It’s the third year anniversary of Eleanor Owens Gardening! Cracking year out and about looking after my lovely maintenance clients’ gardens and expanding my horticultural knowledge with online courses.
Targets completed this past year include:
Buying a van (which was honestly changed my life for the better!)
Expanded my botanical knowledge
Learning to craft wooden spoons to recycle the wood from the trees that I fell
Bought a Stihl FS40 strimmer and HSA46 battery-powered hedge trimmer
Targets I hope to complete in the year to come:
Gain more garden design experience
Take on one-off design/clearance jobs that will increase my knowledge and confidence
Have an ‘Eleanor Owens Gardening’ logo placed on my van
Buy roof bars for my van so I can carry around my Niwaki tripod ladder with ease
Utilising space is hugely important when it’s limited. Front gardens are a wasted space that aren’t viewed as a ‘garden’ and only a driveway or place to put the bins. However, understandably, we need a place to park our cars; not all front gardens can be completely ‘green’.
The simple solution is unimaginative. Front gardens are just paved over with concrete, slabs or tarmac; this creates drainage problems and makes urban areas look grey and dismal. The idea of low maintenance is too popular.
Gardeners around the country are crying out to see thriving front gardens that are bursting with colour and wildlife!
Place to park cars
Identical to the neighbours
Front gardens are often very small; container planting is popular in urban areas where space is limited. There’s a huge list of plants that can be easily grown in pots that will also provide for bees/birds/butterflies! List here. I recommend plants such as lavender, salvia, achillea, nepeta and annuals e.g. sunflowers, cornflowers etc. Vegetables are also easily grown in pots; these will provide for you as well as wildlife. Make use of vertical space. Use trellis to allow climbers to grow; runner beans, sweet peas etc are easy to grow and crop perpetually throughout summer.
Larger front gardens are great for small ‘allotments’. An allotment is productive, wildlife friendly and it’s aesthetically pleasing! Vegetables, cutting flowers and fruits can be grown easily however always check the aspect and plant accordingly. If you desire a low maintenance garden, there is a healthy list of perennial plants and shrubs that attract wildlife and don’t need much attention. List here.
Samphire has an impressive nutritional value, packed with essential minerals and almost no fat. It is a popular ‘superfood’ that is often used to accompany fish dishes or in salads. It has a lovely fresh taste!
I live too far from the coast to get fresh samphire. Like FRESH samphire, the crisp salty young growth that has been harvested that day. Samphire bought from a supermarket is often expensive and disappointing. I saw Sarah Raven were selling samphire seeds and I’ve bought some! They are the best value samphire seeds I’ve found that you can buy.
This samphire should be grown in a pot. Choose a wide but shallow pot that it’ll live in few a while as it self-seeds each year.
Use a mixture of seed compost and gravel (70:30 ratio) to obtain a moist but well-drained soil to sow your seeds onto the surface of. Then sprinkle a light layer of soil on top of the seeds.
Sow indoors: March-May or September-November.
Sow outdoors: May-June.
Place the flowerpot onto a windowsill or in a greenhouse to start then leave on windowsill or move to a sunny patio.
Water from the base only (into a saucer). Use a mixture of water and salt (1 pint: 1 tsp). Use real sea salt, not table salt or it’ll kill the plant.
Harvest from May-July. Treat it as ‘cut and come again’. Cut the young growth once the plant is established. Don’t harvest too late in the season as the plant will self-seed if left and new samphire will grow next year. Leave the pot in a greenhouse/on a windowsill.
Often labelled as ‘dainty’ and ‘sweet’. Cosmos are so much more than ‘easy to grow’. A border/plot filled with cosmos is alive and thriving. They can grow up to 1.2m (depending on variety) and have stems thick enough to withstand secateurs. These plants are great and should never be undervalued!
Grown by sowing the seeds indoors from February-April or outdoors April-May. It then flowers in June-October!
Cosmos attract bees and butterflies, their open flower heads allow the insects to wallow the in the glorious pollen. Make sure to dead-head during June-October to encourage flowering.
