s we gently ease ourselves out of lockdown, back gardens, roof gardens and balconies have suddenly become the most important spaces in our homes. Since Monday, we have been allowed to bring friends and family back into our lives, so long as we keep them strictly al fresco.
But what if your outdoor space is less urban oasis and more sad, neglected sick bay for dead and dying plants? A visit to the garden centre for some fresh life for borders and planters is clearly in order but the quickest, easiest and most pocket-friendly way to upgrade your garden is to get out your paint brushes.
“Using white in this country is just hopeless,” she said. “It shows splatter marks from rain and you get moss developing on it very quickly.” More forgiving options include shades of stone or faded green, but these can be rather dull, particularly before a garden is in full bloom.
Krempel is an advocate of being brave and using more off-beat hues, in particular, shades of pink. “If you want some energy in the garden, that is when you use a strong colour,” she said. “You can plant in front if it and then you get a really brilliant contrast. Sun makes the wall glow and it is a wonderful foil for your plants.”
She suggests using colour to highlight your garden seating area, or placing it where it can be seen from a window. “Think about it as framing a view.”
Krempel is a fan of Farrow & Ball for its great range of interesting outdoor paint colours and also recommends Womersley’s (womersleys.co.uk) if you want to mix your own colour. Different surfaces – wooden garden furniture, fences, decking, render and bricks – need different types of paint so discuss your project with the stockist before choosing a finish.
If you want your garden to be fruitful as well as lovely to look at, you could take a leaf from Serena Lee’s book. After failing to grow strawberries in pots in the compact and shady back garden of her terraced house in Hackney, she and her husband, Peppe, decided to think more vertically.
“Space has always been a bit of an issue in our small, urban garden,” explained Serena, 28, a sustainable lifestyle blogger.
“We don’t have a lot of direct light, and … [strawberries] … take a lot of space as they spread out.” The solution was to build a simple wall planter using pieces of decking timber screwed together to make a frame. The planter is supported by their existing fence and positioned high up so it gets as much sunlight as possible.
The strawberry plants fit into gaps between the boards, which have been lined with plastic sheeting to hold the soil in place.
“It’s not the best designed or put together vertical planter, but it does the job,” said Serena. “We don’t think gardening has to be about perfection. We’ve added two square meters of growing space to our garden that previously didn’t exist.”
The project was also very cheap. The decking board cost around £30, they used runners from strawberry plants they’d attempted to grow the previous year and the soil was taken from their compost heap. The couple’s planter has been in service since 2019 and can hold around 40 strawberry plants.
“As it’s technically a container, watering is key; we have an automatic timer set up but if that isn’t an option, it’s very important to not let them dry out in the summer,” she said.
She recommends planting by April, with a view to being able to harvest berries in June and July. And their lush foliage and delicate pink flowers means that it looks as lovely as it tastes.
For light and warmth you can build your own fire pit with a few bricks or large stones and a bit of elbow grease (check out YouTube for numerous “how to” options). Add a stainless steel grill to turn it into a barbecue.