Anyone can Garden
the legendary gardener Rosemary Verey, describes how
she started gardening with enthusiasm and a few ideas
and suggests you do too.
"You are lucky to
live in the country with your own garden". This chance
remark was made to me many years ago by an unknown lady
sitting beside me in a London restaurant. It occupied
my thoughts as I drove home to Gloucestershire. Like
today spring was in the air, the sun and soil were warming
up, and it dawned on me that our garden must have new
beds, new plants, a whole new look. I remembered the
woman's next comment, "My mother told me that anyone
can garden if they love plants."
For several happy
years we had lived at Barnsley House with its nice but
ordinary vicarage-style garden; lawn for dogs and children
and ideas from Vita Sackville-West (of Sissinghurst
fame) that had been added by my mother-in-law. I took
it all for granted. Now suddenly my eyes were opened.
My daughter, Davina gave me an alluringly bound notebook
inscribed 'Your Gardening Book.' My son Charles made
me a member of the Royal Horticultural Society. In my
imagination I saw borders and shrubs, colour emerging
inside our old garden walls. It became an adventure
from which nothing was stopping me except my own ignorance.
I read gardening
magazines and spent money on packets of seeds as well
as on graph paper for drawing out rough shapes for flowerbeds
and borders. Articles in magazines helped me understand
about annuals and perennials and their flowering times.
But most helpful of all was visiting other gardens,
talking to the gardeners, taking my precious notebook
with me and writing down the names of flowers I liked
and how I could see them in the garden at home.
After my own early
efforts I will always suggest that you choose easy plants
for your first border and ones that like the soil in
your garden. I planted euphorbias, hardy geraniums,
alchemilla mollis (ladies mantle), astrantias, ajugas
and cowslips. All of these are happy in the lime soil
that we have.
When they began to
flourish the next border had a different flavour, starting
in spring with daffodils and tulips, then delphiniums
and asphodels, pinks, peonies and annual echiums. I
also put some shrubs among them that made the plant
groups look a bit more substantial.
These early borders
were not complicated: I used common, easy to grow plants.
But they were my learning curve and this was helped
by ideas from visits to Royal Horticultural Shows in
London and from other people’s gardens and nurseries.
Sherrards was a tree and shrub nursery near Newbury
that had lime soil like us. With their help I chose
and planted my first trees: mountain ash and whitebeams,
which have flowers, fruit and bright autumn foliage
colour. Planted nearly 40 years ago they have been an
increasing joy and I can now walk in my own little woodland
wilderness. It also showed me that trees in your garden
are as important for the design as paths or borders.
Now it is spring
and time to start, so what are your priorities? Make
sure you have the right tools: a trowel and hand fork,
as well as a border fork, are essentials, secateurs
and a large sack to carry away weeds. Decide where your
compost pile will be and keep this tidy. Prepare a patch
in a border or bed, old or new, for your annuals and
the new plants you buy. Go slowly and don't worry if
parts of the old bed are weedy, instead concentrate
on new areas. Watch the annuals germinate and their
seedlings grow, soon their flowers will be ready to
pick and have in the house, your first triumph.
We all have to start
somewhere. Years ago I drew rough plans on the back
of envelopes for friends for their borders when they
wanted plants. I still do the same, so come and see
us at Barnsley and we'll help you get started.
Rosemary Verey's garden at Barnsley House, Gloucestershire
is open to visitors.
See also the Helping Hands workshops:
Planning a garden from scratch
Planning groups in a border
Planting groups of plants
Making a compost bin
Choosing your first tools
to see our Superstore's vast range of plants, tools
and related products
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com