Hooray! My favourite part of May is here - Chelsea Flower Show week!!!! When I really got into interiors, I also found myself really getting into plants and flowers. A pot of flowers always adds to a room as the finishing touch, and I guess if the inside of your home is really important to you - why wouldn't you want the outside to be just as fab? I started really taking notice of what was growing in peoples gardens when I walked past, and poured over all the details that made up bouquets in the florist or supermarket. When I visited Chelsea Flower Show in 2012 and saw Nikki Tibbles' window box displays I was HOOKED. Her displays were just so beautiful, I wanted my outside space to look just like that! Nikki is still my absolute favourite florist (her Instagram account is worth a follow for the most opulent displays she creates @nikkitibbleswildatheart), although luckily I didn't discover her before my wedding otherwise I would have literally blown the whole wedding budget having her flowers everywhere.
At first I didn't know anything about plants, now over the years I've learnt a few names and a bit about what is easy to grow/what isn't. The thing is, gardening is HARD. You have to really know what you are doing. Plants aren't cheap and they can easily die on you if you don't use the right kind of compost/mulch/bone-feed/top-soil or if you over-water/under-water or if you keep the plant in not enough sun/part shade/full sun depending on what it likes. They are also quite hard to identify due to the abundance of crazy names for them. So here is my guide of the the most stylish, instagramable summer flowers that you can plant whatever outside space you have, without (like me) being a gardening expert:
There are a multitude of bedding plants that you can buy at the garden centre or the DIY store in polystyrene boxes of 6, but you don't want a window box that looks like what they plant in a hanging basket on the high street - full of Trailing Petunias and Geraniums. Instead, mix Stocks (which smell amazing when the window is open) and Cosmos to add height, with beautiful Diascia or Nemesia to add width. All are cheap plants and look pretty and vintage. Use a multi-purpose or pot & container compost and water them daily, as rain won't do anything for potted plants on a window ledge.
For a balcony you can't beat a Hydrangea, full of colour with massive globe heads, and they come back every year! You can buy Hydrangea's pre-potted at all garden centres and DIY stores for about £15 for a decent sized plant. Stand your Hydrangea on your balcony so it is not in the sun all day, but also gets some shade, and water it heavily daily as they really wilt. Keep the dead heads on them through winter and cut them off just before the start of the next spring. If you re-pot your hydrangea be prepared that it may change colour depending on the acidity of the soil!
You can grow Roses on your balcony by purchasing a Patio Rose, which is like a small tree. Patio Roses provide an abundance of Roses both early and late summer and are pretty hardy - they won't die if you don't water it for a few days.
Pompom Dahlias are a new love for me after I spent a chilly 5am at New Covent Garden Flower Market buying them in bulk for a friends wedding the following day. They come in insanely bright colours and each petal folds over in a little tube! What i call 'standard' Dahlias (the not-so-interesting variety) are available widely, but for Pompoms you'd have to go to a larger/good quality garden centre.
PROPER BIT OF GARDEN
Tall, bright and extravagant, Delphiniums, Foxgloves and Lupins are hands down THE plants to have in a stylish garden. You can buy them now in garden centres in small pots for about £3 a plant. Put them in the ground and enjoy! They are really easy to grow and come back the following year (called 'perennials' in the gardening world). Foxgloves are really pretty but the leaves are quite ugly. Lupin leaves are much prettier. One thing to note is that these plants are labelled 'toxic', so if you have a child or a pet that eats anything it can get its hands on you may want to give these a wide birth.
Arguably the best you can get, David Austin Roses are full of intricate detail, and the range of full-bodied colours just beat all others. Most garden centres sell David Austin Roses but they don't come cheap. If you want one but can't afford it, buy one as a potted root when the summer is over for about £20, plant it and enjoy it next year.
You can buy Echinacia in small pots in the garden centre now for about £3. With their pink or purple leaves and big red noses they are like giant glamorous daises.
Alliums are part of the onion family and their bulbs smell like it aswell! These are in bloom around now so go to a large garden centre to by pots of sprouting bulbs to transfer in your garden.
Peonies are the most amazing flower - huge pale pink or hot pink heads with layers of ruffled petals, they are the go-to flower of the fashion pack. Peonies are available in the garden centre now to plant for about £7 a plant, but my personal experience is that they are really hard to grow. I've had one for 6 years that has never flowered! They also do not flower for a very long period at all, but they do make the most amazing cut flowers. Head to your local flower market to pick up a large cut bunch for about a tenner.
Chances are you've seen at least five Instagram pictures of someones front door surrounded by Wisteria by now. To buy a Wisteria tree you are looking at about £40-£50. They do give good value for money on the flip side, as they grow and cover large areas with their dangling purple heads when in bloom at this time of year. I did pick up a 'mini-wisteria' (which i didn't even know existed) this week in the garden centre that grows in a pot and cost £24. I'm sure i'll update its growing progress on Instagram like everyone else going forward!
To keep all plants in tip top shape buy plant food and feed the plants once every couple of weeks according to instructions.