Grass roots

It only takes one gloriously sunshiny spring day to get us outdoors, enthused and green-fingered-like, even if we are that common breed of have-a-go-gardeners, just as likely to kill a plant as to cultivate it. Luckily, the horticultural gods have blessed us with more than a few days of unseasonably good weather, to coincide with National Gardening Week. Opening today, A Little Chaos is NGW’s official film, starring Kate Winslet as the passionate landscape gardener, Sabine De Barra, whose talents win her one esteemed assignment: to help build the grand gardens at Versailles. While we may not have De Barra’s planting prowess, we’re cultivating our own little chaos in the shape of a smart city garden, and we not too proud to admit, we could use a little help.

Brand new, Frances Tophill’s First Time Gardener is our botanical bible, designed to make overhauling that newly-inherited patch a lot less overwhelming. Beautifully illustrated and really rather accessible, Tophill takes us from basic plant care to planning our own Eden in easy steps. ‘But I only have a balcony!’ we hear you cry. Here to prove you can get your gardening gloves on, no matter how small your outside space, local lady, Martine Davis from the Balcombe Street Window Box Company offers her tips for the tiniest of terraces.

1. Use a few small, strategically placed pots. If you have a square space, place the pots in the corners. Rectangular troughs fill the gaps and work really well against a wall. Keep the planting to a theme – a couple of colours that either complement each other, or contrast.

2. The use of mirrors in the garden is a great way to create the illusion of space. Make sure you hang any mirrors opposite something you’d like to reflect.

3. Lighting is very important too, especially in the evenings. It can add drama and ambience. Why not put lighting in the pots?

4. Outdoor wall art can add life and interest to a plain wall or fence.

5. If you have a balcony with a railing, use it to hang balcony pots or boxes, which will save the ground space. This way you can have some colour to look at and still manage to put a chair and table there.

Planting trends this season: We are still in spring so primroses, pansies and violas work well. Erysimum is a nice, tall flowering plant to make a statement in a pot or window box. For the evergreen fan, a cone or ball-shaped buxus plant looks clean and contemporary. Plant alone or surround with violas, pansies or primroses.