RHS Hampton Court’s guide to gardening for renters

The Wildlife Trusts: Renters’ Retreat designed by Zoe Claymore shines a light on the nation’s overlooked gardeners

The Wildlife Trusts: Renters’ Retreat

Clever design for small spaces

The Wildlife Trusts: Renters’ Retreat is a perfectly packaged space, designed by Zoe Claymore and constructed by Frogheath Landscapes, the garden raises the plight of the 1 in 3 rental property tenants who have no space, little space or a badly managed space.

See The Wildlife Trusts: Renter’s Retreat garden

The design provides a myriad of great ideas for creating a small garden, and it shows how to make a garden that can move with you, when the need arises. Pack it up; move it on. “If you can move a double bed, why not move a raised bed?” says Zoe. Planting containers and a curvaceous pond, designed by Zoe alongside Lux Unique, are just the right size to be emptied, tipped on edge and removed through standard door frames.

Planters on the Renter’s Retreat garden
Modelled on a rented garden Zoe had in her 20’s, the garden demonstrates how to create a well-proportioned design, whilst providing a peat and pesticide-free biodiverse planting scheme, a water feature, a seating area for several friends and a composting area too. That’s a lot to pack into this small space but she achieves it with confidence.

“If you can move a double bed, why not move a raised bed?”

Using hard landscaping

The low bench leans you gently back, creating a relaxed feel and encouraging you to look up and though the woodland plants. She describes the space as “…a dash of English country garden with a splash of Dartmoor,” referring to Lydford Gorge, a particularly special place for her.

The Wildlife Trusts: Renters’ Retreat
The pale gravel in the courtyard is the perfect foil for the zinc planters and gives a lightness that visually increases the space. An interesting design trick is the curve of the pool, which sits lower than the higher, rectangular bed on the opposite side of the entrance. “This leads you to move around the curve, following it with your body, taking you on a journey,” explains Zoe, who believes in creating meaningful, engaging spaces for her clients; gardens they will love and nurture.

The Renters’ ‘bible’

For anyone wanting to emulate her garden, Zoe recommends two books,  Kate Bradbury’s Wildlife Gardening: For Everyone and Everything (The Wildlife Trusts), and How to Garden When You Rent by RHS Wisley’s Curator Matthew Pottage, .

Matthew PottageMatthew explains why renters should get digging. “Just because the garden is rented, it doesn’t mean the renter can’t get lots of ‘gardening goodness’ as I like to call it, from the space. To my mind, that’s physical and mental wellbeing, and learning. We learn all the time when gardening, and those skills aren’t selective, if we own the soil (or not) that we are gardening in. Also, if a rental garden looks beautiful, the tenants get that visual enjoyment, and vice-versa if it looks unpleasant.
“Rental gardens are sometimes completely paved over, from my own experience, landlords often find gardens become a problem when tenants ignore them, so they seldom want to allow for removing paving, hardscape etc, but creativity can be found through container gardening, vertical gardening and even container ponds. Aggressive weeds might also be present, so how to cope with those can be a challenge.
Gardening on a budget
How to Garden When You Rent“You don’t need to spend a fortune to make a difference, and many annual plants can be easily raised from seed, which is satisfying and really cheap, plus they grow quickly and give you impact the first summer. We can and should all do our bit to support biodiversity, so growing plants in any outdoor space will provide food and habitat for many critters you might not even think about, so remember all spaces, no matter how small or awkward are an opportunity to grow plants and support wildlife.

How To Garden When You Rent by Matthew Pottage is published by Dorling Kindersley,  ISBN - 0241459745
Top tips to get started
  • Assess your space - Measure the area, establish the aspect, get  an idea of how the weather affects your garden
  • Get a tree - They look great and are the best thing you can do for the environment. There are plenty of container trees that will provide season-round interest.
  • Use climbers for screening and to support wildlife - They can cover more space in less time, and be cheaper than a shrub, which may take up too much space and be harder to take with you if you move.
  • Start collecting water - If your landlord is ok with diverting rainwater, install a water butt or think about using grey water.
  • Create a water feature - A small pond can be made out of a container, and it’ll bring wildlife, and tranquility to your garden.
Listen to Zoe Claymore talk about her garden on the RHS Podcast


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