Tips for first-timers

Date
Published in
The Journal (UK)
Written by
Hannah Stephenson

Pop star-turned-garden expert Kim Wilde tells Hannah Stephenson what it's like to be a beginner in the garden.

Kim Wilde got the bug when she used gardening as a therapy after a hectic schedule of travelling and performing.

"I vividly remember returning from a working trip abroad still dressed in tight black trousers and a shoulder-padded jacket and going straight out into the garden to train my pyracantha. I haven't changed much," she says.

Like all new gardeners, at the beginning she made a lot of mistakes, and with this in mind she has brought out a back-to-basics book, First Time Gardener, helping to inspire newcomers with the confidence they need to make the most of their garden.

Kim says: "The book is based on my own experience of jumping in at the deep end without making adequate preparation and planning, which is the natural response of anyone who gets really excited in the spring, finds themselves in a garden centre and falls in love with a beautiful spring flowering kerria or forsythia, gets home, puts it in the garden and then wonders why it doesn't look as beautiful as it did in the garden centre. The reason is that because in the garden centre there were 20 other forsythias looking fantastic at the same time. I have fumbled through, made mistakes and tried to put my experiences into some coherent manner."

When Kim first started gardening, before studying horticulture and planting design at Capel Manor, she says she didn't have any idea about how planting worked.

"I would fall in love with a plant, put it in the garden and then wonder why it didn't look great. It might be to do with the plant's position. I'd have a lavender in a semi-shaded place in fertile soil looking a bit leggy and sad, and wonder why."
Her advice to beginners is: "Anyone who is going to take up gardening for the first time should get their noses into some books and just read a bit about what plants require to thrive."
It's also important to consider how much time you have, when you are going to be using your garden - which may have a bearing on where you site your patio depending on sunlight - and set yourself a budget.

"The vast majority of your budget is going to be spent on manpower - for instance someone to lay your patio. Materials can be picked up here and there. Plants are quite expensive, too," she notes.

If you have a blank canvas and are wondering how to design your garden, visit some gardens close to you, whether in a stately home or National Trust property, or simply a keen gardening neighbour's plot.

"See how plants work well and what you like about the garden you are walking around," she advises. "You have to think about what your own style is. Flick through magazines to look at different styles and think which one will fit in with your home and immediate area. If you are working in an urban space, privacy is an issue as you don't want people overlooking you - and in a sense you are freer to try out different styles. But if you are in a more rural location, something very contemporary might clash in a way you don't want it to."

Kim appreciates that, for some, creating a new garden is a daunting prospect. "If you don't trust your own instincts it is worth paying for professional advice. It's a good investment for the long-term future."

First-time Gardener, by Kim Wilde, is published by Collins, priced £17.99.