National Gardening Week
Today brings the start of National Gardening Week - a time to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and discover how we can engage with it through gardening, enjoying the multitude of benefits that it brings. Whilst a beautifully curated rose garden or allotment full of homegrown vegetables may remain a pipe dream for many, there is no reason you can’t work on green projects within a smaller space, and in this blog post we’re going to explore some of these available opportunities.
The benefits of gardening
Did you know that working your green thumb has been proven to have some pretty amazing effects on the body and mind? For example, a 2006 study has shown that gardening could reduce the risk of dementia by 36%, being exposed to garden soil can strengthen your immune system and simply being outside in the sunshine (don’t forget your suncream!) increases your levels of Vitamin D, leading to an increase of calcium which makes your bones stronger. Studies have also been done on the restorative effects that gardening can have on our mental health, and it is suggested that depression and stress can also be combated by gardening. With such a plethora of opportunity to introduce some natural growth into your life, you absolutely can begin to reap the benefits of gardening in a smaller space, even with only a couple of backyard pots to play with - windowsills can be utilised for smaller spaces!
Deciding what to grow
Whatever you choose to grow will be determined by the benefits that you want to experience and the size of the area you can dedicate to it, but rest assured there will be something for every space! Even with a small patio/yard (and even without) it is still possible to engage with your green fingers and grow something green... or something red, purple, orange… Plus, depending on what you choose to grow, you may even be able to eat your efforts!
key plant and flower benefits
The main benefits and reasons for choosing specific plants and flowers can normally be broken down into the following categories:
From bold and beautiful dahlia blossoms to the delicate petals of peonies, the outstanding beauty of many plants is a grower’s primary reason for choosing to cultivate them, and with such a diverse collection of flowers and seeds available for purchase there is undoubtedly a favourite flower for everyone just waiting to be discovered. If your favourite colour is yellow, why not try growing some sunflowers from seed, or planting daffodil bulbs in preparation for next year.
Second only to beauty, the fragrance of flowers and plants is another primary consideration when deciding what to grow. Whilst rose is undoubtedly the most famous fragrance of all flowers, the more delicate scents of sweet pea and honeysuckle are also very appealing, and lavender and chamomile flowers are not only highly perfumed but known for their benefits regarding sleep too! Aside from flowers, there is also a huge variety of fragrant herbs that can be grown in very little space - some popular choices are basil, sage and coriander.
Perhaps flavour is not something you would immediately consider when deciding which flowers you’d like to cultivate, but thanks to an increasing trend around the world adorning your foods with edible flowers is becoming the norm, and luckily there are many different varieties to choose between! From peppery nasturtium flowers and citrusy begonia blossoms to put in your salad, to the highly perfumed petals of rose and violet (perfect atop a cake or summer pudding), we are just beginning to explore the possibilities of edible flowers. But please, do your own research and be confident in what you are growing and its safety when eaten, some gardening websites have dedicated sections regarding edible flowers which can be a great source of information and inspiration. And let’s not forget that there are all manner of different vegetables (and even some fruits) that can be grown on a smaller scale - there isn’t much that can match the satisfaction of eating a homegrown salad that you have just picked fresh from your yard.
Whilst choosing what to grow is determined largely by our own personal preferences and the benefits that we want to gain, it is always a good idea to consider how we can benefit more lives than just our own. Inviting wildlife into your garden via the plants and flowers you choose to grow is massively beneficial to all; not only do you get to see beautiful species of bees, butterflies and bugs that perhaps you weren’t already familiar with, but you are providing a vital source of food for many of these insects. In a time where lots of our natural land is being flattened in favour of retail or housing developments and delicate ecosystems are being destroyed, keeping just a couple of butterfly and bee-friendly plants on your patio can form a lifeline for some buglife, and there are options to grow in all sizes of container. Sweet william and common jasmine are just a couple of Bee-Friendly approved plants, and the highly fragrant and beautiful blooms of buddleja are a firm favourite for butterflies, of which some cultivars can be grown with success in a pot.
