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Want a gorgeous garden without all the work?

10 minute read

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy sitting in a nice garden over summer, but you’re less keen on doing any actual gardening. Sound familiar? Help is at hand…

As I came in through my back gate the other day, looking at the muddy pots, and forlorn, scraggy old mint stalks, I thought how lovely it would be to sit out there in the summer surrounded by beautiful plants, flowers that smell nice and plenty for bees to buzz around.

But I hate gardening. And actually, I don’t know a huge amount about it. Ideally, what I want is to have this magical garden, but create it with the least amount of fuss and work possible. So, I set about some research to find out how.

Firstly, let’s get the garden sorted out

You’ve got to start somewhere, right? So I figured a clean slate was the best thing to kick off with. I’ve got a back garden that’s entirely decked, so all my flora is in pots. Some pots have got annual plants or bulbs in, like the ones with day lilies in. I’m going to tidy those up, give them a feed, but mostly just let them be.

There are, however, a lot of pots with dead stuff in, like the rosemary I keep hoping will come back to life. Or ones that are filled with pebbles, or old plastic pots. I’ve even got one that hapless dinner guests have used as an ashtray.

I’ll be grasping the nettle, as it were, and just emptying these pots out and getting rid of everything. I have a decent local tip that will take this sort of thing, so I’ll bag it all up, make an appointment, and lug it all down there. That’s Step One.

Step Two – getting soil

I have NO clue what kind of soil works with what. But I do know that there are bags of stuff called ‘all purpose’ – so I’ll be heading for those. In fact you can even buy dehydrated bricks of this kind of thing that you add water to, and it expands. This looks enormously entertaining and satisfying. I might get some of that, just for the fun of it.

Planting things

I don’t want to be messing about with a greenhouse, or seedlings, or anything like that. I want to stick things in the ground once, and let them crack on, hopefully not get eaten by slugs and snails. There are two ways of doing this: you can get seeds that are tough enough for the job, or you can buy baby plants, where someone else has done the work for you. I’m going -for a bit of both I think.

This is the point where I ground to a halt, so I asked my chum, Jane Joyce, who is a professional garden designer and plantswoman, for advice.

“Anything’s possible in a situation with so many variables,” she says. “But you need to put in place some basic actions and safeguards to broaden the chance of your goals becoming actual outcomes.

“From now on, save all your eggshells in a tub and dry them out. Get yourself a bag of horticultural grit and a bag of organic vegetable compost as well as the all-purpose soil. And make sure at least some of your seeds are night scented stock.”

This is all good so far, and I definitely want night scented stock because it smells heavenly. Jane cautions about not getting overexcited, just because the sun has made an appearance.

“Don’t sow seeds outside just yet, just because it’s sunny, it’s still too cold at night. Buy some sweet pea seeds and put them in a pot of soil indoors, ready to transfer. Also don’t go for a wildflower mix. They don’t do well with the intense nutrients you need for pots, and they look straggly in small areas.”

OK, I can manage this, even if the sweet peas is a two-stage thing, rather than just popping them in the pots outside. Jane has more advice though on low effort flowers.

“Do easy repeat flowerers in a restricted colour range or high contrast – I recommend lemon coloured pot marigolds from seed. And these will flower forever if you dead-head them regularly.

“For contrast colouring, get cornflowers, plus night scented stock and some pale mauve sweet peas. You can’t go wrong with those.

“Also buy a couple of plants of Erigeron karvinskianus - Mexican fleabane. You’ll never get rid of it, and it just colonises and gives you permanent flowering.”

But now apparently there are jobs hoving into view…

“You will sometimes have to water those plants and ensure good drainage when it rains,” says Jane. “And have little trays underneath, and lift the pots out when it pours down so they don’t get swamped.”

Hm, ok – I can probably manage to do that. Jane explains that it’s generally simpler to do ‘easy gardening’ if you’ve got an actual garden with flowerbeds, rather than pots. Because pots need watering and can be potentially unstable in a strong wind. And remember the eggshells?

“When you have little seedlings appearing, bake your eggshells for 20 minutes at 120c and crush them until they’re really small, and scatter around the little plants. Snails cannot pass over them. Use them to protect the sweet peas particularly – the others are impervious.”

Plants that are easy work for the lazy gardener…

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus): Nasturtiums are colourful and vibrant flowers that thrive in pots. They have edible leaves and flowers, so they’re great for adding to salads. And they attract pollinators to your garden.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Also known as pot marigold (see Jane’s advice above), calendula is a hardy annual that produces beautiful orange and yellow flowers. It's easy to grow and adds a splash of colour to any garden.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus): Cosmos are tall, airy flowers that come in shades of pink, white, and purple. They are drought-tolerant and attract butterflies and bees to your garden. They are attractive to slugs and snails though, so get out your eggshells!

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus): Sunflowers are iconic summer flowers known for their large, yellow blooms. They're easy to grow from seed and add a cheerful touch to any outdoor space. Make sure the pot is big enough for them, and grow them next to a wall to prevent toppling.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): Lavender thrives in pots with well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.

Marigold (Tagetes spp.): Marigolds are colourful annual flowers that come in shades of orange, yellow, and red. They're easy to grow from seed and are great for repelling pests in the garden.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans): Zinnias are bright and cheerful flowers that bloom in a variety of colours including red, pink, orange, yellow, and white. They're easy to grow from seed and attract butterflies to your garden.

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima): Sweet Alyssum is a low-growing flower with tiny clusters of fragrant white, pink, or purple blooms. It's easy to grow from seed and is excellent for edging borders or filling in gaps in containers.

Bachelor's Button (Centaurea cyanus): Bachelor's Button, also known as cornflower, produces beautiful blue flowers that are perfect for cutting and arranging in bouquets. They're easy to grow and attract bees and butterflies to the garden.

Poppy (Papaver spp.): Poppies are easy-to-grow flowers with delicate petals in shades of red, pink, orange, and white. They self-seed readily and can naturalise in outdoor spaces, adding a splash of colour to your garden.

So armed with plenty of advice and information, I think I can manage this and have planned a Big Weekend of garden activity. I can’t wait to sit in my little space in the sun, smelling the stocks and feeling pleased with myself. Now, how can I bump up my egg intake?!

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