Confessions of a beginner gardener

Confessions of a beginner gardener

Green to gardening, Studio Home design blogger Julia Atkinson shares her forays into a hobby that has bloomed into ‘an obsession’.

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I have moved town every three years since I was 19 years old. And, while extremely house proud, the fact that I couldn’t stow my ‘garden’ in the back of my car meant that money and interest was channelled into art, transportable furniture and bed linen. 
So, when my fiancé and I moved into a lovely villa in Christchurch with the plan to stay long term, some unusual changes began to take place in me. I walked the edges of the garden beds, wishing they weren’t so boring, shrubby and predominantly native; they felt at odds with the character of the old house. The inherited veggie garden glared at me in its amazing, multi-tiered glory and I sighed, realising that I had no option but to do it justice by growing green things. I mean, I wanted it to look good even if we didn’t eat them (blasphemy!). 
My life-long urges to create spaces that were attractive to me started to leak into the backyard. I began to follow rambling English gardens on Instagram, New Zealand flower growers were next, and then I slid into Paper Plus and bought my first Yates Gardening Guide. Amateur gardeners beware… this is addictive for those after advice for specific regions! At 35 years old, my interest in gardening was finally sprouting! 
I mined the knowledge of family, dragging them straight out the back for ‘question time’. My vision for frothy herbaceous borders was tabled as I discovered my garden was simply too shady, but this just sparked more research! I banished tons of fashionable, spiky plants to other people’s gardens and hits were ordered on trees that were surplus to needs and created too much shade. I certainly couldn’t be accused of softly easing into this new hobby; I just skipped straight to landscape obsession. 
One year in and four seasons later, I have suffered losses balanced by great wins including my rambling wall of sweet peas parked in only three inches of soil! We actually eat from our veggie garden and I have used planter boxes positioned in the sun to coax up the bobbing heads of dahlias.


Takeaway Tips for Beginner Gardeners

+ Read the labels on seedlings you buy. Most plants need plenty of sun to reach their best! 

+ The gardening aisle of your local hardware store is a mecca of advice. I have learnt so much in regard to my options for fertilisers and pest control from the staff that man those areas. 

+ Water. Don’t design your masterpiece without planning and putting in your watering system. 

+ I have found Sweet Peas to be a friendly and hugely rewarding first foray into flower growing. Buy packs of seedlings from garden centres and mix colour and scent to climb up walls or twist down from baskets. Always dead head to keep them producing more flowers!

+ Trade Me is a great spot for affordable seeds and plants. 

+ Never handle potting mix without gloves, and even cover your mouth and nose if it’s dry: Legionnaires’ disease is the real deal! 

+ Weed regularly, and explore mulch options as this really helps! 


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Nice buns

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