There are some hard and fast rules with gardening that you have to embrace or forever feel like you have somehow failed. I think that a lot of people beat themselves up about their gardening ability and status as a gardener. I am as guilty as the next man or woman and refer to my self as a hobby gardener, I think that it lets you off the hook when things don’t go to plan or don’t really work. However, here is an enlightening fact – gardening is a long game, it takes time to learn your craft, learn your garden (each one is different) and gardens need time to mature. When I started gardening, 40 years ago (that’s a sobering, frightening and impossible number as I’m sure that I’m only 35) , I assumed that professional gardeners did everything perfectly and nothing ever failed or looked less than perfect. This, of course, is simply not the case, every gardener has things that go wrong every year and they make a note, mental or otherwise, to do that differently the next year. You see gardening is an ever evolving process, it’s not just your garden that grows, it is your knowledge, your judgement and your skills. So I am going to stop calling myself a hobby gardener, from this moment onwards I am a gardener!
Don’t be overwhelmed
I think some people are overwhelmed by starting gardening as they are so afraid of getting things wrong and looking silly, that other gardeners will judge them and they’ll be found wanting in the garden department. What I would say to these people is don’t worry about it, fellow gardeners are nurturers and unless they are unkind people they will want you to succeed.
If you are new to gardening start on a small-scale, don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to create a garden on the scale of Kew Gardens or Wisley – they have a huge teams of experienced gardeners making it look perfect. Dip your toes in the gardening water by trying something that fits in with your current skill level and the time that you have available. This helps build self-confidence, gives you a sense of accomplishment and helps with life balance. It is amazing how the brain soaks up all of this new acquired knowledge and without realising it you’ve amassed a huge amount of gardening know how and in a few years people will be asking you for advice, not the other way around.
Free resources and money-saving ideas
For many people money is a restricting factor, however, there are some things that you can do which don’t cost much and give great results. Here’s my list of things to do if you have a restricted budget :-
- Use your local library for excellent sources of information, read books by Monty Don, Carol Klein and many others
- Research online (google is your best friend) there is a plethora of useful, free information out there and for extra confidence search videos on YouTube.
- Grow plants from seeds, it doesn’t cost much and you can always go halves on seed packets with friends.
- Check garden centres for the reduced priced plants, they can’t be bothered with caring for plants that are past their best or ones that they’ve forgotten to water. I once got 6 hydrangea plants from a DIY shop in Germany for 1 Euro, that’s about 15 cents per plant. All they needed was watering, a feed and a bit of TLC, all 6 survived and are now large healthy plants.
- Check online marketplaces like Ebay for cheap small plants, I recommend researching how much they cost elsewhere before you buy so that you know that you are not getting ripped off
- Check your local newspaper if you have one, sometimes there are ads for cheap plants, manure and second-hand tools.
- See if there is a local gardening group that you can join and maybe acquire a few unwanted plants from other gardeners.
- Learn how to take cuttings and then ask friends if you could take some cuttings (always ask first).
Once you have perennial plants that are 2 or three years old, you can take your own cuttings, split some perennials and harvest the seeds. You can then swap plants with other people or sell them and buy something that you haven’t got.
Our hopes for this gardening year
Last year we planted a select few David Austin roses, OK it was 60 but who’s counting? It will be interesting to see how they do this summer, I am presuming that the snow will eventually stop falling and melt of course. We planted a long rose hedge using Rugosa hedging (Wild Edric, Mrs Anthony Waterer and Sarah Van Fleet) and I’m wondering how long it will take before it becomes a substantial hedge. This hedge runs across the hill from the terrace to the middle garden and the intention is to create a rose walk with a mixture of shrubbery above and below. We also created a Magnolia walk from below the terrace to the pond. As always, I do the planting and Thomas does the structural stuff. He likes building walls, cutting down trees and making new benches and gates, this is fine by me as it doesn’t really float my boat and keeps him busy!
