The Money-Saving Gardener Anya Lautenbach

Liz Nicholls

Sunday Times

Self-taught Bucks “garden fairy” Anya Lautenbach’s new book can help you create your dream garden on a smaller budget, thanks to her hard-won experience

Standing amid a drift of beatifully  blooming narcissi, Anya Lautenbach has a smile as radiant as the blooming half-acre garden she has nurtured.

And this positive, sunny sight is even more miraculous because Anya is the first to admit that her self-taught gardening skills have helped her dig her way out from a dark place.

Anya grew up in Poland and was inspired by her grandparents who knew how to grow and forage for their food, having survived WWII. She arrived in the UK in her late twenties to learn English, leaving behind a career in business development. But while working on Mohamed Fayed’s Balnagown Castle estate in the Scottish Highlands, she felt extremely homesick and, on her mother’s advice, she bought a plant, which helped her feel “rooted”.

From this tiny plant baby, a strong passion grew, with Anya growing and propagating new plants, channelling the knowledge she’d absorbed as a child. Once her English had improved, she moved to Buckinghamshire to return to her corporate life, getting married and having her first son before moving to her current home in Marlow in 2012. She loved the natural beauty all around her but nonetheless felt herself sliding into a mental health crisis.

Propagation can connect us to previous generations.”

“I never asked for any help in terms of mental health,” she says. “I felt trapped and lost and I couldn’t even go for a run because I had a newborn.” Anya also struggled to process her shock and pain when close relatives back home in Poland were struggling with long-term illness. “It was like storm after storm after storm, and I was so overwhelmed, constantly in tears, struggling with what was happening back home,” she says. “Since then I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, which I now see as my superpower, but before then it was hard.”

Thanks to her mother-in-law’s encouragement, Anya began taking cuttings and her passion for the life-changing magic of plants grew, “almost like a positive dose of medicine. Propagation saved me from a serious mental breakdown.”

Anya, who lives with her husband and two sons, started posting short, easy-to-follow gardening hacks on her Instagram @anya_thegarden_fairy which went viral, especially as the cost of living crisis began to pinch. Today, she has more than a million followers across social media channels, including 690,000 on Facebook, almost half a million on Instagram and 60,000 on TikTok, where her tutorials include splitting clumps of “Rozanne” geraniums and other tips.

Dorling Kindersley published her first book, The Money-Saving Gardener: Create Your Dream Garden at a Fraction of the Cost in February, and it has become a Sunday Times bestseller. The book is a mine of helpful, creative tips to help save your pennies, the planet and maybe your sanity. “Propagation can connect us to previous generations – and to future generations too,” says Anya. “I’m delighted by the response!”