Last week, resident Object blogger, Abigail Carpe discussed how simple life lessons have become lost in our busy lives, in her blog 'where should the hyaciths go ?'. Today, on this rainy Saturday, she's back with her sequel, showing you how you can take charge of your garden and your wallet! Talking about a visit to Calabria (Southern Italy) and exploring the garden of a local woman, Abigail became inspired and determined to create a living garden of her own. Here's how you can too...
If digging up home-grown fruit and veg to make your favourite Ottolenghi recipe is what you want then I'm afraid you’re going to have to get your hands dirty.
On a recent trip to Calabria in the South of Italy a local woman gave me a tour of her garden, where we picked fruit and vegetables to be smothered in the most exquisite olive oil I've ever tasted (I'm not sure if they are selfish or sensible but the Italians keep the good stuff all to themselves).
Over dinner I asked what the scent that perfumed her terrace was, to which she reached out and produced a small, milky white blossom called Gardenia. I’ve been on the hunt for it - and the perfect garden - ever since.
Whilst we all like the idea of growing our own produce, that skittishness of worms and creepy crawlies we adopted in childhood needs to be overcome. And fast - otherwise we might as well give up the dream and keep paying the astronomical prices of organic produce (£4 for a punnet of Waitrose blueberries, anyone?).
The reality though, is that sandwiched between 50 hour weeks and Bikram Yoga (a.k.a watching Made In Chelsea), it can often feel as though we don’t have the time to potter in the garden. Well, here’s how to change it and grab hold of the good life with both hands (and feet if you venture into wine making).
First, I split my garden into edible and non edible. If you can eat it, back, if not, front. Like my parents before me, I did recently pour concrete over half of my front garden, however I made sure to keep the flower beds. I just can’t ever buy a car bigger than a Fiat 500.
The best way to plan what you would like in a flower garden is to visit your local florist. For the cost of a few stems you can pick up a wealth of advice, select what you like from a bouquet and then just grow that. Simple. Staggered for continuous bloom, you should plant at least 40 bulbs of your chosen varieties, more than enough to fill your home’s vases throughout the summer months (last Autumn I was prepared and planted 60 black and white tulip bulbs which are now swaying happily along the drive).
To plan a vegetable garden can be a little more difficult, but the method is essentially the same. Spend a Saturday submerged in your favourite recipe books or websites, then from Sunday roll up your sleeves.
Here are a few things I have in my garden, which you can also grow in pots if you are limited to space:
They are not the easiest plant to grow, as they are more suited to tropical and subtropical climates, so I have positioned mine in the front garden where it will get the morning sun. Most online garden centres sell a 15cm gardenia pot for around £10. Ikea sometimes do a 13cm pot for £4.75 (but its never in stock). The cheapest I’ve found is £2.99 (from the flower seller down the side of Debenhams on Market St, Manchester).
A good starting vegetable. I plant mine in a propagator (sort of a mini-greenhouse for your windowsill) in March. When they’re about 10cm high, stick them in your borders outside, spacing around 40cm apart. Once they start producing courgettes, they just keep coming. Oh, and you can lightly batter the flowers too (so good).
Plant at least two blueberry bushes so they can cross pollenate to produce larger and more frequent fruit. They love the sun but also to be watered regularly with rainwater. I start mine in small pots and once they fill out transfer to a 50cm large terracotta pot. Just make sure to pick up some netting to protect the fruit from birds, as once they discover them, it's game over.
Black and White Tulips
For my September birthday last year everyone I knew bought me a pack or two of tulip bulbs. I doubtfully planted them in November for an early display this year (as advised by my Grandmother) and when they all popped up this spring I was astonished.
Other Autumn planting bulbs include; daffodils, crocus, fritillarias and hyacinths.
Give off the sweetest smell from mid March if planted early Autumn. Again plant in copious amounts if you want enough to fill your house with them in the summer. Plant them 10cm below the surface and 8cm apart. And where should they go? Pride of place! They are one of the first flowers to appear, so when they come up you will want to look at them and smell them everyday.
1. Yotam Ottolenghi's fried courgette flowers with lavender honey- Photograph- Colin Campbell for the Guardian.
2. My courgettes from last year
3. A view up to the window in Calabria
4. The walled garden in Calabria
5. Onions of Tropea, Calabria
6. The sweetest Gardenia I have ever smelt, Calabria
7. Flourish Outlet - www.flourishoulet.com
Words: Abigail Carpe.