You can buy shorter varieties for smaller spaces or pinch out the tops when they are seedlings; this will encourage the plant to become more compact.
These plants are annuals so make sure to dig them up in autumn, when flowering has finished. You can harvest the dry seed heads and sow the seeds next year.
Edamame beans are currently a ‘superfood’; they are rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. You can purchase them in supermarkets however they are quite expensive. They are also packaged in two layers of plastic; this puts me off buying them when I know I could grow my own.
I purchased the seeds from Sarah Raven; these are the best price and quality I could find. The beans are a variety called ‘Elena’; these are adjusted to growing in a British climate.
I will sow 10 seeds into 9cm pots with a mix of seed compost and perlite (50:50 ratio). I will continue to do this every week for 5 weeks successional sowing from April to May.
You can sow the seeds outdoors once the soil has warmed up from June -July.
Plant in full sun, in well drained soil. Can tolerate light-ish shade.
As they grow tall, I will use a bamboo cane and tie the plant stem to it, loosely with twine. This will support the plant to prevent any damage.
Edamame will flower/fruit from June-November. Harvest the whole plant once the bean pods grow to 5cm in length and become plump.
If you are restricted by space you can grow edamame in large flowerpots that have good drainage; use a mixture of compost and gravel. Place these on a sunny patio.
I will take photos whilst growing these this year and will post the result in June-November when I will (hopefully) harvest the plants! I am excited to grow these as they taste delicious!
There’s an influx of Instagram posts picturing buddha bowls filled to the brim with the most colourful vegetables and fruits; it’s all about creative style and making your meal look the most appetising.
Flowers are now being used to decorate these meals, not edible flowers.. but ‘pretty’ flowers or berries. This is so dangerous as many edible flowers still come with a caution label.
These few examples below illustrate the use of poisonous berries and flowers. None of the posts come with a disclaimer explaining that the flowers/berries are INEDIBLE and are only used to improve the aesthetic. This can be fatal in some cases, or at the very least, cause discomfort.
There is an ample list of edible flowers. Grown very easily these flowers will aid in some people’s path to self-sufficiency; some can be grown in containers on balconies or small patios! These flowers are beautiful and nutritious; they make a wonderful addition to meals.
A few edible flowers available spring/summer:
Viola ‘Sorbet Delft Blue F1’
French Marigold ‘Durango Yellow’
Dianthus ‘Electron’ (sweet William)
Roses ‘Darcy Bussell”, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and ‘Comte de Chambourd’
Gardens should be ugly beautiful; filled with life and movement.
They should thrive off their imperfections and enhance the lives of birds, bugs, bees and yourself.
When beginning my studies, I thought that gardens had to be pristine, that there shouldn’t be a weed in sight and that this was the ‘ideal’; any less than this is seen as ‘neglect’. Plants should be pruned, trained, trimmed, shaped and (mostly) annual. Growing up in a village where front gardens are regularly spied on by nosey neighbours, I understand the desire to impress and to divert any criticism; to stick to the social norm and stereotype of a ‘well kept’ garden.
However, this feels wrong, so wrong. Since finishing my diploma, I’ve started to educated myself (and preach, madly) about permaculture and wildlife in gardens. How important this is and how understated it has become. I’ve realised that the perfection everybody craves is damaging. A garden should be filled with your favourite mix of perennials, biannual and annuals. It should have exciting structure such as fruit trees or flowering shrubs. There should be bird, bat and badger boxes tucked away in discreet corners. Vegetables and fruit should coexist with plants in the borders. I dislike seeing plastic/harsh materials in the garden for plant support; willow and dogwood can be grown and used to create softer, natural structure.
Attitudes are changing and more areas of gardens are becoming ‘wild’. People are exploring self-sufficiency and using the space they have. Leaving an untamed nest of brambles and long grass is fantastic if you have the space.. think of the blackberries if nothing else!
Use the hashtag #gnarlygardens to share images of impressive uncultivated areas left for wildlife! Find me on Twitter @eogardening.