Inspiration for your small spaces
Now that we’ve looked at some of the reasons that might help you decide what you want to grow, let’s look at some ideas to help bring your small space to life!
Ideas for a windowsill
Herbs are excellent candidates for windowsill growing. They take up little room and are generally easy to grow. Seeds are cheap and there are many different varieties to choose from. Depending on what type of food you enjoy, you could also choose to grow herbs that compliment that cuisine. For example;
- Love Italian food? Why not grow your own basil for a fragrant punch, perfect for making your own pesto or freshly torn on top of pizzas and pasta dishes
- If Eastern cuisine is more your thing, grow some zesty coriander. The leaves are delicious when sprinkled into curries, and the roots can be used to make an authentic Thai green curry paste!
- Mint is a popular herb throughout many cultures, although it is surely enjoyed best when freshly picked and served in a sauce over new potatoes
- Parsley pairs perfectly with garlic and mushroom dishes, and is utterly delightful when chopped finely and paired with other aromatic herbs in a Middle-Eastern grain salad, tabouleh
- Chives give a milder onion flavour than their full size relatives, and are perfect for adding a little bit to almost any dish. This fragrant herb can also be used to make chive butter, perfect for many fish dishes.
Pea shoots are easy to grow and are great for adding a bite of sweet, pea flavour to salads, stir fries, sandwiches and other dishes. All you need are some dried marrowfat peas from the supermarket, some compost and a small container to grow them in - plastic tubs that mushrooms/strawberries come in are perfect, if they don't have drainage holes just punch a couple out. Simply fill your container with an inch or two of compost, sprinkle the dried peas on top in a well-filled (but not overcrowded) layer, sprinkle another centimetre of compost on top and water thoroughly. Place your container on a windowsill and water when necessary, hopefully you will start to see shoots within a week - and they will be ready to harvest within a couple more! To pick, pinch off the shoots from just above the bottom set of leaves, this should allow for a second growth.
Sprouting veg is becoming a popular addition to trendy salads and cold dishes, and is another crop that's perfect for growing in small spaces. Try growing mustard and radish sprouts for a punchy kick, or broccoli and cabbage sprouts for a more subtle, but equally delicious bite.
Salad leaves can be grown with success in small containers, and regular picking will ensure a continuous crop throughout the season. There are so many different varieties available you will find yourself spoilt for choice, why not try something new this year?
Check out our Pinterest board!
Now that you've been inspired by some ideas for a windowsill - if you want to dream a little bigger then head over to Pinterest and take a look at our board, Gardening in Small Spaces. It's full of tons of great ideas for small-scale gardening, including instructions for herb and sprout-growing mentioned above, inspiration for edible flowers (and the delicious dishes you can create with them!), flowers that are particularly attractive to pollinators and much more. Take a look now and see what you're inspired to grow this National Garden Week!
Bringing the outdoors in!
If you love the scents and beauty of the great outdoors but aren't always able to enjoy gardening - why not bring some of the wonderful fragrances of the outdoors into your home? Here at Wax Lyrical we are celebrating our 10 year partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society and all the fantastic home fragrance products that we produce for them, where classic botanical illustrations are combined with modern design and luxury fragrance to create this best-selling range, all from right here in our factory in the English Lakes.
RHS Fragrant Garden comprises a collection of true-to-life classic floral fragrances, from sweet Wild Honeysuckle and Sweet Pea, bright Freesia and Violet, through timeless Rose and English Lavender and a further four fragrances - there is certainly a favourite for everyone in this wonderful collection.
We offer a wide variety of products across these 9 fragrances, including our original wax-filled glasses and tins, reed diffusers, room mists and now wax-filled ceramic vessels - adorned with colourful botanical illustrations from the RHS Lindley Library - so you certainly won’t struggle to find a floral fragrance you love in a product that suits your lifestyle and your home.