My Beginner Gardeners Ultimate Resource List

When launching into the unknown, I’ll admit, it can be really hard to even know where to turn for advice and inspiration! 
I’ll also admit, I’ve found it pretty tricky to find resources on growing a flower garden in NZ (beyond vegie gardens) and often turn to the cult gardening scene in the UK for ideas and solid information.
Before we explore the nitty gritty of the actual growing of our gardens in blog posts to come, firstly, I wanted to share all the avenues I have discovered to get my previously stationary gardening wheels turning! 
I’ve found that if I can foster my enthusiasm in the whole concept, my motivation to research comes a lot more easily. 

2.5 years into my own adventure, these are some of my MOST turned to resources. 

BOOKS

FOR THE NEVER EVER GARDENER WHO NEEDS TO LAY DOWN SOME KNOWLEDGE: 

  •  The Yates Garden Guide
    This was the first gardening book I bought and I refer to it all the time! 
    Specifically tailored to New Zealand it tells you everrryyything you need to know to get started. 
    I found it particularly useful when it came to identifying disease and bug issues with solutions on how to treat. It has great guides to growing from seed, for vegetable gardening and helps you identify your “climate” type.
    In publication for over 130 years, a new edition is released annually. 
  • “The Complete Gardener” by Monty Don
    The Godfather of home gardening in England, this is a complete, encyclopedic guide to every part of your garden – from soil to hedges to vegies to roses and more. 
    While it is quite specific in places to England, I do find that overall it gives extensive knowledge to a well rounded healthy garden that translates to us down here. 

FOR GROWING FLOWERS AND A FLOWER GARDEN : 

  • “Cut Flower Garden” by Floret Flower 
    My first book about flowers and still at the top of the pile to examine when looking for nitty gritty details on particular plants AND inspiration on flowers I can grow for cutting in each season. 
    Written by a flower grower/florist based in North West USA, she gives a lot of advice around growing on mass and commercial planting guides, but much of this I find handy for my own small plot. 
  • “Brilliant and Wild – A garden from scratch in a year.” by Lucy Bellamy
    Written by the editor of my favourite magazine, “Gardens Illustrated”, this book is awesome! 
    A great resource for wild and gorgeous perennial and annual flowering plants to help you hone in on what you like, but be warned, many simply aren’t easy to find in NZ. 
    She does a great rundown on the “forms” that different plants take and how you can combine them together to design a flourishing and balanced garden patch. 
    She really offers information in an easy to digest way, including caring for your garden with pruning, preparing soil, planting seedlings, bulbs and corms etc. 
    I am a big fan. 
  • “The Flower Garden – How to grow flowers from seed” by Clare Foster 
    Another fantastic, user friendly and beautiful guide from the UK. 
    She profiles SO many different plants including edibles flowers, bee friendly gardens, sowing and growing and different ways you can use your flowers for effect. 
  • “The Pottery Gardener” by Arthur Parkinson
    This young gardener talks about his early interest in gardening and his time spent learning from iconic flower grower; Sarah Raven before designing and managing a fully “potted” garden at the Emma Bridgewater Ceramics Factory in the UK. 
    He has fantastic creative ideas around growing a flower garden in containers! 

FOR GARDEN INSPIRATION:

  •  “Dreamscapes” by Claire Takacs
    This is a book that calls in the magic moments of gardens across the world. Shot by world renown Australian photographer; Claire Takacs (who, on a side note, contributes a lot to Gardens Illustrated), she captures gardens in a way that reveals their romance and the full effect of what planting combinations. Its a book to help you attach emotional and creatively to this whole business! 
  • “Flourish” by Juliet Nicholas and Barb Rogers
    Released in 2018, this is a fantastic glimpse and some of NZ’s best gardens, big and small across the whole country. I found it very inspiring in seeing what is possible here in NZ but also in reading the stories of the female gardeners and what the efforts, over the years, of humble creative people can result in. 
  • “Flaxmere Garden – 50 years of Extremes” by Grant Mangin and Juliet Nicholas
    This book is for rural gardeners needing a kick start for gardening in the extreme conditions that New Zealand offers. The story covers the extraordinary efforts of Penny Zino, arriving to a North Canterbury farm with no previous gardening experience and creating one of NZ’s most visited and highly regarded gardens. 
    Pretty much – you CAN do this! 
    You can purchase this book directly from Penny AND check out her website and garden here. 

