Newbie gardeners need not despair.
Because those yearning to make the most of a small outdoor space, but not knowing quite where to start, may find inspiration from garden owners who are opening up their plots to the public this summer – including a feature in South Yorkshire.
There’s a feelgood factor to visiting an open garden in the National Garden Scheme (NGS) too, as ticket entry helps to raise money for nursing and health charities.
Small gardens which are opening up to the public in conjunction with the NGS feature everything from windowsill pots to recyclables, including brightly-painted ladders, reclaimed mirrors and bird cages, and there’s even an impressive little railway cottage front garden, that’s been transformed into an edible paradise.
Many of the gardens are open virtually through the NGS website, to give people ideas for their own planting, colour schemes and style. If people do want to go, they will need to book a pre-timed entry slot and check the NGS website and its Scottish counterpart SGS (scotlandsgardens.org) for updates on Covid-19 restrictions.
One of the gardens is in Fir Street in Sheffield. This is one of two small urban gardens, designed and owned by members of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Sheffield.
Anyone interested in naturalistic planting will appreciate the meadow-style design packed with plants, many of which are native to South Africa which are usually considered too tender for a northern city, but which will give colour and leaf interest from February to November.
There are a number of other highlights. At 42 Falconer Road, Hertfordshire, visitors can find a quirky garden, replete with painted ladder, bird cages, mirrors and other antiquarian ephemera and objets d’art, which interior designer owner Suzette Fuller has picked up from her customers’ cast-offs over the years.
Planting comprises old-fashioned favourites, including hollyhocks, foxgloves and dianthus, along with more than 25 hanging baskets, which are peppered throughout the garden. Fuller advises budding gardeners to use height to the maximum: “Get your eye to go upwards, using rustic poles to give you height and then put climbers around them. You might put rose bushes or clematis or honeysuckle on to them, which brings a height to your garden. Everyone does it on the ground, but you need to make the most of height.”
Cupani Garden, East Sussex is a small, tranquil haven is known for its gorgeous, scented sweet pea obelisks which frame the garden (hence the name Cupani, taken from one of the oldest known sweet pea varieties) and its fantastic planting, including agapanthus, roses, salvia, lavender and echinacea.
The garden houses a mix of shrubs, trees and perennial borders, as well as sculpted water features and a new dry/gravel garden with tropical planting. Wander around the courtyard and admire the summerhouse, the fernery and a cutting patch.
Bede Crescent in Tyne and Wear has a small courtyard style garden, with beautiful acers, shrubs and box balls and wispy ferns, along with the added summer colour given by astilbes, lilies and clematis. Late summer welcomes crocosmia and dark-leaved begonias, while there are also a few statuary surprises among the plantings.
And Spitalfields Gardens, London offers a charming collection of courtyard gardens. Behind the terrace of Huguenot merchant houses features a vertical garden and roof terrace in Elder Street, three small courtyards in Fournier Street with clusters of ornamental pots and brightly-coloured summer blooms.