This column will definitely not contain any useful gardening advice, as I’m certainly not in the position to impart any wisdom on that front… yet. No matter how many times I watch Gardeners’ World – it doesn’t seem to make my fingers in any way greener (sigh).
I have, however, learned a few things since I started spending time working on my own garden, which I like to feel is an oasis in the city. And I know I’m not alone in that: since the pandemic began, people have been thinking about how to best utilise their outdoor space, whether they have room to cook and entertain in, or a smaller plot, like a balcony, that they can fill with herbs and flowers.
When I started working on my own garden about two years ago, one of the first things I did was to put a little ‘outdoor kitchen’ in. It’s not in any way fancy, but using some reclaimed bricks and secondhand slate (thank you, Facebook Marketplace) I cornered off a section of the patio which I am now claiming as my entertaining space.
One big investment was a Big Green Egg, which is hugely expensive but is something I plan to use all year round. I can use it to smoke fish and host barbecues in the summer, but at Christmas I can even use it to cook the turkey. Seeing as it cost me an arm and a leg I plan to fire it up whenever possible!
When sourcing furniture, the approach was the same as it would be for my indoor finds – I scoured the web for one-off vintage pieces. You’ll find some great options year-round, as people are always looking to get rid of things. My big marble outdoor table was an Instagram purchase from a French dealer (pre-Brexit – luckily I got it just before all hell broke loose).
If you are looking for something off-the-peg, I’m a huge fan of Hay and love its new ‘Balcony’ collection. With its stamped holes resembling a Lego set, it’s instantly iconic.
I also really like the Raj Tent Club – one of their parasols may well be my next big garden purchase. When it comes to smaller updates, like plant pots, I find Sproutl has a good selection and I’m a big fan of those vintage dolly planters that were so hard to find during lockdown because everyone was buying them (they seem to be more readily available now, if you’re looking).
My big garden spruce-up may be in full swing but, honestly, I feel lucky to have an outdoor space at all. For that reason, it’s important to me to be able to spend as much time in it as possible. My love affair with my garden needs to be a year-round thing rather than a brief summer fling, no matter how much the British weather may try to dampen my Club Med-at-home aspirations.
Planting bulbs in winter, spring feels like an age away but, as the weather turns and you start to see flowers rearing their colourful little heads it all feels worthwhile. Although stopping the kids from trying to deadhead them is now another task to add to my list!