TIP: Google each title to see what turns up and where to locate. I have bought nearly all my books online from The Book Depository which does free shipping to NZ! 

ALSO – take some time to browse your local second hand shops for gardening books. Mostly all the principles remain the same and they can be incredible resources! 

 TV AND YOU TUBE: 

If you know where to look, there are terrific, informative shows to start filling in your knowledge and inspiration gaps. 
Some of my personal favorites are
  •  “Gardeners World” by the BBC and hosted by Monty Don 
    I’ve quickly discovered that Monty Don is a favourite gardening figure of mine! I discovered this series on Choice TV by accident and then have found seasons of it on YouTube. Even though the “months” don’t match up to ours for his recommendations, you can translate easy enough to our seasons. They also do really interesting visits to gardeners around the UK. It’s great. 
  • “Nowness – Great Gardens” Series
    This is an edgy, film led platform that for some reason struck off to film the most beautiful series of glimpses and profiles of some European gardens. I have returned so many times to watch, especially the Great Dixter Episode. 
    You can watch here. 
  •  YouTube Tutorials
    So I YouTube everything…how to prune roses, natural solutions for slug control, flowering plants for shady areas….. the internet is here for you! Use it! 

 PODCASTS: 

 I haven’t got many yet to recommend but I have really enjoyed…
  •  The Gardens Illustrated Podcast
    At their annual gathering they have recorded some of their guest speakers in addition to special visits to speak with iconic gardeners. My most favourite I have listened to to date is Fergus Garrett of Great Dixter who talks about not getting to hung up on perfection, Sarah Raven about how and what she grows and flower farmer and florist and the iconic Beth Chatto who gave an amazing insight into her famous garden and career.
    FIND HERE
  • “Gardens, Weeds & Words” by Andrew O’Brien
    Another from the UK, you can listen to a pondering, romantic host talk of his own gardening ideas and interview a super diverse selection of guests with varying experience, angles on gardening and generally really current points of interest. With each episode I love it more! 
    Great to have on while driving. 
    FIND HERE

NEWSLETTERS:

I hadn’t really considered the value in this until recently, but signing up to the emailed newsletters of your local garden centres is an amazing way to get free, seasonally relevant tips! 
I won’t throw around prejudice here but have a google and see what you come up with! 

INSTAGRAM: 

The instant and easy way to start learning from those garden sharer’s from near and afar! 

MY FAVOURITE NZ + AUSTRALIAN ACCOUNTS: 

  • @clairetakacs – for SUPER visual garden magic! 
  • @brentonrobertsgardendesigns – an Australian gardener with a charming and informative feed! 
  • @fishermansbay_garden – the sprawling Banks Peninsula garden of Jill Simpson. I have visited and am constantly inspired! 
  • @flaxmere_garden – Penny Zino’s large rural garden in North Canterbury. She takes gorgeous pictures and keeps a great record of the beauty in all the seasonal changes. 
  • @foxslane – gorgeous imagery paired with some seriously inspiring flower growing from Daylesford, Australia! 
  • @flowersonlawn – the possibilities of what can be achieved by one woman, on one acre in Hawkes Bay.
  •  @aseasonalharvest – I’m in love with the photo taking here and the country gardening life shared from Tilba Tilba, NSW. 
  •  @hillandalegardenandnursery – fantastic planting combinations! 
  • @winterhomenz – a wonderful coastal Canterbury garden that I have been happily lost in before!
  • @barewoodgarden – another stunning garden hidden up a dry valley in Marlborough.
  • @nourishgardens –  a beautiful flower farm on Waiheke Island. 
  •  @primmgardens – great inspiration for seasonal flower growing from this flower farm in Pirongia.
  • @unfurlings – incredibly knowledgable flower farmer specialising in Dahlias here in Canterbury. Sarah shares SO much good information on Dahlia growing and varieties! 
  •  @fieldofroses – Gisborne based mother/daughter team of flower farmers and florists. Abundant inspiration for what YOU could grow. 
  •  @drkeithhammett – one of the worlds leading Sweet Pea breeders…and he lives in NZ! 

