I live in a city and my second home is at the country. As a devoted city girl, I have grown to love country life, which has a lot to do with plants.
Everything feels better in the open air, don’t you think?
Eating, working, daydreaming…
Treating the outdoors as a natural extension of our living space brings that tonic of wildness closer to us.
You could have a miniature garden, be it a windowsill or balcony, or several acres of land. Both options have their perks and both have their limitations.
But the essential thing, at least for me, is not finding the greatest space or landscape. To feel the joy of gardening and create nice outdoor areas, the most important thing is just to do it.
Start creating the space and landscape.
Succeed with something, fail with something, and keep going.
Spots to consider: windowsill, French balcony, balcony, porch. Front step, front door, courtyard, yard – although, as Miranda Brooks would tell you, you have to start calling that yard a garden, or it will never be a garden.
I am a beginner’s level amateur gardener.
Two of my most precious gardening tips are: choose mostly native plants and respect the natural landscape.
Maintaining an English garden in Sicily is like drinking a cocktail outdoors, during a snowstorm. When the time and place is not a natural fit, look for better ideas. Find a better fit.
Some gardens require a lot of work, some gardens are designed to take care of themselves.
Of my garden gurus, I would say roughly that Miranda Brooks’ gardens fall more on the first category and Piet Oudolf’s gardens to the second. My favorite style (and maintenance level) is somewhere between these two.
In Italy, we have two large beds for vegetables and herbs, and a row of potted herbs outside the kitchen door, plus additional bushes of rosemary here and there.
Rosemary does well here year around, and it creates purple flowers in the middle of the winter, when most of the garden is asleep.
To eat from the garden, we also grow plums and apricots and raspberries and blackberries and pears. This year, pears and blackberries have ripened early and I make a fruit salad every morning, while raspberries need some careful nursing.
Thanks to the previous residents, we have several fig trees and a pomegranate tree that need principally no work yet they all produce a lot of fruit. Lilac trees and magnolias too, do well on their own and bloom beautifully in spring.
I also grow different types of roses along with grasses and perennials, such as stipa, lavender, hypericum, butterfly bush and Russian sage.
Jasmine grows along the gate. I think it is a nice welcome, and it smells so good you get addicted to it.
Having a good green base, I like a subtle palette of mostly purple, white and yellow flowers, with a little bit of peach and pale pink here and there.
Everything does not have to bloom, though. Shades of green feel vital and inspiring, and the lack of color bursts makes you focus on the structure and textures of the landscape.
In my mini garden in Helsinki this year: just some Dark Dancer clover in sink pots outside the French balcony, along with a bush a lavender (that did not do well this year, so I took it with me to Italy let it settle in the more suitable Mediterranean climate).
If I had a real garden in Helsinki, I would make a cozy corner for lounging.
The first plants would include peach peonies. They do well in fresh Nordic weathers and they are just so beautiful in June.
What is your totem flower?