Does your gardening know-how stretch to buying a few geometrically pleasing succulents and placing them in concrete planters on your windowsill?
If you’d struggle to tell the different between a Clematis and a Cardinal flower, take some easy beginners tips from six gardening experts on how to make your outdoor space look beautiful this summer – however small or shady it might be.
Meet the gardening experts:
Sian Price, Herb Grower, Cooks Lane Herbs
Georgie Newberry, Seasonal Produce and Honey Farmer, Common Farm Flowers
Nicky Roeber, Online Horticultural Expert, Wyevale Garden Centres
Ella Martin, Seasonal Produce & Honey Farmer, Lodge Farm
Nicola Macnaughton, founder of gardening blog The Bonnie Gardener
Wendy Gray, Manager at Olive Grove Oundle
My garden is super tiny
Georgie: ‘Height and drama so a small tree like an amelanchier would be good, or a lilac or persian ironwood. Underplant with shade loving bulbs for spring e.g. white narcissi thalia (sweet scent,) and sprinkle cosmos or ammi seed into a good top dressing & water well for a touch of cottage garden through the summer. Small gardens are often very sheltered too so great for dahlias for wow factor in July.
Sian: Herbs are so well suited to containers, and grouped together will not only give you cut-and-come-again ingredients for the kitchen, but they’ll attract pollinators, are wonderfully aromatic and provide colour and interest. Vary the height with taller varieties, tumble trailing plants from terracotta pots, create your own herbal tea collection or even ingredients for herb-infused cocktails.
Ella: Make the most of what you have! Beans and peas work well in large pots and with support like canes or willow they can grow up, making the best use of space. Children love growing peas and these make for perfect snacks straight off the plants!
Edible flowers are on trend and add a wow factor to cakes, cocktails and dinner parties. Jan Billington from Maddocks Farm Organics suggests trying violas, lemon thyme or dwarf lavender in pots. www.maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk
Salad leaves are fabulous in pots and containers as are things like radishes. We grow radishes in old wooden port boxes. Consider theming your tubs – pizza planters are good. Tomato, pepper, basil, oregano and chives all work well together in the same pot (Ella Martin, Lodge Farm)
Nicky: Petunias produce a high density of colourful flowers, so they can make a real impact in small spaces. As long as you keep removing the dead heads, they’ll flower from June to the first frost. However, they do prefer full sun, a better option for shade areas are begonias, free flowering from June to the first frosts in an array of striking colours, they also have decorative foliage as well! They are easy to grow and look great in hanging baskets.
Nicola: Create an alpine garden – alpines are wonderful and beautiful little plants which really thrive in environments like old troughs or even vintage kitchen sinks – just make sure you plant them in soil that is full of grit as they like a free draining soil environment and don’t like to get too wet. Saxifraga oppositifolia and Sempervivum are two of my favourites.
Wendy: Small spaces are often seen as redundant when it comes to gardening, but they are one of the most interesting spaces to work green fingered magic on. The trick to creating interest in a small space is to maximise the vertical space that you have on offer – adding depth to the space through height. Stacking plants, adding climbers and making the most of window boxes and hanging space can allow you to pack in a variety of plants.
Some of the best plants for space challenged gardens include shade-loving shrubs such as asplenium scolopendrium and sarcococca hookeriana var. digyna – proving year-round greenery, shrubs are perfect for gardens which lack sunlight.
What can I do now?
Wendy: June is the month to prepare for summer, so begin to place summer hanging baskets and containers outside, and don’t forget to keep on top of your watering as the weather begins to warm up.
If you’ve been growing vegetables, then you will be able to harvest produce such as lettuces, potatoes and radishes. It’s also time to plant other crops such as runner beans, pumpkins and squashes ready for autumn.
Dead-head any roses, poppies and geraniums in they have finished flowering, to encourage new foliage next season.
Nicky: June is the time to prune spring-flowering shrubs. Trimming them back now will give them chance to be ready to bloom again next year.
Mulch your borders now to supress weeds and reduce water loss during the summer As you’ll be spending lots of time outdoors, plant colourful flowers like geraniums, or go for beautifully fragrant Felicia roses. You’ll want to water your lawn even 7–10 days, and mow once or twice per week.
Sian: Give herbs such as chives, mint, sage, lemon balm and thyme a haircut to encourage them to bounce back with fresh new growth; pick lemon verbena leaves for herbal teas and harvest lavender. It’s not too late to sow basil which adores hot, sunny weather.
Nicola: If you’re growing annual sweet peas, the tie them into their canes now so they can grow healthily upwards.
Plant out courgettes and other squashes which have been growing under glass into the open soil. Make sure you harden pot-grown plants off by leaving them outside during the day without cover for a few days, followed by a few nights, before planting into the soil.
