If you have read me for awhile, you know that my husband John {aka Mr. FGH} is the real gardener at FrenchGardenHouse. Me? I love the garden, the flowers, the bees, the birds. And even have an {some say abnormal} love of gardening antiques. But the real work? That’s on Mr. FGH.  I asked him for some tips, here is Mr. FGH’s Beginning Gardening Guide.

Mr. FGH's Beginning Gardening Guide



My Mr. FGH comes from a long line of gardeners. He’s Dutch! He loves every aspect of gardening. He loves caring for and tending to living green and flowering things, spending more time outside, and reaping the edible or visual rewards from what he’s growing in the garden.



It was a highlight for me when our garden was featured in THIS OLD HOUSE a few years back, and our patio even made the cover!



{not for me, but because he’s our “back story” guy, so to see his hard work published, was a joy!}



I know most of you g a r d e n.  {believe me, ALL my friends garden. All of them! I am a duck out of water. I just make the garden look good by adding plants and antiques!}


Mr. FGH's Beginning Gardening Guide


If you don’t garden, I have high hopes of encouraging you to try at least one gardening project this spring and summer. While you will never see me digging holes, I do water! And I buy plants, plan beds, and love everything garden.


I always have blooming plants inside, so I’m all for tip #2! Even if gardening to you means you buy potted hydrangeas and display them in your antique French wheel barrow, or you plant moss in antique French cemetery vases…that’s gardening!!


Suggested first-time gardening projects.


Create a welcoming front door with a few potted plants. The French are masters at this! They have two great pots on the front door step, even if their door step is on the middle of a busy side walk. Low maintenance options are boxwoods, plant around these with annuals for a colorful accent!



Start small. Houseplants are wonderful to start small, especially if you don’t have any outdoor space.  Our antique French cast iron jardinieres are wonderful for houseplants, or orchids.  {I often use an antique ironstone French tureen to plant flowers in inside- see how to>.}


Mr. FGH's Beginning Gardening Guide



Plant seeds. Herbs are so easy to grow from seeds and they transplant well into the garden.  We use these antique little French seedling pots from a chateau greenhouse that I was able to get a few years back!



Grow What You Love.

If you are determined to go beyond the “start small” – growing something you love is very motivating. When we started our very first garden {and by now you know that by “we” I mean John-aka Mr. FGH} it was a tiny plot for a vegetable garden near the university where we lived when we were newly-weds. With a huge dose of determination and lots of reading, trial and error, my head gardener produced vegetables {more zucchini than I’ve ever seen!} for us to stretch our food budget with.


FrenchGardenHouse Country Summer Salad


You might have a different gardening goal. One antique dealer I know doesn’t have a garden, yet yearned to grow orchids in his city town house. His obvious goal helped him to learn all he could about orchid growing, and he dedicated a small bedroom to them, one with exceptional but filtered light.



Learn about  what grows in your region.These days, we don’t just have to count on books for information. All the online nurseries have growing regions specified for each plant, seed or bulb they sell. Everything you ever needed to know is just an internet search away!




Water. Sun. Soil. Gardening revolves around these three. Every plant you will ever buy will come with instructions for watering, how much sunlight it needs, and the type of soil it prefers. Follow them! The nursery who developed and/or sold you the plants wants you to be successful! I bought Mr. FGH a gardening journal so he can write the names of the plants I buy for him to plant in for future reference.



Water.  All plants need a certain amount of water. Make sure to read the watering instructions for every plant you plant. In summer, obviously most plants need more water. Here in Southern California, we water the back garden every day. It’s the one time I had a disagreement with my head gardener and I was right! {never happened again!} I said the plants will do much better with daily watering. For years, it didn’t happen…but now that we water the back garden every day, it is more beautiful and green than ever before!

Sun. This is a big part common sense, but again, it will depend on the plants you have and the instructions they came with. Don’t fight your lighting situation. Once we had the back garden re-vamped the whole lighting situation changed and everything grew better. It’s easier to find the best sunlight spot for a plant than to force a plant to live where it won’t be happy! On that note, don’t be afraid to move plants to a better location if it isn’t thriving.

Soil. Soil can be a confusing. There are so many types of soil, compost, mulch etc. at the nursery. Soil basics are about drainage, nutrients, and moisture retention. You can do your own research, but the helpers at your local nursery should be able to help you choose the right ones for your garden. If you’re planting in pots inside, look for potting or container soils that usually have more nutrients and hold moisture better.



If you make your garden a beautiful place to be, you will be able to enjoy it not just by yourself, but for entertaining. I actually bought our home here in Southern California for the big back yard! Because I can host at least 50 guests back there. And have.


Summer Entertaining French Style

French cotton tablecloth


Creating a beautiful garden is a joy.  There is nothing that makes us happier than to wake up to a sunlit garden, filled with birdsong, and butterflies. I hope you’ve enjoyed Mr. FGH’s Beginning Gardening Guide, and will relish your garden {indoors or out!} this season.


What do you love most about your garden?


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