As National Gardening Week approaches (30 April – 6 May) and the weather has improved (slightly), now is the perfect time to get outside and channel your inner Titchmarsh. But for city dwellers, creating a leafy paradise in the middle of an urban jungle can sometimes seem like an unachievable task.
Step up Michael Coley, a pro when it comes to transforming city spaces, who – ahead of the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show – will be exhibiting a bespoke garden he’s designed on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support. The garden itself is inspired by the importance of legacy donations to Macmillan, which receives almost a third of all funding through gifts left in wills.
Here, the South East London-based garden designer gives his top tips on how to add character to any urban garden:
1. Planning is key
I always describe designing a small urban garden like a game of Tetris. You have a list of essentials and it's all about fitting them into the garden in the best possible way.
2. Look for the sun
In a small garden, the spot where the sun is shining at 6pm on a Friday in July is the most important part – so whatever your design is, it's basically got to revolve around that golden spot.
3. Don't be afraid to be bold
Don't think that just because you have a small space all you can do is put a 50cm flower bed around the outside of the area you’re designing. Break up the space with planting jutting out on to pathways – that way your journey through even the smallest of gardens becomes interesting.
4. Less is more
I try to keep my material selection down to three – that way the space is much more harmonious and less cluttered.
5. Incorporate self-seeding plants like foxgloves
These will fill holes and create their own planting plan without you having to lift a finger. There is a lot to be said for just letting certain plants do their own thing. Nature will find a balance and, if you keep the edges under control, you've got a low maintenance garden that has created itself.
6. Seek out structure
Planting trees gives any garden good vertical character and really helps to create the framework for a garden.
Michael Coley will be at the RHS Chatsworth Flower Show from 6 – 10 June exhibiting his bespoke garden on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support. For more information, visit www.macmillan.org.uk/donate/gifts-in-wills