I am a failed Generation X. Somewhere along the way I ended up renting instead of being a Buy-to-let squillionaire. As the oldest millennial horticulturist, I needed to find a way to garden in a rented property.
When I moved into my current home (imagine a single-storey box with a flat roof, cover it in gravel-dash*, and add more double-glazing units than feasible for a 1.2 bedroom property) the garden looked like the photo below. I love drying washing outside, after 8 years of not being able to, so you will see the washing umbrella frequently in photos.
I have very energetic friends who wouldn’t think twice about digging the whole thing up, planting it, and then returfing when they moved on. However I am both too lazy, and too frugal to do that sort of thing.
The garden is north-east facing, and the soil is probably builder’s rubbish over London clay, but I haven’t looked too closely. The grass has very dry patches in the summer, which suggest rubble underneath. The big advantage is that it is fenced to a minimum height of about 1.2m, so that the cat can potter around without causing me to have a panic attack.
I had to come to terms with the lawn. I like mowing, but not lawns. As I needed to keep it, I decided it should have more use than a green carpet. My cat is blind, so I left areas of to grow, and mowed some to make it more interesting for both of us. It also attracts a wider range of insects to the garden, and allows more interesting plants to appear.
If you want to do this, you can either map it out (rope, string, hose, flour, line marking spray), or just improvise as you mow.
Leaving some of the grass unmowed also means that there is more cover for wildlife, so I do have frogs and a toad in the garden.
I mow the whole lawn a couple of times in March when it starts to grow (I am coastal South East England), then mow to a pattern, and leave the long bits until about October when I mow the whole lot off. My very, very small electric rotary mower is ok with this, but a strimmer would make it easier). I left a patch of long grass over winter last year and it did get really scruffy looking by the spring, so for the overall health of the lawn it is better to do the autumn cut.
Borrowing neighbours’ trees is useful. I am grateful for the various conifers, olive trees, prunus and yucca they have planted. They provide structure, privacy, and food for the birds.
Some neighbours I have tentatively invited in. There is a wisteria that pops through, and vinca that appears on both sides. As I have been here a couple of years now, there are also seedlings appearing from geraniums and erodiums that I grow in pots.
My own plants are in pots though. These are the ones that I have brought with me from my last home, that I water and feed to keep alive. So they have to be important to me to justify this outlay of effort.
In the summer (from April-ish to October-ish here) a lot of my houseplants are outdoors. I put them out in stages; those that will tolerate just about freezing, those that will tolerate down to 5c, and the tropicals which really need to stay above 10-15c.
The structure is created by a number of large, permanent plants in pots, which I will describe in a later post.
*I would call it pebble dash but it blends seamlessly into the gravel when it falls off. Which it does if you touch it, it is very sensitive. Perhaps I should call is Snowflake-dash, but that sounds like a very exciting Christmas film.