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Gardening is good for you. Here, Kitten Grayson Flowers share their tips on planting, potting and embracing the therapeutic process.
Displayed on my mother’s fridge is a circular magnet the size of a one-pound coin which reads: “I garden to keep from screaming.” I have never paid this woefully kitsch kitchen addition much heed before, but now I find myself not only quoting the tawdry tondo but acting on it. And so, to the garden…
There is an abundance of reasons that people turn to gardening during the course of their lives. Whether a budding gardener from a young age or something of a late bloomer, many who have taken up horticulture as a hobby have done so for its therapeutic benefits. The healing power of nature (which another neighbouring magnet affirms) is just mighty for our wellbeing – it’s also a novel form of escapism from the everyday.
Embracing our green-thumbed potential, we called on Kitten Grayson Flowers and asked its team to share their tips for turning a simple space into a blossoming sanctuary. The studio’s newly launched flower delivery scheme – for every bunch of British flowers sold, £5 will be donated to NHS appeals – is also on hand if your definition of “gardening” doesn’t stem far beyond flowers to vase (though the Kitten Grayson team does throw in a few suggestions for how to elevate your floral arrangements).
One misconception about gardening is…
That it’s for a certain age group. There has been a stigma for so long that gardening is boring, but anyone can enjoy it, and it’s so important for our health and wellbeing. Gardening is a universal language. You can learn so much from each other, too; a 15-year-old may have gardening tips for a 95-year-old and vice versa. It’s an amazing world that welcomes everyone.
We’re new to gardening. Tell us five tips for planting flowers, herbs and greens.
1. Start with annuals. For flowers, sow sweet peas, cosmos, cornflowers, marigolds, verbena (good for butterflies) and ammi. Most vegetables are also annuals – try peas, lettuce and pumpkins. 2. Look after your soil and the plants will look after themselves. 3. Try to follow the biodynamic calendar. This improves root strength and the overall resilience of plants. At KGF, we are really passionate about biodynamic growing. Follow the Biodynamic Association for advice. 4. Pick flowers and plants that you are really drawn to; when everything is in bloom you can be really proud of what you have created. Look at it as an ongoing work of art that improves and becomes more beautiful every year. 5. Really listen to the garden and its inhabitants, and connect to them. It’s important to send love to your outdoor space, the flowers, the trees, the plants, the birds and the insects. All of this biodiversity helps form the most perfect garden.
What do you think your houseplants say about you?
I tend to focus all my planting outside. I pick the flowers I grow for arrangements to bring the outside in. I do a lot of foraging and sow a lot from seed. However, I am planning on getting a ficus lyrata [fiddle leaf fig]; I have the perfect spot where it can get plenty of light. We’ll sing and listen to classical music together, and definitely a bit of Beyoncé.
Any advice on matching flowers and plants to your home’s aesthetic?
Creating seasonal arrangements is a way of keeping things fresh and in tune with the changing seasons, of maintaining a conversation between the indoors and out. Look at the colour palette of your room and any artwork and choose flowers that work well with these. Using different varieties of flowers, in a range of colour hues and heights, and in a selection of vessels, gives a completely different look to a room as the light changes during the year. You might choose a heavier, ceramic jug in the winter and more delicate glass vases in the summer.
Succulents have become a mainstay in interior design. Why do you think that is?
Probably because they’re quite easy to maintain and have lovely tones and textures.
Hanging baskets: where can we find some elegant options and what should we plant in them?
Trailing geraniums are a winner. You can get some wonderful varieties. Nasturtiums are also beautiful – and edible, too. Nkuku sells some lovely hanging baskets.
Tips for turning a simple space – say, a balcony – into a blossoming sanctuary…
Cosmos are wonderful to grow for a continuous supply of flowers. Keep deadheading them and you’ll have an abundance of blooms that are also bee-friendly. A climbing jasmine and rose is a great addition to a balcony. Geraniums and ferns are wonderful and grow well in pots.
How can we get creative with dried flowers?
We consider it to be one of life’s simplest pleasures to watch the transformation of flowers at home. A picked or bought bunch of rosy hydrangea, placed in an empty vase, will dry out beautifully in a matter of days. Helichrysum, hops, sea lavender and Amaranthus work equally well. We love dried seasonal arrangements of flowers, grasses or herbs either simply placed in a jug or hung in bunches from the ceiling. They can go on to be used in cooking afterwards or saved and sprayed for Christmas wreaths later in the year.
With an arrangement of dried flowers, it’s always good to use one or two varieties of different heights that would naturally grow together in the wild. Don’t aim for perfect symmetry, but natural balance and harmony.
What’s the fastest way to create a stunning arrangement?
Use a small collection of bud vases or glasses and have a play with heights along the centre of a table. Stick to three varieties of flowers for these and cut them at different heights to add a sense of movement. Using a limited number of flowers in abundance creates a sense of consistency and impact with a distinctive seasonal thread. It is simple and striking.
Match up a plant or flower to each of the following places: 1) windowsill, 2) fireplace and 3) bedside table.
1. Geraniums; they love light and warm areas. 2. I like to build scenes around fireplaces. At the moment, cow parsley is growing everywhere. Combine it with spring branches in different vases around the fireplace. 3. A little bud vase of narcissi and cow parsley for a little bit of airiness.
What flower-focused Instagram accounts should we scroll to for inspiration?
Follow Charlie McCormick (@mccormickcharlie) for glorious dahlias or Alexander Hoyle (@alexander.hoyle) for beautiful garden design. Forde Abbey (@fordeabbey) is a magical place and the images from its gardens are breathtaking, while The Green Gallery (@the_greengallery) celebrates the beauty of nature. And, of course, you can follow us @kittengraysonflowers.
Any apps you’d recommend for bettering our green-thumbed endeavours?
I have the Biodynamic Gardening Calendar app. It has the moon calendar in it, along with tips on what you should be doing each month.
How do we prevent our chosen buds from perishing at our fingertips?
Always think about what your garden needs from you to stay healthy and resilient, while looking after the soil and tuning into nature’s rhythms when sowing and planting. No matter how small your garden is, there’s room to create the homes and habitats that will encourage biodiversity. Make sure to buy or make the best compost possible, so you can give back to the soil what it has given to you in flowers.
The best bit of flower-related advice you’ve ever received is…
Always give back to Mother Nature what she’s given to you.
Do you think gardening is a therapeutic process?
A connection to nature and gardens is very important, and the connection people have to their gardens is important to encourage. Gardening is incredibly meditative and therapeutic, helping to keep me calm in this unsettling time. A small form of escapism from the everyday. Being outside in nature is incredibly good for our well-being. When we see something we love or feel grateful for something we release oxytocin, the happy hormone.
It is the best feeling when you put your hands into the soil and know you are helping things grow. It’s not only having a connection to the garden, it is like having a connection to our planet.
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