Creating a garden that is beautiful, functional and great for pollinators
I’m going to be completely honest with you here. We have been living in our house for three years now and have had the allotment for nearly 2 of those. Whilst many hours have been spent at the plot, our gardens at home have received the bare minimum attention. When we bought this house, I was yet to discover my love for gardening so the small north-facing back garden was not a deal-breaker. Not only is our back garden north facing , there is also an enormous horse chestnut tree just beyond the boundary which reduces sunlight and takes water from the ground.
By contrast, our front garden is actually quite large and south facing. However, I’ve always felt self-conscious about the idea of growing vegetables in the front garden. Imagine walking past someone’s house and seeing cabbage instead of flowers. Whilst I would love that, I can understand it is not to everyone’s taste. Because of this I have spent a long time researching how I can make my garden beautiful while still being functional and great for pollinators.
Creating more beds
The vast majority of our front garden was previously a very non-perfect looking lawn. Keeping a lawn is not my forte. In the dry summer of 2018, my partner read an article about how having a brown lawn was an eco badge of honour. We definitely qualified. Parts of our lawn died that summer and those parts were just replaced by weeds.
Whilst I would love to turn the whole of the front garden into a functional growing space (no one sits in their front gardens in the UK so the lawn is pointless in my eyes), I am also conscious about affecting the salability of our house. We have compromised by extending the beds so the lawn is much smaller. Because the space we are converting is quite small, we have made these beds using the no-dig method of layering cardboard and manure/compost. Admittedly we did cut in the edges to create the shape we wanted.
I used to think that the reason I’ve been so uninterested in our own gardens was because there was little scope to grow vegetables. I’ve now realized the real reason is because our gardens are a poorly kept version of someone else’s vision. We had no clue what many plants were when we first moved here, so we were unable to tend to them properly. Because of this, many of them have become leggy.
I previously felt guilty about the idea of removing established plants, particularly bee friendly ones. But there is no point in keeping them if they perpetuate my lack of inspiration. Furthermore, I can always replace them with other bee-friendly plants. I have now decided it is time to remove any plants that have become leggy, or any plants that just aren’t to our taste. Just like you can Marie Kondo your house, you can Marie Kondo your garden. If it doesn’t ‘spark joy’, it should go.
Part of the new bed will form a hedge. In true Katie style, I didn’t just want to buy any shrub to create a hedge. I wanted my hedging to be dual purpose. For this reason I will create hedging using rosemary and sweet bay laurel. My neighbour will be thankful once the rosemary is established and I can stop pinching hers. Bees also love rosemary when it is in bloom. We also throw a bay leaf in almost everything we cook, so it will be great to have a constant fresh supply right outside our house too.
We have a few herbs in our back garden, most of which struggle due to a lack of light and water. For this reason, I will be creating a new herb garden in the front garden. I choose to grow my herbs at home because I always forget to harvest them at the allotment, so it is handy to have them right outside the house. Obviously the rosemary and bay form part of this, but the rest of the herb garden I will plant further from the road and closer to my front door. This will be a mixture of annuals and perennials.
Perennial herbs for my garden will include oregano, sage, chives and garlic/Chinese chives and various types of thyme. Annuals and biennials will be parsley, dill and basil. I will grow the bulk of my basil in the greenhouse at the allotment, largely for pesto making purposes. However, I will grow some at home too because I always forget to harvest it when I want just a few leaves. I may also grow some mint in pots (to stop it spreading) although it does OK in the back garden.
Just to keep you in the loop, since my post on flowers I’m growing this year here, I have added a couple more to the list. I will grow all edible flower varieties I have in my front garden. I want to ensure the space is beautiful but functional. Chamomile, wild bergamot, lemon bergamot, echinacea and anise hyssop will all be grown to use for tea. Although I will be drying leaves and flowers for tea, when they are in season it will be useful to be able to pick fresh whenever we fancy a cuppa.
It will also be useful to have edible flowers to hand to brighten up plates of food. Having these in the front garden means I can pick them super fresh. The flowers I’m growing for eating are cornflowers, calendulas, violas, nasturtiums and possibly dahlias if I can actually bring myself to eat them. Regardless if I use the dahlias for culinary purposes, I will keep them for home to make my front garden look even more beautiful.
I will also grow lavender and dwarf echium purely for the bees. The lavender can of course have multiple purposes but my main reason for growing it is for the bees to enjoy. Dwarf echium is supposed to be one of the best plants you can grow for pollinators too.
Ok I couldn’t resist growing some veg in our garden. I wont grow much and will keep it as mostly herbs and flowers. Recently we have been making sandwiches to take to the allotment and it has reminded me just how useful it is to have some lettuce to hand. I will grow a beautiful looking variety I found called red velvet to ensure we don’t get caught without. Peppermint chard may also be a fixture in my front garden because the colours are gorgeous.
I may also grow a few tomato plants in pots because the front of the house creates a sun trap. These will probably be various cherry tomatoes. One variety I have a few seeds of are a dwarf tomato variety called Tiny Tim. These will be ideal for keeping my tomato plants more discreet from passers-by. I am a little bit conscious of the possibility of tomato thieves, so we will see how this goes.
I have also potted up some blueberry plants from the allotment that I may bring home too. I’d much rather have potted plants at home to prevent them drying out if we are unable to go to our plot to water. Blueberries are best to grow in their own separate beds or in pots because they like their soil to be very acidic which is why I potted them up. Here’s to hoping I can find some peat free ericaceous compost near me sometime soon.