The Art of Gardening
Blogger and amateur horticulturalist Kelli Boyles on being creative in her Antrim garden
Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, keep fit and be creative. For me, the outdoors provides a sort of open canvas to experiment with colour, shape and texture as I grow plants ranging from edibles to those that attract bees, birds and insects.
I’m not sure how my interest in gardening started, but I recall as a child visiting my grandparent’s house and being fascinated by their vegetable plot. I would help dig up potatoes, and was bemused by a rubber snake they kept in their fruit bushes to deter birds. Best of all was going on slug safari to capture slimy plant-crunching creatures.
Later, as an adult, I loved two things: being outdoors and being creative. That is how my interest in gardening began to sprout.
Like many people I began with trips to the garden centre, buying plants on offer, and randomly planting them around the garden. Later I began experimenting with topiary on trees and hedges, as well as growing my own plants from seed. I loved seeing seeds transform from tiny green threads to eventually flowering.
Then I decided I should grow things to eat, so I researched the easiest vegetables to grow and began with potatoes, carrots, courgette, salads and herbs. Before I knew it I was digging up half the garden, sections at a time, for flower and for vegetable growing. Next I began mixing veg and flowers together in borders, and growing vegetables in containers at the back door.
The biggest challenge in doing anything outdoors in Northern Ireland is, of course, the weather – particularly the rain and the wind. I have successes and failures, but it’s all enjoyable. This year in particular there are hundreds if not thousands of slugs and snails in the garden that cause havoc. They quickly devour plants as a simple midnight snack.
Growing organically, I generally revert to catching and disposing of them. Other pests like greenfly or blackfly can often be deterred by planting marigolds or keeping an eye out and removing them before they colonise.
I also grow all sorts of flowers. I enjoy creating flower borders like a painter might enjoy creating art on canvas. I often grow from seed as I refuse to pay £10 (or more) for a plant that anyone can grow from a 99p seed pack. It’s so easy to grow sunflowers, nasturtium, marigold, poppy and a range of other plants.
Getting outdoors and getting your hands dirty is the best part for me. Personally, I think digging and planting is therapeutic and a real stress buster after a long day’s work. It’s rewarding watching plants germinate from seed and grow over the summer months.
I find myself outside in the evenings inspecting progress, rearranging plants, deadheading (pulling off old flowers), weeding, slug hunting and just sipping a cup of tea while birds flutter and the bees buzz. It is the perfect way to de-stress and enjoy nature.
And what great satisfaction it is to harvest edibles like courgette, tomato and turnip for your own summer salad. Last summer my grocery bill was greatly reduced as I grew edibles that kept me going into autumn. Things like kale, chard and leek are so easy to grow and packed with nutrients.
When friends and family come to the garden, I hear comments like, ‘Wow, look at the colour in the garden!’ (referring to the giant purple delphiniums) or, on the flipside, ‘Why would you want to grow things, isn’t it too much work?’. Many people think of gardening as a chore, whereas I think of it as a fantastic way to keep fit, utilise my creative energy, and enjoy the fruits of my labour.
Maintaining a garden is like having your own little paradise right on your doorstep. As a way to get to know other people with an interest in gardening I began blogging. Two years later, I have a circle of enthusiasts from England, Scotland, Ireland and further afield who are always on hand to provide support and advice.
Blogging provides a diary of my efforts and it’s a great way to share learning and make new contacts. You’re very welcome to follow my trials and tribulations through via my Kelli's Northern Ireland Garden blog.