaps. Whatever the size and style of your space, there are infinite possibilities when it comes to gardening.

When we moved into our house in St Ives, we inherited a garden with some grass, a palm tree and a few big fuchsia bushes. That was about it, and it stayed that way until we built the extension to the house several years ago. We bought a strip of land from a neighbour to give us a bit more space, and we decked out quite a chunk of the garden to give the boys room to scoot, trampoline and den build. Also decking was the garden equivalent of laminate flooring at the time - everyone seemed to want a bit of decking. And far be it for me to buck a trend (ahem).

Dahlia bud & Lavatera

Nigella/Love In A Mist

Marc and I had a go at a bit of gardening. We brought several slow growing shrubs, some perennial plants to soften the edges and I planted a hotch potch of bulbs. Some of them grew and some of them didn't. I harboured a vague idea of how the garden might look, but didn't give it much thought. The point is that most of us haven't necessarily got the time or the money to completely overhaul our gardens from scratch. We work around what is already there with a minuscule budget, and a fair weather attitude to boot. Even now I don't venture out in the garden in the winter unless I have to. It's cold and miserable, and I'd rather be tucked up inside thank you very much. 

But at some point when Olly was about fifteen months, the garden started to become a  bigger part of my life. Olly was always an outdoorsy type. He walked very early, so was tottering out onto the decking from the conservatory and having an explore. The weather didn't bother him, and he was fascinated by everything. By default I was out there with him too, and to be honest I thought the garden looked rubbish. There were leaves all over the grass. The borders were empty apart from a few sorry looking plants. There was decking and fence and not much else. 
I felt obliged to create a more pleasant space for Olly to enjoy. Not just one that he could play in, but something beautiful to look at and interesting to explore.

In order to achieve this, I did the following:

    • I sat and thought about what I wanted to accomplish in my first year of gardening proper. I had already decided to commit myself to this project (and I really did see it as a project at first). I have already written about Sarah Raven's series on the decline of our pollinating insects, and how they could be given a helping hand. I had always had a fascination for nature, and would always point out this bird or that insect to Sam and Alfie in the past. So my goal was to create a pollinator haven in which Olly and I could observe all manner of visitors to the garden.

    • I sat and looked at my garden. I mean really looked at it. I noted where the sun was during the day. I looked at all the existing plants that were already doing their thing. I took note of their form,  their texture and their shape. I noted which were evergreen and which were deciduous. I wandered around the space to get a feel for it. In short I got to know my existing garden intimately.

    Photina 'Red Robin'

    Another Dahlia. Jeez I wish I'd taken note of it's name

    • I did some research. I should point out here that it isn't essential to research plants for your garden - you could just pop to the garden centre and buy whatever takes your fancy. I have (and still do) done that on many occasions, and there's no harm in it. It's fun. It's supposed to be after all. And if you are lucky enough to do it kiddie free, then you can always sneak a cup of tea in the cafe.....I did some research because I thought all plants were beneficial. And of course they are. But when it comes to pollinators some are more beneficial than others. There was a wealth of information on the Internet, and I found some useful books in my local charity shops and the lovely FOSS ladies who can be found in my doctors surgery.
    • I was inspired. First by Olly. Then by Sarah Raven. And ultimately by Laetitia Maklouf. I can't recall how I stumbled across her two gardening books and her blog of sorts. It may have been a magazine article. But here was a complete babe, who was also of a similar age to me, writing about the joy of gardening. Specifically writing for people new to gardening and who maybe have a limited space and budget. I found her can do attitude and the way she demystified gardening a delight. She told me to go for it. Enjoy it. Revel in the success as well as the failures, as it was all part of the process. And this has been my gardening mantra ever since. 

    Verbena Boriensis

    Pollinator heaven
    So armed with a bit of information, a little know how and a young child I set out to achieve my aim. I also started this blog to accompany it. In my first summer I planted lots of wildflower seed mixes and some hardy annuals to attract the pollinators. I also started to plant perennial plants and shrubs, in order to define the garden and give it some 'bones'. I went at it with gusto! And the overall effect was very pleasing. It all looked pretty and there were pollinators a-plenty in the garden. 

    What I didn't bargain for was just how much pleasure I got from it, and how much more I wanted to do and learn. And you know when you are trying for a baby and all you see are pregnant women? All I saw were beautiful blooming gardens. Everywhere. I became a little obsessed in fact. I started to plan bigger and better schemes in my head. I read the more technical bits of all my gardening books that I had amassed. I wanted to learn all sorts of gardening alchemy. This desire is still there, and evry day I learn something new.

    And that's how I got started.

     I aspired.

    I was inspired. 

    I was hooked!


    I hope that this post may inspire fledgling gardeners like myself to have a go too. Next week I'd like to share with you some of the plants that I have grown with success, and some tips for making your budget stretch further.

    Leanne xx


    1. What a great post. I love gardening and I'm slowly getting better at it. We were lucky to inherit very well-planned and well-maintained front and back gardens when we bought this house. The people who lived here before really knew what they were doing. It took a lot of pressure off of us to just need to learn how to maintain it, as opposed to trying to figure out how to get started. You've got such a great variety of plants and flowers and edibles, you've done a terrific job with it all.

    2. A lovely post Leanne. I inherited a garden that contained no plants at all, except grass and a very plain hedge. Bit by bit I have added things, but I would really like to have a lot more pollinator-friendly plants. My main problem is leaving a big space for children to play - everything ends up squeezed in around the edges! I'm really looking forward to following your series and seeing more of your Cornish garden.

    3. You have done a really good job with your garden . I think gardening is mostly trial and error, it was with me and still is to a certain extent. X

    4. I shall follow this with total envy, as I don't have a garden and really would love one sooo much! x

    5. What a lovely story, funny isn't it how the interest just spirals, I just wish there were more time in the day, or rather work didn't get in the way of garden time! You still need to send me your address so I can get your prize posted out. Email me at Thanks x

    6. I love this post, Leanne! Our garden was in a bit of a state when we bought it, slowly over the years we are building it and we still have a long way to go. I love it though. But it takes so long to get an 'established' garden - and so much money. This is what I find the hardest. I want lots of green covering all of the fences, but everything takes so long to grow! I am looking forward to reading more about your garden. :)