Book review: The Five Minute Garden by Laetitia Maklouf

There was a point last year when life was so busy I found spending time in my own garden was depressingly difficult. Gradually the tasks built up and I found the garden, my place to escape any worries and pressures of day to day life, was pushing on me too. With so much to do, I had to find hours to work through the to do list, but when and how when work and social events were so busy?

It was in this moment I was drawn to Laetitia Maklouf’s five minute ethos on her Instagram. Ordinarily I’m wary of short timed activities, burnt by Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals that ignore the hour of shopping and prep beforehand. However, in this case, with the to do lists mounting, Laetitia’s targeted tips resonated with me and clicked. As Laetitia says upfront, if you do five minutes a day, on some days you may do more, on others less but the important thing is go out there at least once. And since then I have, even on busy days I’ve been following her advice and going out, if only to spend those five minutes simply looking around at what’s growing and enjoying it. It’s worked, my mountainous to do list gradually disappeared and I’m enjoying the garden again without needing to set aside entire days of work.

Unless of course it’s raining, when the Five Minute Garden let’s us take the day off! Being endlessly practical and kind, the book gives a lot of thought to enjoyment around a busy life rather than being a task master. This is a jolly read, beautifully written in a friendly entertaining way.

It’s a perfect book for a beginner but also a timely reminder for more advanced gardeners too. I reckon most people think that once you’ve spent decades growing things you magically know it all but I doubt that is the case for anyone because our heads aren’t built like a computer harddrive and gardening is an absolutely vast subject. I’ve grown most garden plants now but I do struggle with trying to remember everything I’m supposed to be doing – again, if you live a busy lifestyle it’s doubly hard to keep track – so I see myself relying on this book to revisit and check what I should be doing at any given point in the year.

I like the month by month structure of this book because you can dip in at any moment to see what to do right now, in March for instance, or in the coming month. With reminders to begin gently feeding houseplants through to expert styling tips on planting companions, such as salvias to hide the legs of roses. Each chapter is a different month full of carefully planned tasks and pointers that can be done in five minutes – or a little longer for projects, activities like an indoor pot of bulbs to get your teeth into.

It’s a clever little book because it takes the author’s expertise to cut to the chase of what really needs doing at any one time, rather than having to wade through the bore of a text book. A note on the illustrations because they’re fun hand drawn images including pugs and wine glasses (yes!) amongst the flowers and trowels. Oh, and I’ve just noticed the pages form a rainbow because each month is a different colour. So, it’s beautifully presented but it’s the advice that stands out as you’ll learn something new on every page because everything here comes from direct experience – follow along with Laetitia on her Instagram for useful accompanying guidance. Overall, it’s a book of advanced advice presented in a way anyone can easily follow.

If you’re determined to make a success of your garden this year, I recommend The Five Minute Garden for timely guidance across the months. You’ll see results on day one and as each five minute activity unfolds, it’ll look tippity toppier and ship shapier with each passing day.

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