OVERSEAS GARDEN INSPIRATION – its a great idea to follow those in the other hemisphere to keep your feed full of flowers and ideas all year round! 

  •  @ccamullet – Carolyn Mullet leads garden tours around Europe and VERY kindly gives you a glimpse into them on her instagram. Endless inspiration! 
  • @mccormickcharlie – a kiwi bringing the most incredible Iris and Dahlia border (amongst others!) to you from the English countryside. 
  • @northparkexteriors – I think I have saved every single post they do to my Gardens folder! The planting combinations are YES! 
  • @parham_house_gardens – one of many stately homes that I follow but I just love the views of the garden borders here and all the colour. 
  • @greatdixterofficial – an ongoing obsession I have with this garden its VERY famous gardeners. 
  • @arthurparkinson_ – an author I mentioned before, he loves deep hues and chickens !
  •  @floretflower – the best best provider of growing advice for flowers and author of mentioned book! 
  •  @andrewtimothyob – the host of the previously mentioned podcast, he takes amazing pics and I’m just really interested on his take on all things plants! 
  • @noughticulture – by writer and journalist Alice Vincent, she is a friend of the beginner gardener particulary those with little space and a penchant for house plants! 
  • @james_todman – if you attracted to topiary like me…this is the account to follow. WOW! 
Don’t forget exploring and even “following” hashtags! 
My favourite and most fruitful one is #ayearinflowers that was created by Floret Flower.
People from ALL over the world share their current, in season blooms and it makes me instagram feed sunny and bright no matter what season I’m in at home. 
  

GARDEN VISITS, TOURS AND FESTIVALS

This angle of inspiration finding was entirely NOT on my radar until I was invited to visit Garden Marlborough last year. And WOW….it was the first time that my eyes were really opened to the vast possibilities, creativity and individual expression that gardens offered. 
Luckily there are many opportunities to visit gardens of all sizes. Look out for fundraising tours featuring gardens local to you.

Some I could personally recommend in my area are : 

  • Garden Marlborough 
    I would highly recommend the East Coast Tour among so many others! Others I am planning on attending this year are the Over the Plains Tour and The Land Gardeners workshop. 
  • Hurunui Garden Festival 
    My hotspots would be attending the talks hosted by Penny Zino at Flaxmere Garden this year! 
    Includes growing a great summer garden AND dry environment gardening. 
  • Homegrown Garden Tour
    A popular fundraising event of local, mid Canterbury gardens. 
  • Stay tuned for a VERY exciting, soon to be launched, event coming to Christchurch early 2020! 
  • Click on the Events tab on Facebook, and refine interests to “Gardening” and ALL sorts of goodies in your area will pop up! November seems to be a very popular time for garden tours however definitely look for opportunities to view bright, summer gardens for full floral inspiration! 
  • Trawl the New Zealand Gardens Trust website to find stunning, rated private gardens that you can go and explore through out the whole country.
  • To really up the inspiration level, take time to visit public places like Botanical Gardens, parks and if you live in Canterbury, go for afternoon tea and Mona Vale and wander that amazing garden, one of the first places that I started to really register ideas around design and different plants. 

YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD

Perhaps the most immediate opportunity to gain inspiration for what is possible in your local environment. 
I have more on this to come SOON, but in the meantime, start noticing gardens over fences, different plantings and watch as they begin to come a life with Spring. 
Its a strange thing to suddenly “see” gardens for the first time, instead of just hazy life background! 
Some towns and cities have really interesting and creatively planted public spaces, parks and roadsides which might spark some ideas in you too!

REAL LIFE GARDENERS!

One of the biggest revelations to me (which I share here), was the eagerness of gardeners to help, encourage and support other gardeners – especially new ones! 

If you have no gardeners in your family and friends, I would consider googling around for local community gardens or even, leaving a little message in the mail box of a neighbour whose garden you admire, and asking if you might be able to pop by for a visit at some point? Dial down that you are a beginner not just a stalker. The key to that gate opening will likely be using the word “gardener”. 

I know that sounds quite forward, but I have honestly been shocked at the eagerness to share by people with knowledge in aid of those that don’t.

Go forth and let gardening IN , then we’ll get started on doing it!
Ju x

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