Gardening experts Lorna Ko and Michael Perry have joined forces to share their top tips on how you can easily transform your garden by being smart with your space. With Lorna’s specialist knowledge on water features and ornaments combined with Michael’s love of all things flora, they’re a match made in gardening heaven.
Before we get to their first post, a quick introduction…
Hi, I’m Lorna Ko and I’ve been a gardening guest presenter at QVC UK for six years. I also present on QVC US, Italy and France and have been in The Telegraph and Amateur Gardening sharing some of my top garden decor and water feature tips.
I’m a single parent and also a reporter for our local TV station in Chiswick, West London, so I am always out and about keeping busy!
My dad is Japanese and my mum is English so I have grown up surrounded by some classic English gardens on one side and some amazing zen gardens and rice fields on the other.
I am really looking forward to sharing my top tips and garden decorating advice with you along with Michael this year. Just call us Mi-Lo!
I’m Michael Perry, and I’m a bit of a plant hunter, always travelling around on the lookout for new, different and unusual plants!
I have been with Thompson & Morgan since I left college, and have really grown up with the company and experienced working with lots of different departments, even pollinating some flowers by hand one summer!
I live in Suffolk with two border terrier dogs, and have a garden that’s too big for me, as I’m not often home for long!
My mum is Greek, so that gives me the big nose and emotional gesticulations…! I love talking about plants and helping people with choosing the right plants, I am a total plant geek!
So, onto blog number one!
Windows of the world: Easy-peasy windowboxes to bring nature into your life!
We’re both passionate about the importance of making sure you have nature and plants around your home, especially if you don’t have a garden or balcony.
Lorna: I think it’s really important to have some living greenery around you for your health and peace of mind.
For years I lived in a flat in Acton, West London I really missed having a garden, as I had grown up in Surrey with a lovely family garden.
My grandparents also had wonderful gardens I would visit every Sunday and help my Grandad tend to his lupins, sweet peas, peonies and amazing home grown tomatoes – the flavour was out of this world.
They had an old World War 2 bomb shelter in the back garden which had been turned into a rockery by my Grandad. Even to this day, 30 years later, whenever I see aubretia and ice plants I think of my childhood.
Michael and I agree, even if you don’t have a garden or balcony, everyone has a window!
Even a vase of flowers on a dining table can add some colour, life and air purifying qualities to your home. There’s no excuse for not trying out a few plants around your home.
Outdoors, you can dress walls and fences with flower pouches and hanging baskets, and of course adorn your windows with window boxes.
If you’re a bit of a foodie, you could also plant some vegetables, herbs and fruits into your containers, just think how convenient your next weekly shop will then be!
Lorna’s top buys:
Window gardens used to be seen as huge wooden boxes you’d have to fix to your windowsill, only suitable for flowers which could survive against extremities. These days, there are some really cool alternatives to the older style window boxes.
Ideal for a flat without outdoor windowsills, these attach to the inside of your window, meaning you can bring some nature indoors.
Featuring strong suction cups to attach to any glass or ceramic surface, special drainage holes, plus a tray underneath, you can water your plants, flowers and herbs while the roots aerate.
Klara curved pots
These little planters feature magnetic attachments to screw into a wall and are great for herbs and smaller plants. The magnets mean they are fab for attaching to magnetic fridge surfaces. Here’s my friend Marianne’s photo – she has a small kitchen, but can grow fresh herbs for when she is cooking delicious dishes from her native Denmark!
Bernini tabletop fountain
This water feature runs from a rechargeable battery, meaning there’s no wiring or plumbing required, and gives up to 40 hours use!
The beauty of this fountain is its self-watering pot, meaning you can plant your favourite flowers, plants or herbs and – over time – the water from the fountain will rise through little holes in the pot and water your plant from below.
When the fountain turns off, the water levels drops down again and then the roots are aerated for happy, healthy plants.
You really can bring some nature indoors and have it anywhere!
If you don’t want to worry about the upkeep of real plants…
Peony window box
Peony Flowers are known for creating beautiful, true to life faux plants and flowers. For me, this trio of faux herbs not only looks realistic, but the design is adds a stunning splash of green to your kitchen.
Michael’s top plants:
There’s such a great range of plants to choose from for window boxes, here’s a few that spring to mind…
A pre-planted window box makes a great gift. At this time of year, you could pre-plant pansies, which flower in the winter. That would really make the recipient smile! Too many of us leave our gardens and balconies to look dull over the winter, but try these pansies for size!
This one’s my own creation! Now, you don’t have to go hedgerow-scavenging for blackberries, they’ll be right outside your window, and sweeter than wild varieties too!
