Top spring space-saving planting tips

April 27th, 2014 Posted In: Gardening know how

I’m one of the bloggers at Garlic & Sapphire, the Sarah Raven blog, so I get invitations to Sarah Raven Open Days. And I’m always on the lookout for planting tips that make the most of space, time or money.

Table flowers at Sarah Raven

If your garden is short of flowers, then just one or two stems in a collection of different-sized vases makes a big impression for a small outlay.

I called this blog ‘the middle sized garden’ because people with town courtyards refer to my garden as big, while those with sprawling country acres consider it ‘tiny’. But space is definitely an issue –  in under quarter of an acre, I’m not sure where I would put a greenhouse, for example. And great swathes or ‘drifts’ of any plant aren’t possible unless I were to be very much more disciplined as a gardener than I am.

Tulips and lettuce

The number one space-saver (and also time-saver) that caught my eye at the Sarah Raven Open Day was under-planting tulips with lettuces. The frilly leaves of the lettuce look great under tulips and covering the earth means fewer weeds and less weeding (yay!). There were two kinds of lettuce-and-tulip combinations: lettuces in amongst the tulips and alternate rows of lettuce and tulips. Both looked great.

lettuce and tulips

The fresh green frills of lettuce show off the ice-cream colours of the tulips.

The lettuce varieties seem to have been chosen to echo the tulip colours, like these pinks and reds below. I would be interested to know whether being planted amongst the tulips protects the lettuce from pigeons – my main problem in growing salad is that the pigeons strip the beds bare.

tulip and lettuce

Here Red Batavia lettuce echoes a dark pink tulip – it’s planted closely between the bulbs.

tulips and lettuces

tulips and lettuces in neat rows – a lovely way of mixing food and flowers

Lettuces and hearts-ease viola is another sweet combination and would look great in pots or window boxes (the violas are hard to see unless you’re close up).

Viola and lettuce

Viola Hearts-ease, which is also edible, with lettuce

Use herbs to create shape and colour in flower beds

Another good food-and-flower combination – useful for anyone who doesn’t have space for a herb garden – was to interplant herbs in flower beds. I especially liked bronze fennel and roses, which I’m going to try with my dahlias. My parsley also gets quite majestic and frothy, so I might try interplanting parsley in the flower beds, too.

Rose foliage, box, fennel and tulips

This combines pink-tipped emerging rose foliage with red tulips and the feathery fronds of bronze fennel – a lovely colour combination.

tulips and fennel

A closer look at the emerging rose and bronze fennel foliage – the tulips are nearly over but the combination of reds is very pretty

 More planting ideas…

Not a space-saving tip, but a neat idea – turn your obelisks upside down to create a more open space for climbers. Here a big chunk of euphorbia wulfenii hosts an upturned obelisk. This does show how good it looks to mass plants together – but I have a feeling that this many euphorbia is a ‘big garden’ planting scheme rather than a middle-sized one, unless you’re prepared to dig all the euphorbia up when it’s over and re-plant with something else. But that is not a middle-sized attitude -we always go for the quick and easy ways to garden, and digging up borders twice a year is neither quick nor easy.

Euphorbia and upturned obelisk

Euphorbia wulfenii in a lovely ‘swathe’ with an upturned obelisk.

And finally, if you do have the space or the self-discipline for a ‘swathe’, I thought these cardoons looked very impressive.


Cardoons used as edging to the tulip-and-lettuce garden

And, on the way home, the woods were filled with wild garlic, and all the roads were lined with it, so we couldn’t resist a very small spot of foraging. Posy’s outfit seems perfectly colour-coordinated for woodland activities…

Wild garlic

Foraging for wild garlic in the woods – there was so much.

The next Sarah Raven Open Day is Tuesday 3rd June. There are more details here.




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