When I first started gardening in my mid 20s about 10 years ago there was a perception that gardening was for older people, something you did when you hit 40 and this is still to some degree the image that is reflected by the gardening media. But with more young people being bitten by the gardening bug and taking on allotments, it’s good to see some younger gardeners writing and appearing on TV.
Laetitia Maklouf is one of these younger faces. Her first book The Virgin Gardener was the Sunday Times and Daily Telegraph Gardening Book of the Year. You might have also seen her on Alan Titchmarsh’s Love Your Garden programme.
This book Sweet peas for Summer sees her move from her flat where she gardened on her balcony for 10 years to a house with a proper garden. Laetitia, determined that her garden will be beautiful in it’s first summer shows the reader that even in a short space of time it’s possible to have a blooming oasis.
The book begins with useful advice for making plans of the garden and how to create planting designs. It’s then divided into monthly sections focussing on how to make a new garden look it’s best quickly and thinking about how your garden will evolve in the future. All the gardening books I’ve ever read have said don’t do anything in the first year of having a new garden. It may be the proper way of doing things but it’s boring, boring, boring. The last thing I wanted to do after waiting 8 years for our first garden was to do more waiting, so I loved Laetitia’s ‘get stuck in’ approach. I also thought it was refreshing to see an average sized back garden featured, this is after all what most of us, especially first timers, have.
I loved the idea of using non permanent planting such as Sweet peas or Verbena bonariensis as a screen in the garden where she later planned to plant a hedge and the combination of growing plants with craft ideas such as growing Santolina and then making moth sachets. Laetitia’s previous gardening had been confined to containers and her love of growing in pots is still in evidence with lots of ideas for seasonal window boxes and pot cascades.
It is very much a girly book but she has studied at both the English Gardening School and the Chelsea Physic Garden and clearly knows her stuff. The book isn’t short on horticultural advice ,for instance, there is a section on root cuttings using Japanese anemones as an example.
Sweet peas for Summer is fun and fresh and Laetitia has inspired me to try some of her projects. I’ve never really been one for hanging baskets but she’s convinced me to give one a go this year and she’s given me plenty of ideas for an empty zinc bath I have lying around.
To mark the launch of her new book Laetitia kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
What was your first gardening memory? Planting strawberries with my mother in our London garden.
What tool couldn’t you be without? I have a Sophie Conran hand fork that I use constantly.
What has been your greatest gardening success? Creating my own, first garden from scratch – I’ve loved every moment.
and your biggest gardening disaster? Ha! Too many to mention. Things die on me all the time . . . and mostly because I do something stupid like forgetting to water.
Who inspires you most from the gardening world past or present? I have devoured all of Vita’s books many times over. I love Anna Pavord, too and I am inspired, impressed and amused on a daily basis by all my brilliant gardening Twitter friends.
Which garden would you most like to visit in the world? I’d love to go to Japan, I’m very partial to moss and blossom.
What would be your dream garden project? I’d love my own meadow (a big one please).
And finally, wellies or boots? Wellies.
Bloomsbury have kindly offered a copy of Laetitia’s book to one of my blog readers. So if you’d like a chance of having your own copy of Sweet peas for Summer just leave comment with this post by midnight on Friday 13th April to say you’d like to be included. I’ll then put all the names in a hat and draw a lucky winner. It’s open to anyone so if you’re outside the UK feel free to enter. Good Luck!
Sweet peas for Summer is available now from Amazon and all good bookshops.
Thanks to Jude at Bloomsbury and Laetitia for taking the time to answer the questions.