For many people, gardens provide a breathing space in hectic everyday life. When you’re in the garden, a simple thing like weeding can help a busy mind be present in the moment and it can focus your thoughts on making plants grow and thrive. What needs should a garden fulfil? How can you create an outdoor space that suits your everyday life? To help answer these questions, we spoke to two garden enthusiasts: Dorthe Kvist, who runs @meltdesignstudio, is a professional garden designer who has spent the last 10 years helping her many customers design beautiful and vibrant gardens in all shapes and sizes. Jeanette Lindholdt Madsen, @jealindm, is the creative project manager for Galleri Bo Bjerggaard in Copenhagen. Jeanette’s beautiful garden in Valby is a creative sanctuary where she can put her busy everyday life aside and focus instead on her flowers and potato beds. We talked to both women about what makes a garden magical and about the garden's many purposes.
THE MANY FUNCTIONS OF A GARDEN
For both Dorthe Kvist and Jeanette Lindholdt Madsen, the garden is in many ways a spiritual place. During our childhood, we often associate the garden with magic and adventure. For many people, it is that first encounter with a lush garden that sparks an interest in the magic of nature. Whatever your age, gardens that you can explore and that surprise you are also often the most inviting and vibrant. Part of the magic of gardens is also the joy of following the changing seasons. In spring, there’s nothing more delightful than the sight of bulbs that you gently put in the ground last autumn sprouting through the soil into the warm sunshine. Midsummer is when we harvest the biggest and tastiest vegetables from our kitchen garden. Just as the garden can appear magical to the beholder, it can to a large extent also serve as an outdoor space with a specific and useful purpose: “While I think the garden should be a magical place, I also think it's nice when gardens meet a couple of needs – for example, it’s great to have an outdoor kitchen for the long summer evenings when you want to eat outside with friends and family without having to run back and forth. An outdoor kitchen can really be helpful for staying present in the moment.”
- Dorthe Kvist
It’s also in your encounter with nature and gardening that you can learn to let go of the control that otherwise dominates our everyday lives. When Jeanette Lindholdt Madsen works in the garden, it feels completely natural to let go: “My garden has taught me that you can’t control everything. One year a crop works, while the next year it might fail. I really enjoy that it's a process I can’t always control. For me, my garden is a place where I can create something. It’s a creative space where I can use my body and my senses.” Being creative and having a creative urge often go hand-in-hand when you start working on your garden. That is because gardens can be used in many ways and have many purposes, which may change from year to year as you get to know your garden better. The most important thing is that you have the will and desire to do it – especially when the hard work can seem unmanageable: “For me, the garden is never a chore because it’s something I care about a lot. I for one think that the preparation is enjoyable – and I’ve discovered that proper prepping determines the garden you eventually get. Weeding and soil improvement is a really good investment of time, and it always feels satisfying to get the compost heap in order and get seeds germinating in my mini greenhouses, which I have dotted all over my apartment in spring. The kids are usually very relieved when I finally move all the pots out into the garden.”
- Jeanette Lindholdt Madsen
Once all the hard work is done, it’s in the summer and late summer that you really get to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour. This is when it’s worth having created plenty of small oases around the garden, especially for when you want to take a welcome break from gardening: “When I design gardens, I always include small resting areas in the design. For example, a deep lounge sofa on the wooden deck, where you can invite friends and family to enjoy the full view of your garden, or a hammock hung between two trees, where you can take a nap to the sound of the breeze in the trees on a hot summer’s day. There should also be space for edible things – a kitchen garden, perhaps in raised beds, berry bushes and flower beds full of nectar for the garden's animals and insects. There’s also nothing quite like a campfire, where you can roast marshmallows and tell spooky stories late into the night. This is also a big part of what makes the garden magical.”
- Dorthe Kvist
THE EXPERTS' SEVEN TIPS FOR A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN
- If you enjoy cooking in the open air, an outdoor kitchen or a fire pit can be an ideal addition to the garden.
- Use both flowerbeds and pots – this will create variety and visual excitement in your garden.
- If you want to grow vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes, the greenhouse is your friend. However, remember to ventilate it during the hot summer months so that your plants don’t overheat.
- Biodiversity has never been more important. Let your garden be a good host for nature's many insects and butterflies and build inviting insect hotels.
- Whether you are building a pond with small fish, a beautiful mirror pool or a pretty birdbath, small areas of water always bring tranquility to any garden.
- The garden is also a place that should be enjoyed. Create small oases for relaxation by designing your garden with comfortable outdoor furniture.
- If you yearn for sumptuous flower bouquets from May to September, it’s always worth planting seeds that will bloom at different times of the season.
THE EXPERTS' GARDEN CALENDAR
The year is just beginning and we are gradually starting to make plans for how we want the garden to be. Spend time reading seed catalogues and planning your new garden projects.
This is when many garden enthusiasts become impatient. It's too cold to do anything outside, but if by the end of February you’re itching to get started, you can begin by germinating seeds indoors in mini greenhouses.
March is always the time for cleaning up. Rake the lawn, sweep the leaves and add them to the compost heap, scrub the terrace and oil the garden furniture.
In April, start filling your pots with spring flowers, get the kitchen garden ready for sowing, put the chitted potatoes in the ground and just enjoy the lovely spring sunshine as much as possible.
May is when everything starts to come up. Plant your tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers out in the greenhouse, and your lettuce and peas in the kitchen garden. Cover the soil under the strawberry plants with straw. Now’s the time to enjoy those tulips.
In June, you can finally start harvesting the first crops. Enjoy fresh baby salad leaves, early peas, as well as the first beans and types of squash.
July is the month when the garden is a pure cornucopia of treasures. Remember to water in the evening and control the snails now that you’re up and running. You can pick the first flower bouquets and go on a daily rampage in the kitchen garden. Remember to ventilate the greenhouse when you visit, and finally – take plenty of breaks and enjoy your beautiful lush garden.
The month when you can give all your friends sumptuous bouquets of dahlias and fragrant roses. Practical jobs such as sowing green manure in the empty kitchen garden beds and removing offshoots from the strawberry plants should be carried out now. And don’t forget to put water out for the birds and the thirsty insects!
September is an important month for next spring’s flowers. Plant plenty of bulbs, e.g. tulips, daffodils and pearl hyacinths. This month is also a good time to plant larger things such as trees, flowering shrubs and perennials.
You can enjoy some really precious moments in the garden in autumn. Cook over a campfire and enjoy the last warm rays of sun under a blanket with a hot cup of tea. In October, you can gradually pack away the garden, divide your perennials, collect seeds from your favourite plants, prune the fruit trees and harvest the last of the herbs.
In November, remove the saucers from under pots so that they don’t get damaged by the frost. Empty the water butt if you have one and store the garden furniture away or cover it. Then you can look forward to starting all over again in the spring.
Your garden is sleeping. If you’re lucky, it will look lovely in the freshly fallen snow.