In the top garden, which is rapidly becoming the Rose Garden we have a mixture of roses. Close to the house with have some climbing roses, supported by a network of poles supporting strong wire which should be hidden by the roses in a couple of seasons. Here we have the following roses, Gertrude Jekyll, Claire Austin and Mortimer Sackler. Across the lawn from this is a fragrant shrub rose collection that we bought from David Austin which contains 4 different roses, 3 of each variety and these are, Harlow Carr (pink), Susan William-Ellis (white), Charles Darwin (yellow) and Thomas A Beckett (red), they are all strongly scented . This bed is edged by a low-level hedge of Munstead Lavender, there are some peonies mixed in with this and apart from the occasional Salvia that will be it. We are aiming for a more classic look than a bed so crammed with plants that beautiful plants get lost in the excess.
Opposite this bed, on the far side of one of the few flat pieces of garden that we have where there is a row of climbing and rambling roses, these again will be supported by strong posts and wires. There is an eclectic mix of roses here but that’s what I like, if it doesn’t all work beautifully I can move some of them next winter. The roses include, Paul’s Himalayan Musk (White and pink Rambler), Filipe Kiftgate (white Rambler), Old Wollerton Hall (cream Climber) and Malvern Hills (Yellow Climber).
Although these roses will flower this year but they will not attain their full glory for a couple of years, they have to establish themselves with good root systems but here in the Moosbach Garden we are patient (well I am). I imagine how it will all look in 5 years from now and I’m sure that it will be different to the picture in my head but I’m Ok with that.
There are many more roses that we have planted, some repeat flowering, as we have all become used to, and some older species roses that only flower once per year but that’s better shared next year or later in the summer when we have taken some photographs.
Some of you may think that this is a lot of change in a year but a garden never sits still, it is a snap shot in time of the gardener’s heart, aspirations and dreams. It is typical for a young garden like this. Many people, Gertrude Jekyll included, recommended with older, established gardens that every few years you change something drastically in your garden, this helps to keep the garden a vibrant and interesting place.
I cannot ever imagine not gardening but eventually I will have to be brave and pass the Moosbach Garden trowel onto a new, younger and enthusiastic gardener. Hopefully that day is 20 years off but you never know what life will throw your way.
Jobs to do in the next 6 weeks
With spring on the horizon there are jobs that need doing before all the garden comes to life. Already I notice migratory birds arriving from their wintering grounds and collecting nesting materials, yesterday I saw 2 storks and I thought to myself that it’s time to dust off those gardening tools, sharpen those secateurs and get out there. I like that period just before spring when you can really get things done. Obviously there are the normal tasks like weeding beds, turning over the soil in the vegetable garden, cutting back last years growth from perennials and pruning fruit trees but it is also an excellent time to tackle architectural and structural jobs. Once the spring arrives in earnest and everything starts growing with jubilant, gay abandon then there is little time for anything except weeding, deadheading and tying in new growth. However, before all that starts you can build dry stone walls, create new paths and generally assess which areas need a little repair.
So here is my quick list of things to do now
- Deadhead old wood from perennials like Phlox, Michaelmas Daisies and Peonies before the new shoots appear
- Weed all the flower beds, carefully avoiding digging up any hidden perennials, (you should know where they are). If you do dig any up it won’t do them much harm if you replant then straight away.
- Split any Perennials that have become too big for their space. See my post on splitting Phlox plants.
- Top dress weeded beds with well-rotten compost or horse manure (2-year-old is best)
- Prune roses when the weather is decent enough not to cause die-back. There are some good instructional videos on www.davidaustinroses.com
- Make bamboo supports for sweet peas,delphiniums, beans and peas
- Sow seeds indoors of sweet peas, delphiniums, beans and peas.
- This is your last chance to buy and plant bare root hedging plants like box and yew
- Have a good cup of tea or coffee
Available to buy now
Don’t forget that we have 9 different sorts of highly scented David Austin roses for sale available for collection now :-
- Harlow Carr (pink)
- Gertrude Jekyll (pink)
- Thomas A Becket (red)
- Charles Darwin (yellow)
- Gentle Hermione (pink)
- Desdemona (cream)
- Roald Dahl (Apricot)
- Claire Austin (cream Climbing rose)
- The Generous Gardener (pink climbing rose)
We recommend using David Austin mycorrhizal fungi when planting roses as this extends the root system and helps the rose to establish itself more quickly and then feed between flowering with David Austin Rose Food.
So I wish you all happy and fulfilled gardening!