The Passionate Gardener and The Springtime Garden
Lorraine Icke, owner of The Passionate Gardener in West Peckham, really is passionate. Her business employs around 13 gardeners (called Passionellas), along with Lorraine herself and her partner Dipu. Not only do they design and create the most magnificent outdoor spaces using entirely organic methods, but they also help people to manage and take care of their own gardens once the initial work is done. They make gardeners out of everyone and spread a lot of happiness doing so.
insideKENT spoke to Lorraine about her business and her love of springtime gardens and nature in general.
Whilst the benefit of wintry months is that there are no weeds, it can also mean that people tend to stay indoors a lot rather than tend to their gardens. And just because there are no weeds that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get outside and enjoy the fresh air, even if you’re just turning over soil or preparing the garden for the springtime. It’s not only the garden that benefits; you do too. It’s so good for you to get out even if it’s just for an hour a day – it increases your well being significantly. It will make you feel happy, and in the darker months that’s important.
Now that March has arrived, that hard winter’s work will stand you in good stead. But it’s not too late if you have left the garden to its own devices; you can always set things right again.
The first job to do when springtime comes is to get the weeding done. From having no weeds at all in the winter, you’ll suddenly find that they’ve all decided to make an appearance come March time. The good news is, as long as we haven’t had too cold a winter and the ground is soft, those weeds will pluck out easily. It might be cold on your knees though!
You might think this is crazy, but I still plant tulip bulbs at this time of year. You can get them so cheaply, and putting them in now is absolutely fine. I’ve just put 2,000 tulip bulbs in and I had some of our guests help out [Lorraine and Dipu also run Samsara, a holistic retreat for wellbeing that includes yoga. Not only that, but they have a shepherds hut in their grounds where people can stay entirely off grid for as long as they need]. Putting bulbs in late just means that the flowers will be staggered – they’ll come up when they’re ready rather than at the ‘right time’. Next year they will all catch up with each other and be back on track. Really you can plant them whenever you want, as long as it’s after the first frost.
If your garden is looking a little bleak after winter, there is one plant which gives such utter joy and that’s the hellebore, otherwise known as the Christmas rose. If you want them in your home, just cut them right by the stem and put them in a bowl of water with candles rather than in a vase. I’ve also planted alliums which flower in May. These are great plants because the bees love them, and the big ones can grow bigger than a four year old child!
As for vegetables… I grow celery, rocket, beetroot, lettuce (I have about 20 different varieties growing), onions, courgette, squash, pumpkin, corn, cucumber, and chard – because it’s just so luminously beautiful and is great in salads. Grow what you are going to eat, not what you think you should grow just because. Don’t waste it. If you’re not going to eat it, don’t grow it; use the space for more flowers which will nourish the soul.
Now, what soil type do you have? You might not know, and I’ll be honest; it doesn’t really matter. Although some plants thrive in certain soils, I like to just plant and see what happens. Nature is amazing and will find a way to survive; it’s very hard to kill plants off and if something doesn’t work, just try something else. Gardening is about experimenting and making your space how you like it. Something that can often work well is light coloured plants in a dark area; it really brightens the garden up.
In our own garden, we have a tree of love. Our guests can sit under it for as long as they like, it’s a bit like a hug with the way the branches fold out and around. They tie ribbons on the tree and make a wish and it’s a calming space. Not everyone is going to have the space for this, but if you can make room for at least a little sanctuary space then you know you always have somewhere to go.
It’s also good to look after the birds and insects in your garden. Springtime isn’t just when the plants wake up, it’s when all of nature wakes up. So you can make sure you have some wild patches of garden for the bees, butterflies and insects. They won’t come to a neat and tidy garden. And for the birds you can put out food on tables or make or buy wooden feeders. Just let them all come; they’re a joy to watch but we need them too.
Even if you do nothing else when your plants are blooming, even if you’re not feeling like gardening, just come and talk to the plants, say thank you for their beauty. It works. Stroke them. It will make you feel better. Nature is marvelous medicine.