Beginner Gardener? These Are The Best Plants To Start Out With

It turns out those pretty garden centre flowers might not be your best bet.
kampee patisena via Getty Images

Whether you have a tiny flat balcony or a full-blown garden, chances are you wish you were a little bit better at adding some greenery to your life.

But if you’re anything like me, you might be struggling to work out where to start. With complicated-looking veg-growing schedules and intimidating garden tool aisles, the less green-fingered among us can find it hard to get the gardening ball rolling.

In fact, housebuilders Redrow report that only 67% of London residents have seen so much as a snail in the last month. With gardening – and exposure to wildlife in general – being so good for your mental health, it’s a pretty great idea to get greening as soon as you can.

So, we spoke to Arthur Parkinson – gardener and writer – who’s teamed up with Redrow and asked him about the best (and worst) ways to get started. Here’s what he had to say:

The best option for beginners might well be herbs

The temptation when you want to start gardening is to pop into your local garden centre and nab some pretty flowers. But this likely isn’t the best option for newbies, Parkinson says.

“What a lot of people like to do is go to the garden center and buy the first thing that’s presented to them, which is going to be whatever’s in season, namely bedding plants, which are annuals,” he says. This “means they’re just going to last for that particular season, then they die.”

It can take a lot of time and effort to plant these flowers, and it’s dispiriting when their beautiful blooms fail to last. In fact, it might even throw off budding botanists altogether.

“So I just recommend people who want to get into gardening just to buy herbs, because they’re the most easy thing to just put in pots and neglect, because all herbs actually like to be on the dry side of things,” Parkinson says. He adds that
some herbs “are the easiest things on Earth... Marjoram, lime, and mint, they will all give off beautiful scents.“

He adds that food is often a great way for people to get into gardening, because the quality and flavour of home-grown produce is so much better.

“The amount of people I talked to who weren’t gardeners but started off with just a little rosemary bush or a pot of parsley, because they’re cooks, they very quickly realise that what they can grow themselves is far better than what they can buy at the supermarket,” he says. “And before you know it, that person goes on to growing their own tomatoes.”

Any other hacks for beginners?

Yes – Parkinson has lots.

Firstly, he shares that wilder gardens are usually better for the environment and for your home. Good news for people who are worried about the stress of maintaining a picture-perfect lawn, right?

And if you’re not sure where to start with pesticides and herbicides, Parkinson has more good news. “If you are using chemicals, you’re killing our pollinators, which we need for food production,” he says.

You can even start growing your lawn with something as simple as a teabag. Parkinson says that if you buy some chamomile teabags, rip them up, and then sprinkle them over the bare areas of your garden, “you will then get chamomile within a summer season.”

“There’s loads of cheap ways of getting a garden,” he says. “It’s not an expensive thing to do, it’s just about researching what your soil is and also what light you’ve got... You can type into YouTube how to make a wildflower meadow from scratch. What are the best hardy perennials for bees.“

He also advises making your garden part of your day-to-day life and home rather than a completely separate entity. It can be as simple as putting out a washing line, Parkinson says – anything that “make(s) a garden feel part of your daily life that then make you connected to it, rather than just seeing it as something that’s not part of your home.“

And lastly, if you’re starting from absolute scratch, Parkinson recommends checking out some gorgeous gardens for inspo. “What I would say to everybody is if you are a beginner, try and go to places that inspire beautiful gardens. And that can be places that are on your doorstep,” he says.

“Even local allotments, any wildflower meadows, wildlife reserves. Try and free your mind up a bit and then take nature back home with you.”

There are worse tasks in the world...