Plants that will transform town gardens

Torbay Weekly

Spending too much time indoors while not wanting to get muddy, cold and wet has sent me a little bit stir crazy.

I keep coming up with half-baked ideas like only growing plants with local names like Dianthus Devon General or Cranmere Pool or the popular Torbay Palm.

I even thought of growing the biggest ever hosta, then only plants with a ‘Z’ in their name. All crazy ideas influenced by not getting out.

What it has done is make me think how fresh gardening can be if we want to be creative and what a healthy addition to anyone's lifestyle.

In a week where politics and cricket have conspired to lower the mood, planning the gardening year ahead has been an effective social prescription.

However, many people living in our local towns can be restricted for space which I see as a healthy challenge.

Let’s say you only have space around the size of 40ft/12m by 20ft/6m that you can fill with an array of interesting plants and flowers.

This can easily be mapped onto a blank page of A4 paper. I love drawing out the annual plan about this time of year even though younger family members enjoy humorously amending it throughout the year.

Whatever sunlight and water your area gets there are plants to provide interest and to enjoy looking after.

If you have an empty outdoor space, why not make it into an extension of the house for most of the year?

If you base it around some seating you are more likely to use it and enjoy it.

It will become a new space where you will be able to enjoy nature’s sights and sounds and of course scents.

In many town gardens, especially new builds there are patio areas as opposed to lawn so we are talking about filling pots, window boxes, tubs and using small or large shrubs.

You might want to have a theme such as ‘jungle’, ’nature’, ‘Mediterranean’ or simply just pretty the place up with colour.

Just planting one tub or pot will inevitably lead to another that you can add to over time.

Agapanthus, the striking African azure blue or white lily loves a pot, as does the reliable dahlia and the long-flowering, sweet-scented Nicotiana.

Buddleia will draw bees into the space and is easy to care for but needs a prune every year.

Bamboo in a pot provides shade and dappled light which is excellent near seating or a barbecue/

A jungle theme can incorporate exotic banana plants such as musa basjoo or Abyssinian banana, with immense crimson leaves as big as a man, or person of any gender of course.

Tree ferns would provide more height and shape among miniature-flowering azaleas and bright African marigolds.

Mediterranean shrubs like olives, bay trees and citrus plants can be dotted around among pots with handy culinary herbs.

Imagine the smugness levels when you are using rosemary stalks as kebab sticks.

I admit to having a fit of pretentiousness in this way on at least one occasion a few years ago.

Even if your space is shaded it can be a haven for plants and wildlife.

Camelias are colourful and bloom seemingly non-stop in season, clematis will flower and climb while hostas, roses and rhododendron provide 1950s-style glamour.

Of course, all these will need some quick and easy care and attention but this is where the mental wellbeing bit comes in given we are hardwired to look after things.

Some of the above will need wrapping in fleece for three months and pots will need a liquid feed possibly once a week.

A word of caution, though, pots are addictive and you could easily find yourself having 50 or 60 in no time.

But with it will come a whole new and enjoyable relaxing outdoor environment.