Gardening for wellbeing
According to the Royal Horticultural Society who put on the annual Chelsea Flower Show, research has found scientific evidence for the benefits of gardening on health, fitness and mental wellbeing.
In an earlier Kalabash blog post, I revealed that back in the early noughties I spent several years working as a professional gardener and garden designer after doing 2 years training at horticultural school.
Those were happy days and although my passion for gardening is still as strong as it was back then, 20 years on my energy levels have wilted a bit!
Because I have a little more time to spare because of Lockdown, like many others, I’ve been finding joy in growing a few cut flowers from seed including skin soothing Marigold (Calendula officinalis) a key ingredient in my popular Tropical Sunshine soap bar.
I've also been rearranging the plants in a couple of small areas of the garden and enjoying every moment. And thanks to the glorious weather I’m using any spare time for some well-needed gardening therapy. I recommend it!
I'm delighted with this beautiful tea rose which I inherited with the garden. I nurture this plant like a child, deadheading it regularly during the growing season, feeding, watering and harvesting the petals, before drying them in the Aga for decorating the Creole Rose soap bar.
In very early Spring, I held my breath, battled with the thorns and gave its stems a thorough pruning as they were very overcrowded and crisscrossing. To encourage more flowers, I followed the tried and tested method remembered from my professional gardening days and cut a few of the stems right down to the ground and the rest by about a third.
Although the plant stood at about 2 metres tall when I finished, at the time I thought I might have gone too far as it looked so bare! I needn't have worried as the result is glorious blooms with each individual rose stem longer than ever! Perfect for cutting! Isn't nature amazing?
Tropical planting schemes
Although they can take a bit of work as many are native to warm and humid climates, tropical plants add interest and colour to any garden.
With a bit of TLC and patience, you can create your own tropical oasis in your own outdoor space or balcony.
I’ve narrowed down a list of potential candidates to a few of my top picks to get you started on growing your tropical garden.
7 OF MY FAVOURITE TROPICAL PLANTS
Fatsia Japonica - Japanese aralia
This beautiful tropical evergreen shrub can grow up to 3m tall. It’s a must-have for any tropical garden. It also does well in a container if you have a balcony garden, but will need regular watering.
With wonderful palmate 8 lobed evergreen leaves and clusters of white flowers in late summer/autumn, Fatsia will thrive in any part of your garden as long as you keep it well watered and sheltered from the wind. I’d also avoid full sun which can bleach those gorgeous leaves. Otherwise, it’s easy to care for, works very well planted up against fences, in the middle of the border, as a specimen plant or planted next to more delicately leaved plants such as bamboos.
Dicksonia antarctica - Tree Fern
Tree Ferns don’t come cheap and aren’t known for being low maintenance but they’re certainly worth the effort. Again, they work well in containers with regular watering.
When fully grown this prehistoric beauty has a fibrous brown truck topped with massive elegant bright green fern-like fronds which move gracefully in a light breeze. Keep the trunk moist during dry spells by pouring water over the top of the trunk or the crown. Although the trunks take a while to grow the leaves can be fast-growing.
Best grown in shade or semi-shade sheltered from strong winds. They are quite hardy but as a precaution, cover the trunk with straw during the winter, tie the fronds over the top and carefully wrap the plant with horticultural fleece. Unwrap and untie the plant in the Spring and cut off any dead looking fronds. It will soon spring back to life.
Passiflora caerulea - Passionflower
This is an exotic and vigorous climber which looks good all year round. It earns its place in any garden with its large striking and abundant flowers edged with a halo of blue filaments. It boasts attractive leaves and in a good summer, will produce bright orange egg-shaped edible fruits too!
Passionflower is a sun lover. Planted against a wall, fence, trellis, screen or pergola it will use its tendrils to quickly scramble up the support you choose. With regular pruning will be needed if you’re tight on space.
Jasminium officinale - Common white Jasmine
Intensely fragrant on warm still summer evenings everyone should carve out a space for white Jasmine. Its delicate white trumpet-shaped flowers will stay in bloom all Summer and well into Autumn against its dark green leaves which are delicately divided into leaflets on either side of each leaf stem. Jasmine can grow up to around 7m, 24ft tall which is great if you want quick coverage up a wall or fence, but you’ll need to hammer in some wires or a trellis for support. It also works well grown through other trees and shrubs.
TIP: You’ll get the best fragrance if you plant Jasmine in full sun.
Fargesia murieliae - Umbrella Bamboo
Bamboos are amazing structural plants but some can be invasive and you can find yourself in a war against shoots which sprout up all over the place where you don’t want them.
The Umbrella bamboo is very adaptable, quick growing and tends to keep to its space. It grows naturally in a small clump of yellow canes/stems which arch gracefully with the weight of lance-shaped bright green leaves. It can grow up to around 2.5 metres and likes fertile soil and lots of water but not waterlogged soil. It also grows well in a container.
Dahlia pinnata - Dahlia
If you want to inject your garden with an explosion of carnival colour nothing beats flamboyant Dahlias. To be fair Dahlias can never be called low maintenance, as they’re frost tender and the tubers need to be taken out of the ground and kept in a dark place at the end of the growing season. But, I think they’re worth the effort.
The one I’d recommend is the great Sir Christopher Lloyd’s favourite is Bishop of Llandaff with the purest of large red blooms and purple fern-like leaves. It will need a bit of space as it can grow over a metre tall and being native to South America it's a natural sun lover.
Meconopsis cambrica - Welsh poppy
I inherited a clump of this easy to grow groundcover beauty with the garden. It’s a great self-seeder which I don’t mind, It grows well under trees and shrubs and has vivid orange cup-shaped blooms on tall single slender stems which protrude from a base of fresh green ferny leaf clumps. The cheerfully bright flowers will brighten up any dark corner and appear in late spring.
TIP: The flowers can last well into the Autumn if you cut off the faded flowers to the ground regularly so fresh stems can regrow.