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How to make the most of your garden in a rented house

Gardening in a rental house can be tricky - how do you decide what to invest in and what you're willing to leave behind?

By House & Garden | December 20, 2021 | Gardens

The gardening bug that took hold during the pandemic is showing no signs of slowing, with an estimated 3 million more people in the UK now enjoying the benefits of a gentle potter in the garden.

And nearly half of the newly green-fingered among us are under 45, which means many are gardening in rented spaces.

However, the idea of investing in a garden, loving and nurturing a green space over time and watching it mature is considerably less appealing if your name is not on the deeds.

And landlords are less likely to invest in gardens than other parts of the house, often opting for an uninspiring mass of low-maintenance hard-landscaping.

But while dreams of a limestone terrace and salt-water swimming pool might have to wait, creating a temporary and importantly, moveable oasis is more than possible.

The simplest way to introduce planting into a rented space is containers. Perfect if the garden is largely paved or gravelled, you can create a whole garden in containers using different shapes and sizes to create scale and interest.

To create a consistent feel, it works to choose one material for the containers (e.g. frost-proof terracotta / zinc) and vary the sizes.

Go as big as you can afford as this will make watering more efficient in the summer months and create more impact – especially in a small garden.

Treat the containers like you would a flower bed – think about a variety of plants, including trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials.

Smaller trees gain extra gravitas when planted out of the ground in a pot, and there are plenty of species that are very happy being contained, provided they are watered.

Olives, apples (on a dwarf rootstock such as M26) but work well in a pot. For year-round interest, garden designer’s favourite Amelanchier Lamarckii works in a large container, as does the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus Kousa var. Chinensis) or Magnolia Stellata, both of which will give you a stunning Spring show.

Bulbs are perfect for containers – a bulb lasagne of Iris Reticulata, Narcissi and Tulips will give you a procession of colour in a single pot from February to May, and then they can be replaced with summer-flowering annuals.

Annuals are another great option for green-fingered renters. By definition they’re not destined to live beyond your tenancy agreement and they are a good way of pepping up an uninspiring existing border.

Generous and easy to grow cottage classics such as Cosmos, Zinnias, seed-grown Dahlias such as Bishop’s Children, Sweet Peas, Nasturtium, Ammi, Cornflowers and Sunflowers will brighten up the dreariest plot and provide plenty for the kitchen table too.

Erigeron seeds rubbed into cracks of tired paving will blossom into clouds of daisies.

And if, like me, you can’t resist the lure of a garden centre, then plants can be moved and taken with you.

This is best done when the plant is dormant, but the ground is still warm or beginning to warm up (October or March).

If you are moving in summer, cut the plant back so that it doesn’t waste precious resources on flowering, ensure it keeps moist and transplant into a pot or hessian sack to be moved. Keep it covered so the root system is not exposed to sunlight and replant as soon as possible.

Beyond planting, furnishings and accessories can transform a garden. Investing in a timeless, well-made dining table and chairs or garden sofa will elevate the space and be one less thing to buy when you buy the dream house.

The Hay Palissade range is becoming a modern classic, or Garden Designer Emily Erlam’s beautiful Barn Chair would work in any space.

A simple fire pit is a great way of adding atmosphere and getting more use out of your garden in the cooler months (or English summer). A classic Kadai will look great when lit or not and doubles up as a BBQ.

Water bowls are another way of adding interest and attracting wildlife – even a shallow corten bowl will be enough to tempt birds in for a bath and a chatter.

Accessories more often found inside, such as mirrors or lighting are another easy way of adding instant atmosphere or brightening up a dark space.

Mirrors will bounce light around and cover up unsightly fencing. Old wooden step ladders laden with potted plants and herbs give height to a container garden.

Festoons of solar-powered LEDs negate the need for mains electricity and Pooky now do a range of rechargeable cordless lamps that will jazz up an alfresco dinner no end.

And if you’re stuck with paving you wouldn’t have chosen, an outdoor rug such as these from Benuta which are made from recycled PET plastic, will cover up a multitude of sins.

The only downside to all this? You might need a bigger van when you move...

This originally appeared on H&G UK