Composting with Kim Wilde

Dual system: In her vegetable garden the Eighties pop icon feels at least as well as on the concert stage.

Whining does not apply. Even if everything seems a bit much: writing, touring, renovating a house in southern France (her life’s dream – albeit without a vineyard, like it should be for any decent pop star), raise children, walk the dog, organize the budget and keep the garden in order. Kim Wilde, the woman who in 1981 with the hit “Kids in America” became the star, is tired. But wait: “Do not get me wrong, it’s a great time to be Kim Wilde..” After leaving the music business in the late Nineties, she married (her husband Hal Fowler is an actor), had two children and built a new and very successful career as a garden designer who was crowned in 2005 with a gold medal at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show.

Last year then the musical comeback. On the album “Come Out And Play” the 50-year-old is proud to announce the following tour has given her so much fun like never before. And the next album follows right now: on “Snapshots” (Columbia) we hear 14 cover versions, most of them with a Eurodance pop sauce. Too bad, because the mix of songs from Erasure about Diana Ross, Buzzcocks, David Bowie and Sugababes, although crude, would have potential.

In the comments to your album you mention the Cure song “A Forest” – even if you eventually covered the song “In Between Days”. What image did you have in mind when you think of a forest?
A magical place. And I think about what it’s like to grow up in the country. As a child I have always played in the forest that was right outside our front door with my best friend Claire. She explained to me the names of wild plants. I still love it very much to be in places where there are lots of trees. That is why my husband and I planted in our garden in Hertfordshire hundreds of birch, oak, willow. Thus, from an empty field came a forest. The other day an owl actually flew past me. I thought to myself: “If I’ve accomplished something great in my life, it is this: I’ve created a forest.”

What is the best part of gardening?
When I can watch all the prosperity that is a nice feeling. A happy plant makes me happy.

And how do you turn an unhappy plant into a happy one?
When I see an unhappy plant, I ask her why she is unhappy. Whether it would be better off if they would have better soil, more light, a different place in the garden. I talk with her, dig and chat. I’ve done the last week with a bush, and now he is fine. He sings and dances and has already grown two inches.

Great Britain is a land of gardens. Which is your favorite garden?
Mine. I love it, because we put so much love into it. And there is always something to do, always something, that can be improved. But I admit: the garden of Hidcote Manor really blew me away. But it’s not just about plants. To see an owl fly past, bees and butterflies – that’s good for the soul. It’s nice to be able to show children something. To deal with nature is something very therapeutic. This is probably also the reason why I originally started it. I had to come down. Get the make-up off, get on the old clothes – and then to be part of what goes on there. That means instant relaxation.

Is there a special British gardening gene?
We have a distinctive garden tradition, which dates back to the turn of the century. Gardens such as Hidcote and Sissinghurst had great influence on the British psyche. It inspired many gardeners. My parents were gardeners, but with not much on guard. We younger (laughs her pithy laughter) tie back to this tradition. This may be partly a reaction to the destruction of the environment. It is an attempt to restore the balance.

Are you an ecological gardener?
Yes, it’s much easier to be eco. We make compost for example. I spend a lot of time on it, even if it’s a bit tedious. It is a great way to recycle egg cartons and cardboard. All the organic waste out of the house goes on the compost. We throw very little in the dustbin. Glass is recycled, and everything else can go back into the garden. That is a fantastic fertilizer for plants. It’s great to dig up two buckets of homemade compost to return it to the garden and nourish the plants with it. This is fantastic. I think the idea is great to be self-sufficient.

And you do that? Keep chicken or pigs?
No. They need too much attention. I find it difficult enough to give my children the attention they need. And then there’s still the dog. But at least I can hear the neighbors’ chickens.

What vegetables are growing in your garden?
We haven’t had to buy salad for a long time. Potatoes, plums. Beans, carrots, broccoli. In addition, blueberries and apples.

What advice you have for someone who wants to create a vegetable garden?
If the basis is good, anyone can make something grow. One should therefore first and foremost take care of the soil. Of course you have to make also sure that the bed is getting enough sun and water that is nearby. If you want to grow vegetables, make sure that the bed as close as possible to where the house is located. Our vegetable garden is located next to the back entrance. But the most important advice is actually “doing”. Do not get overwhelmed by all the information and people that one of this and that advise. If you want to grow potatoes, just do it. Above all, one should not demand too small to start and only once. A garden should not be a burden.

Were there ever moments of frustration for you in the garden?
Of course. The main fault, when I put on my vegetable garden, was that it was far too big for me. This has overwhelmed me and then gave me a bad mood because I spent most of his time weeding instead of vegetable cultivation. I have halved the area then, and this half was twice as profitable. If my husband wants to expand the beds again, I say only: “Let us be happy with what we have”

Do you actually always cook fresh and don’t need finished products?
Yes. When the children were still small, it was different, because I simply had no time. Now those things don’t taste good to me anymore. My taste buds have developed. Fresh is better.