Green-fingered? Not Me…

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

…what you’re seeing are the survivors! I laugh whenever people pay me this compliment, because they couldn’t be more wrong. I haven’t always succeeded in the garden; I have, however, learned some important lessons, which certainly help to cut casualty rates. And I want to share my top 10 with you.

1  The first is the single most important lesson any would be gardener can learn: work in harmony with nature, not against it. It spells far more successes, and saves you a fortune!

2  Next, a few words of common sense imparted by an expert, when I walked him around my then-new garden, pointing out all the plants that were dead – or so I thought. “Dead-looking above the ground doesn’t mean it’s done for below ground. Give it all four seasons before you decide. You may be pleasantly surprised.” (In almost every case, I was – although I’d been sorely tempted to dig up and dispose of what I saw as lost causes.)

3  The way to beat weeds is not to leave room for them. You can achieve this by packing your flowerbeds with plants, as I do; or mulch bare spots, so weeds have to struggle through and can be picked off as they appear.

4  If you want your lawn to look lush, don’t cut it too often. Longer grass looks like more grass, and holds more moisture, too.

5  Prune things properly and at the right time. And remember that ruthlessness gives better results than being too tentative. Get a book so you can follow the guidelines – they’re complicated.

6  Bulbs are a beginner’s dream. Gardening just doesn’t get any easier! Plant them the right way up and – foraging squirrels notwithstanding – they won’t let you down.

7  Plants that like sun will not thrive in shade – and vice versa. Obvious, isn’t it? And lesson number one underlines it.

8  Water well in Spring. In March and April, don’t let your garden go two days without either rain or a good watering; these are the months when it matters most if you want a good flower display.

9  Feed the plants you grow in pots. Their soil supply is limited, so they will run out of nutrients unless you do. (Remember, this applies to houseplants, too.)

10  Spray roses every fortnight from the first buds to the first frosts. You’ll have fewer pests and lots more roses.

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.