o you’re a renter who is not intending to stay forever but you want a riot of colour this summer in the patch of garden that comes with your flat? No problem.
There are plenty of plants out there that have your name on them. They grow fast, giving you flowers and climbers that will create a dazzling jungle by midsummer.
This is all quite a contrast from typical London rental gardens which are often boring and featureless because tenants don’t feel very inspired to cultivate them, believing they won’t be around long enough to benefit from the results.
Well-chosen, fast-growing annual plants will clothe fences and walls and fill borders, all for the price of a few packets of seeds.
All you have to do is scatter them on the ground and water them in. After they’ve put on a great show they will die in the autumn, so no landlord could object.
If you have a balcony or courtyard all these plants can also be grown in peat-free multipurpose compost in pots.
Perfect for renters, Crocus has a good range of large lightweight galvanised pots for £54.99 that will make a decent mini garden but won’t be too hard to hoik down the stairs when you come to the end of the lease. Some of these pots have handles for easy transport.
Tiny effort required
If you’re worried about drilling holes in your rental property to put up supports for climbing plants, push some bamboo canes into soil to make wigwams around the garden instead. Or try SH1 fence clips (six for £9.50) which can simply be hooked over the top of a fence or wall. A trellis panel, a wall chain climber support (£22.99) or some jute netting (from £5.95) can then be hung on to the clips, so when you move just unhook the whole thing and you won’t have left any trace.
Now’s a great time to sow hardy annuals such as poppies, corncockle, marigolds, nigella and cornflowers that will fill your beds with orange, pink and blue by June. Higgledy Garden and Chiltern Seeds are good online suppliers. Preparing the ground is easy. Just remove any weeds from the area you want to sow, then dig it over lightly.
No need to add compost because these plants like poor soil. Then just sprinkle the seeds thinly over the area, rake them in, water and that’s it. Once the seedlings have come up it’s a good idea to thin them to 10cm apart and then again to 30cm apart in mid-June so they have plenty of space to flower abundantly.
Other failsafe plants are annual climbers, reaching up to eight feet by the summer and easily covering a fence or scrambling over an ugly shed to bring clouds of vivid flowers. If your garden gets plenty of sun, nasturtiums are perfect, with their profusion of cheerful orange and yellow flowers and you can sow them from now until May.
You can eat the slightly peppery flowers, leaves and seed pods, too. Bury the seed to twice their depth in the soil, no deeper. Nasturtiums will find their own way up a fence, or grow them up wigwams or trellis. Once they have got going you won’t have to water them all summer.
We want a wigwam
If you want something more unusual, another one to sow straight into the soil from April is the rather gothic Hyacinth bean (£2.95), with sultry, deep purple leaves and seed pods and pink flowers. There are other amazing annual climbers, best ordered as inexpensive plug plants and planted out in early May. The glamorous cup-and-saucer vine cobaea scandens Purple (£2.95 for 20 seeds) is like a blousy, supercharged clematis. The buds start greenish white and then transform themselves into tubular purple flowers.
I have a particular soft spot for the Chilean Glory Flower (£8.95) with its unashamedly garish orange and yellow little bell flowers. In London’s relatively mild climate, this is likely to survive a couple of winters. Spanish Flag (£1.95) is even more fabulously in-your-face, with flame red-tipped flowers fading to cream.