New Year, New Hobby: Taking up Gardening

A New Year signals a time for change, a time for resolutions and a time for new interests – which is why it’s the perfect time to take up a new hobby.

And there’s no better hobby than gardening. For those looking to get fit after the Christmas splurge, gardening is a sure way to keep trim, to learn new skills and to gain personal satisfaction having grown beautiful plants and wholesome and delicious vegetables.

Claire Greenslade, head gardener at Hestercombe Gardens near Taunton, guarantees you’ll have no regrets taking up gardening as a beginner, or building on your current knowledge.

Claire says: “With gardening no two days are the same, you can be outside enjoying all weathers and all that nature has to charm you with. I love that you can be eight or 108 years old and be a cracking gardener. All abilities can do it on some level. It’s a voyage of discovery that can take you all around the world and you never stop learning.”

Most people have some space in which to practice their gardening, even if it’s just a window box, you’ll gain enjoyment from watching something grow week by week.


  • One of the simplest ways of adding colour to your garden is by using annuals. Annuals just means plants that will flower, seed and die within one year. This sounds wasteful that they only last one year but often they self seed prolifically and it just gives you a chance to try lots of different things, or to fill gaps. I often use annuals sown in big pots to add colour outside the front of my house. There is a massive variety of annuals of all shapes, sizes and colours but here is a list of some of the easiest to grow.
  • Sunflowers- these can be started out in a little pot with compost and once they get to 10-15 cm they can be planted out into a bed. If you choose the really tall varieties you will need to think about staking them up by using a bamboo cane, otherwise they can be blown over by the wind. You can get smaller dwarf varieties that will require less maintenance.
  • Nigella- also known as love-in-a-mist- this is a really pretty flower in shades of blue, white or pink. It will grow anywhere and will just keep reseeding itself -easy!
  • Cosmos is one of my favourites because it grows so tall in just one year- up to 1.5m- so it is a great space filler and adds height at the back of a border.
  • Nasturtiums- These are brilliant because they are so reliable and because you can eat the leaves and the flowers. The flowers look great in a salad and have a sweet peppery taste.
  • Sweet peas are a really good thing to try if you have never sown seed before. They don’t like their roots disturbed so I like to fill the cardboard part of a loo roll with compost and plant the seed in it. Then once the seedling is 10cm the whole tube can be planted. Allow the seedling something to cling to- bamboo canes, netting etc. the beauty of sweet peas is the more that you pick the flowers the more flowers they produce.