Clip box hedging into shape for the summer.
Stake lillies and other high growing plants such as gladiolis to give them support from wind
Georgie: Sow a pinch of biennial seed: sweet william, foxgloves or sweet rocket, so that you’ll have small plants to plant out in September and lots of flowers next spring and early summer.
I need to cover an ugly wall
Nicky: Clematis is one of the prettiest climbers, and its high density of leaves and flowers make it ideal for disguising unsightly walls. Varieties come in everything from white and pale lilac to vibrant pink, so you’re sure to find one that suits your garden.
Ella: Cucamelon will grow happily in a sunny and sheltered place so perfect for a balcony, and can grow up to 10 feet. These can also grow happily in hanging baskets and taste something like a cross between a cucumber and a lime. Perfect home-grown accessory to a summer gin and tonic.
Sian: If it’s a complete eyesore which you want to banish from sight – and quick – then Clematis montana will provide the camouflage you need, covering walls in hundreds of pink or white blossoms in spring – but keep on top of the pruning! Honeysuckle is at its glorious best in June and I love ‘Graham Thomas’ – scented, stunning flowers and encourages wildlife to boot.
Nicola: My favourites for the UK include clamatis, honeysuckle and climbing jasmine. Once established they can grow beautifully – even on partially shaded walls. The jasmine gives off a divine scent which is perfect for planting beside a seating area – enjoy the smell as you sit outside with a glass of wine in the evening.
Wendy: Ugly walls, fences and other areas of your garden you’d prefer to hide are the perfect places to grow climbing plants. Clematis, roses, wisteria and honeysuckle are some of the prettiest plants to hide unsightly areas.
Georgie: My fave climber is white climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) which will take sun to part shade and will slowly grow to cover the whole wall.
There’s not much sunlight
Nicola: Some plants adore the shade. If you have a small area, consider a sea of snowdrops or groups of pulmonaria. Slightly larger spaces will enjoy hostas, aquilegia, foxlglove, hellebores, bleeding heart (dicentra) or heucheras. There’s huge amounts and varieities to choose from. Clematis will do well on a shady north-facing wall.
Georgie: Plant delicious Toad Lily (tricyrtis) in the shade – its stunning, orchid like flowers come out in July and August and look really quite exotic while happily settling in a British garden.
Nicky: Bring colour – flowers, foliage and scent to the dark corners of your garden with Spotted laurel, Rhododendrons and Christmas box. In partial shade hydrangea’s, periwinkles and evergreen ferns provide all year presence and colour. Look at improving your soil conditions for the best results.
Ella: Kale can grow in larger pots and prefers partial shade in the summer months. If you are a juice or smoothie fan you can wow your friends with your home-grown and ingredients. Got a kale glut? Pop the washed leaves in a high speed blender and divide up into ice cube trays with a little water for your own supply of green goodness in your freezer.
Sian: Well planted pots really smarten up a garden: use them to define spaces (dining,) or a walk between beds, smarten up a doorway, or refresh a garden with instant colour.
Wendy: Shady areas are traditionally dark due to their lack of sunlight, and with many of us planting dark foliage in this area, it can lead it to look even gloomier. However, there are some shade-loving plants which can liven up the green background.
Add depth to this area with plants in a variety of green shades and pops of colour. Snowdrops, bleeding heart and geranium nodosum will add plenty of colour.
Sian: Hanging vintage or reclaimed crates on walls is effortless but effective – it can give you extra space for plants or be perfect for tea-light candles in coloured jars to add a lovely touch to lazy summer evenings in the garden.
Nicky: Vertical garden features like archways and obelisks bring a touch sophistication and perspective to your garden, they allow you to introduce more colour and fragrance into your garden with ease. They’re also great for separating different areas of your garden. In smaller spaces, something as simple as a colourful plant pot can make a huge difference.
Ella: Veg wall planters are fabulous – you can create outdoor living walls even in the smallest of spaces. A rug is the perfect accessory for a boring balcony and outdoor lighting always finishes off a summer garden.
Nicola: I love anything that brings light to a garden, so decorative fairy lights are a must. If you don’t spend time outdoors in the evening, buy a tin of pink, blue or yellow pastel paint and paint any old garden furniture a bright hue – it’s sure to brighten up your garden on even the windiest and wettest of days.
Wendy: Aside from a garden seating area, there are plenty of garden furnishings which can add personality and style to our outside space. Aside from a larger table to host BBQs and other social gatherings, a bistro set or bench can add another seating area to your garden (space permitted) and allow you to enjoy a different view.
Fire pits are also gaining popularity among garden lovers, adding a fiery focal point to both a patio and decking area.
Georgie: Well planted pots really smarten up a garden: use them to define spaces (dining,) or a walk between beds, smarten up a doorway, or refresh a garden with instant colour.