Winter is ending and the promise of our spring gardens awaits us with anticipation. I planted hundreds of bulbs last year in the rear garden and in containers, and when the weather eases, a kaleidoscope of colours will outperform any dark days throughout the spring months, nourishing the senses and inspiring the soul.
I have many projects earmarked for this year which will see the garden develop further and to begin I will be focusing on two areas, sweet peas, and adding to the wildlife pond.
I adore fragrant Sweet Peas and they are a plant that keeps giving and giving. There is flexibility in their sowing time with both autumn and spring months ideal. The difference between the two sowing periods is in the eventual flowering time, with autumn sown seeds flowering earlier than spring sown ones.
There is different advice around preparing the seed itself due the outer coat of the seed being tough. Some recommend soaking the seed in water to soften the coat, some say that nicking the seed helps, and others recommend doing nothing at all. Last year I nicked my seeds and had excellent germination results and so I will be doing the same again this year. Nicking a seed is simply taking away a small area of the seed’s tough outer coat to expose the inside of the seed allowing water to be absorbed immediately.
Once I have completed this I will sow the seeds in root trainers. Root trainers have grooves that run vertically down the container and when the roots form, they grow down the groove creating strong and healthy roots. Another fantastic option though is to repurpose toilet roll cylinders which are a perfect size and biodegradable.
I have a section of fence in the rear garden next to my seating area and this is where I will plant out my sweet peas. Having them next to the seating area allows me to benefit from their fragrance and colour when sitting down. I have made a grid system out of long bamboo canes that leans against the fence and the plants will grow up, this creating a wall of sweet peas, which is not only space efficient but a beautiful spectacle.
Wild Life Pond
Towards the end of last year I started focusing more on the area around the wildlife pond. I introduced a ramp for access to the pond, created a wildlife wall into the surrounding fence and planted some evergreen Carex grasses below. I planted some Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs amongst the Carex too for some planting design interest.
The next stage for the wildlife pond is to surround it with planting, specifically grasses. The grasses will introduce some movement to the design as they will sway and flex against the solid structure of the container pond. The pond is made out of rusted corten steel so I have chosen the grass Carex buchananii ‘Red Rooster’ for its similar reddish-bronze leaves. An option could be to plant green grasses to contrast the colour palette, however, I would like to experiment and see if there is emphasised impact in having two similar colours but two different textures.
In order to do this though I need to build a custom planter to surround two sides of the pond. My timber of choice in this garden is larch as it has excellent outdoor properties which importantly provides longevity in an area of central Scotland with high rainfall.
The shape of this container is an ‘L’ shape and my first move is to create the base shape using two pieces of timber, securing them together and then screwing batons on to each of the corners. These batons will be slightly shorter than the width of the timber so that I do not see the tops of them when the container is filled. Their purpose is to provide anchorage for the side panels of the container.
Each side panel is made individually starting with the ends and then moving on to the longer sections. It is important to note that you will want one panel to overlap the other at each corner so as to create secure right angles. Double check your measurements before sawing any timber.
Remember to drill plenty of drainage holes into the base, add some lining and fill with a blend of peat free compost and grit.
I would have preferred to have planted the grasses out in a zig-zag formation so that they would have plenty of room for growth, however, as space is limited I have planted them further apart in a straight line. I look forward to seeing how it looks in the summer!
This method for creating your own custom container is very DIY friendly, great fun and requires minimal tools. If you have some suitable spare timber lying around, then recycling this into your garden will be well worth it.
Andy Peasgood is a Principal Dancer with Scottish Ballet and a keen gardener. His performance career is fast paced and he finds balance in the garden with particular interests in planting, wildlife and design. You can follow Andy’s progress as he builds ‘A Garden from Scratch’ in his regular column in Scotland Grows magazine and keep up to date with him on his Instagram feed.