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Can social media become your horticultural tutor?

Being self-employed means I work alone. It’s hard to experience new things/be exposed to new gardening techniques when I don’t have a traditional, real life, role model; so I’ve let the people I interact with on social media become mine.

After a few years as a gardener, you find yourself beginning to repeat what you’ve done year after year; using the same tools, same techniques, sowing similar seeds and planting the same plants.

Last year, I challenged myself to follow every new person I came across on social media that would enhance my horticultural knowledge; botanists that specialise in unique plants, garden maintenance business owners that thrive and private gardeners who have long-term experience etc.

It’s provided a great wealth of knowledge and taught me things that makes jobs easier and a lot quicker. I’ve also discovered new plants that have diversified my planting plants.

Instagram is most valuable for video content, which is easy to follow; horticultural theory can be complicated to understand. It’s also great for tool reviews, there are so many different tools on the market and finding one suitable is difficult. Twitter is best for discovering unusual plant species, seed exchanges, diagnosing a pest/disease and general chat!

It’s also nice to upload a post and be given confirmation that what you’re doing is correct!

Some of the best (I could have continued this list for days):

  1. @fittleworthhousegardens
  2. @stvnhwrd14
  3. @ljclementsgardener
  4. @s.hockenhull
  5. @thomasdstone
  6. @mightyoaksfromtinyacorns
  7. @rekha181
  8. @botanygeek
  9. @alysfowler
  10. @headgardenerLC
  11. @DHgardening
  12. @londnplantology
  13. @j.l.perrone
  14. @hugh.cassidy
  15. @papaver

 

Let me know who else I should follow in the comments!

 

*NOTE: as a professional horticulturist you should study for qualifications.*

I’m told I’m ‘good at my job’ as long as I stay in my gender assigned role

What type of person do you picture when you hear the occupation ‘gardener’ or ‘landscaper’?

A middle-aged, well-built white man with a van who mows the lawn, cuts hedges and is very capable of doing jobs you can’t do yourself?

What type of person do you picture when you hear ‘female gardener’?

An older, white, partly-retired lady with a few hand tools and who loves flowers?

I work in a white, middle-class town in West Sussex that lives by social norms and conforms to gender stereotypes. Attempting to work as a young female professional can be difficult as my knowledge, strength and capability is disputed everyday. I’m told what I can and can’t do; this is very frustrating.

I often lose out on work as people believe that I am not up to the task because of my gender and age. Regardless of this, if you are a gardener, you are already kick-ass; we are clever people that aren’t easily intimidated by larger, more complicated tasks.

These outdated views are not always held by my ‘older’ clients and it’s refreshing to be encouraged/trusted by these clients to do my job.

Although these comments aren’t meant to be malicious, assigning stereotypical gender roles causes unequal and unfair treatment; it can also cause difficulty in relationships.

A few of the comments that I receive on a daily basis:

  1. “You’re only a gardening lady”
  2. “Don’t hurt yourself, we’ll get a man in to do it”
  3. “That task is too big/complicated/difficult for you, we’ll get in a professional”
  4. e.g. I split my own wood, “Does your boyfriend help you with that?”
  5. “Is gardening just your hobby… something to keep you busy?”
  6. “Do you know any men that will do that for us?”
  7. “It’s a cute, little gardening business”
  8. “Do you know what you’re doing?”
  9. “Are you alright reversing your van out the drive? *client walks behind van, chaotically waves arms, gets in the way*
  10. “You want to buy a van..ok..here’s our most feminine model van” *points to a nondescript white van in a row of white vans*
  11. “Don’t hurt yourself trying to use this power tool, we’ll get a strong man in to do it *winks*”
  12. “My sister likes gardening too, pottering about the the garden, deadheading and weeding”

If you feel you’re in a safe space, you can challenge these stereotypes and speak up; often people don’t realise they are stereotyping or conforming to bygone social norms.

A new wave of gardeners are appearing; people of every age, gender and ethnicity. I am excited that learning to garden is becoming more enticing; house plants and GYO are especially popular at the moment.

Toolkit

Tools need to be clean and sharp to be useful. Tool maintenance is essential so you aren’t buying new tools every spring!

The most used items in my toolkit include:

  1. Secateurs: Felco
  2. A Dutch hoe: Spear and Jackson
  3. Hori-hori: Niwaki
  4. Broom
  5. Leaf grabs
  6. Garden spade: Bulldog
  7. Garden fork: Bulldog
  8. Shears: Niwaki/Spear and Jackson
  9. Loppers: Spear and Jackson
  10. Pruning saw: Silky

Top 3 machinery:

  1. Stihl HSA86 hedge trimmer
  2. Stihl FS40 strimmer
  3. Stihl MS170 chainsaw

Ladder in image above is a Niwaki Tripod ladder.

#3

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:

  1. Buying a van (which was honestly changed my life for the better!)
  2. Expanded my botanical knowledge
  3. Learning to craft wooden spoons to recycle the wood from the trees that I fell
  4. Bought a Stihl FS40 strimmer and HSA46 battery-powered hedge trimmer

Targets I hope to complete in the year to come:

  1. Gain more garden design experience
  2. Take on one-off design/clearance jobs that will increase my knowledge and confidence
  3. Have an ‘Eleanor Owens Gardening’ logo placed on my van
  4. Buy roof bars for my van so I can carry around my Niwaki tripod ladder with ease

GROW: Spring bulbs

There’s an abundance of spring bulbs growing in the english countryside; it provides colour in the garden from the beginning of the year.

This autumn, I’ve bought alliums, daffodils and tulips from Peter Nyssen to plant in a border that I created last summer.

The border is filled with perennial grasses, ferns, sedums, geraniums, gypsophila and brunnera; meaning it lacks colour/foliage from late winter-early spring. The bulbs will fill this gap!

My choices:

  1. Allium Roseum
  2. Allium Carinatum Pulchellum
  3. Narcissus Thalia
  4. Tulip Antartica
  5. Tulip Black Bean
  6. Tulip Gabriella

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.49.50Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.52.12Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.52.40Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.53.18Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.53.39Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 17.54.02

Spring bulbs are easy to grow and when purchased should be planted at the correct planting depth stated on the packet. New bulbs should be planted every year to supplement the original.

 

Giveaway!

Eleanor Owens Gardening’s first GIVEAWAY!

#WIN a beautiful Gardening Journal to help you get organised this Summer. Head over to  my Facebook page to find out how to enter!

The 3 winners will be selected at random at 6pm on 17th July 2017 and announced on Facebook. Open to UK residents aged 18 or over only.

Good luck! 

 

 

Front Gardens

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!

Currently:

  • Paved over
  • Place to park cars
  • Identical to the neighbours
  • Boring
  • Untidy

Goals:

  • Wildlife friendly
  • Productive
  • Useful
  • Unique
  • Permeable surface

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.