The plants are thornless too, so perfect for little ones enjoying pain-free picking.
Then, what about these, with a fragrant punch that gets you right between the eyes! They’re drought tolerant too, so you won’t need to worry about watering them every day either.
To keep your plants looking their best for longer, you’ll need to do the smallest amount of maintenance.
Remove any faded blooms as they occur, and trim plants as they need it.
Feed them through the summer with a well-balanced liquid fertiliser too, as this give them a nice shot of vitamins at just the right time!
If you are into growing your own herbs, some great all-rounders are:
> Rosemary – lovely for roast potatoes and also with lamb
> Mint – perfect to make mint sauce and to also add to salads for a really fresh zing
> Basil – adds a pop of flavour to tomato-based pasta sauces and also delicious on pizza
If you need something to store your herbs in and keep them really fresh, than have a look at these Lock & Lock’s airtight containers.
I also have large a bay tree and rosemary in my garden and I love picking the leaves and keeping some in a Lock & Lock in my fridge to add flavour to sauces and stews.
Once your herbs are in full flourish, here’s two of our favourite recipes and suggestions so you can taste your success!
Mr Ko’s pasta sauce for two people – my Dad makes an amazing pasta sauce using fresh herbs from my garden and my Klara plant pot.
– 1 x tin of organic crushed tomatoes
– 1 x large squirt of tomato puree
– 1 x large pack of mincemeat (beef or pork)
– 1 x chopped onion,
– 2 x gloves of crushed garlic
– olive oil
– 2 x fresh bay leaves
– lots of fresh basil
– 2 x finely chopped carrots
– 2 x finely chopped sticks of celery
– Heat some olive oil in a pan and gently brown the onion, garlic, carrots and celery
– Add in the mincemeat and brown all over
– Add in the tin of tomatoes and the large squirt of tomato puree and stir
– Add in salt and pepper to taste and the bay leaves and simmer for 30 minutes
– Just before serving tear up lots of fresh basil and stir into the sauce
– Serve with any style of pasta and grated parmesan cheese
– Top tip: you can also add in a splash of red wine if you want to when browning the mincemeat for enhanced flavour
If you want to put your gardening to culinary use, I would use edible flowers in lots of different kitchen dishes, to jazz up salads, cupcakes – basically to show off!
The mini carnations mentioned earlier have edible petals, just make sure you remove the base of each petal as they can be a little bitter.
Grow some dwarf lavender in your windowboxes, and this can then be added to biscuit recipes. In fact, one of the first things I baked was a batch of lavender biscuits for our local WI market!
I also love adding herbs, with their unique flavours and textures, to my summer salads – it’s certainly more exciting than cucumber and lettuce!
What we’ve been up to this week…
Michael: As usual, I have been flying about the place, but mostly in Suffolk. I have been getting our show garden at Jimmy’s Farm ready for visitors. It is free entry, and open every day on the Jimmy’s Farm site, and it’s the best place to see Thompson & Morgan plants in the flesh!
You’ll see all our bestsellers as well as some brand new, sneak previews!
Come and visit, you’ll probably find me somewhere amongst the petunias too! I am hoping to chill out a little bit this weekend though, which is rare for me.
I’ve flown over to New York for a week too, to see my beau!
Lorna: It’s been a hectic week, as usual, for me. As well as my QVC work I have been out and about covering some news stories for our local TV channel Chiswick Buzz, including a dramatic car chase down Kew Bridge Road which was then picked up by the Evening Standard. They asked if they could use one of my photos from the scene which then made the headlines that evening on their website.
It made me think that I need to ask Mat Trim about getting a proper camera for taking some more roving reporting shots! I also had to arrange my sister’s London Hen Party ahead of her wedding later this year (she’s having 2 x Hen parties – one here and one in Ibiza!).
I booked afternoon tea at The Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane which was like something out of an old school Hollywood movie. It is so beautiful and sumptuous inside I kept expecting to see Aubrey Hepburn or Liz Taylor walk past!
We then went on for some drinks at a very cool bar called ‘Cahoots’ in Kingly Court, just off of Carnaby Street. It’s been made to look like an old World War 2 Underground Station and the menu and drinks and decor are all very vintage which my sister just loved.
I have also been out and about loads on my adult Microscooter. My son’s had a scooter for years and I thought if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em so I now whizz around Chiswick like a big kid on my scooter and feel like I am 10 again!
I cannot recommend scooting enough – it’s environmentally friendly and just makes you smile!
That’s it for now, I hope you have a fab week and see you soon!
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