Urban Flowers explores the many ways in which you can bring colour and interest to a small city garden, whatever its location and whatever your taste. Garden designer Carolyn Dunster demonstrates hundreds of ways to make your outdoor space bloom. By using her colour-themed planting recipes, her charming projects, and a palette of reliable urban plants, you too can turn the least promising corner into a thriving habitat for plants and wildlife.
Carolyn Dunster is a garden designer, florist and London gardener. She co-designed a small cutting garden at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show in 2016 which won the People’s Choice Award. Here, we have a Q & A with Carolyn and a chance to win 1 of 3 copies of Urban Flowers.
Do you have any tips on how to create a pretty outdoor dining space in a courtyard garden?
In a small courtyard I would suggest using tables and chairs for dining that can be brought out when the weather is fine but easily folded and stored away during the winter. The Bistro range from Garden Trading is perfect and I have a small café style table and chairs that I bring out as soon as the sun starts shining. My own courtyard is filled with planters and pots along with annual flowers that have self-seeded in the gravel underfoot (picture on page 10&11). When I sit there, despite being able to hear the hum of the traffic from the nearby streets, I can allow myself to dream that I am somewhere far from the mayhem of the city.
It can be a struggle to keep plants alive in pots, do you have any advice?
The main reason that plants in pots fail to thrive is water: either too much or too little. Plants in pots dry out very quickly when the weather is warm. Ideally they should be watered gently twice a day in the morning and evening. If you are not able to do this I would suggest making your own drip bottles (see page 36) using discarded water bottles adapted with custom made porous ceramic cones or invest and install a simple irrigation system. Bare soil dries out quickly so use moss or gravel to cover the top of the compost in your pots and if a pot has completely dried out and the plant has wilted stand it in a bucket of cold water for 24 hours. To stop your plants becoming waterlogged when there is too much rain good drainage in your pots is key. Add some horticultural grit, small stones, of terracotta chippings and make sure there are good drainage holes in the bottom of your pots.
What plants are particularly good to create an all-year round garden that doesn’t look bare in winter?
For year round structure and colour I rely on small evergreen shrubs. Choisya ternata (Mexican Orange Blossom) keeps its shape really well and can be grown in pots and clipped once a year along with Buxus sempervirens (Box), Taxus baccata (yew) and some of the small viburnums – I love Viburnum tinus for its year round qualities – its permanent glossy green leaves, early white flower heads and dark black fruits later in the year. For a more relaxed look Ferns and grasses also make great year round displays and are a perfect green foil for seasonal annual flowers.
How can a small balcony be best used for a practical outside space?
If you want to sit on your balcony you probably want to create some privacy and this is best done by growing some evergreen climbers in deep pots strategically spaced around the edges. Once you have a framework in place you can introduce a series on clip-on balcony planters for some seasonal colour. On a small balcony I would restrict the number of containers and use a few large matching containers rather than lots of different small ones. Streamlining your pots and restricting the plant palette to no more than two or three colours results in a coherent thought-through look that is chic and elegant.
Do you have any tips on how to make cut flowers last longer?
Whether you pick flowers from your own garden, buy them from the local florist or the supermarket the key to prolonging their vase life is to keep the water scrupulously clean. Any bacteria in the water will kill cut flowers. If you can condition them beforehand you will also give them a better chance. This simply means re-cutting the stems to expose some new cells and sitting them in a deep bucket of very cold water in a cool place for as long as 24 hours if possible. Once they have had a deep long drink they are ready to be arranged. A drop of bleach in the water will help kill any germs and changing or refreshing the water daily will ensure their survival.
Urban Flowers by Carolyn Dunster is published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto Group
Terms and Conditions
- Entry into this competition is deemed acceptance of these terms and conditions
- Entrants must be at least 18 years of age and not employees of Garden Trading, The Quarto Group, their immediate families or anyone else connected with the business or promotion
- No automated, bulk, third party or consumer group entries are permitted
- Entrants must be residents of the UK
- Entrants can enter the competition once only
- Entry into the competition is valid from 31.03.2017 to 30.04.2017
- There are 3 prizes on offer only, consisting of 1 Urban Flowers Book. This prize is not exchangeable for cash or other products
- Full details on how to claim the prize will be provided to the winners upon notification that they have won
- The competition winners will be selected at random from all correct entries after the competition has closed
- The competition winners will be contacted via the email provided upon entry to the competition no later than 05.05.2017
- All reasonable effort will be made to contact the winner, however, if a winner has not claimed the prize within 15 days of notification a new winner will be selected and the previous winner will no longer be entitled to claim the prize
- Garden Trading's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
- The names of the winners will be available by sending a SAE to Urban Flowers Competition, The Marketing Team, Garden Trading, Carterton South Industrial Estate, Carterton, Oxfordshire, OX18 3EZ
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