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Time for contemplation...resurrect your garden this Easter

Eight garden thoughts to contemplate as Easter approaches

It's almost Easter! A mellow holiday weekend during which time you might want to contemplate the shape of things to come in your garden. This is the start of the outdoor season and it's a great time to organise your space. Does your garden need a makeover? In the same way that new beginnings commence at Easter, you can breathe new life and ideas into your garden.

New beginnings: Easter is a time for fresh ideas and it's the start of the outdoor season.

Thought 1: One of the most difficult (and important) decisions you will need to make concerns the materials you use to form the structure of the space. There's no doubt that within your garden you will be wanting some hard surfacing. A path; a patio; some steps and possibly a retaining wall. How do you decide what to have?  Paving, will you have brick, stone, concrete, gravel, tarmac?  Try not to mix too many materials. The result can look rather fragmented. F                     Firstly you need to consider the fact that, unlike plants, your hard materials will be there to stay. It is unlikely you will want to dig up your garden path in order to swap the bricks for blocks or change the blocks to stone slabs. This would be a major undertaking, and expensive too. A lot of thought and visualisation at the early stage is likely to save you heartache later. Your garden needs to suit you at Easter, summer, autumn and winter too. So where do you start?

Thought 2: Go back to basics this Easter. Think about what you need your garden to do for you. Do you like to sit in a sunny spot (if only!), or dine outside? Do you require a play area for the children or grandchildren? How about a vegetable plot? A lawn? You might need a path to enable you to circulate around the garden without damaging the lawn. A bench in a secluded spot perhaps? What about a wildlife area; a formal section or a useful garden shed? Water in the garden; lighting, perhaps? And we haven't even mentioned plants yet! There are many possibilities and in a tiny garden the placement of the 'essentials' becomes even more critical.  Who could resist walking up this attractive garden path to the seating area?  

Thought 3: Once you've decided what you need, you can think about the look. Open Pandora's Box! A marriage of style and function will provide great pleasure in the years to come and the design is just as important in a small space as it is in a big garden, if not more so. A basic path can be constructed using concrete or slabs. Then there are stone cobbles, real stone slabs, bricks, blocks, decking, gravel, stone chippings, tarmac the list goes on.  Garden surfaces need to suit every member of the family!

Thought 4: What about the walls and fences? Timber is an obvious choice, and even retaining walls can be constructed using sleepers. Or there's steel (weathering steel provides a 'contemporary' look) and a multitude of alternative possibilities.    CorTen, or 'weathering steel', is a contemporary material that looks great in the right setting.  Concrete walls and slabs are another option and these can look great when softened with planting. Top tip: use a limited palette of hard materials in order to avoid a fragmented appearance. Two or three should be the maximum. But what fun you can have choosing the look!  Luscious outdoor spaces don't just 'happen'! They are designed to look this good.

Thought 5: Once you have decided on your shapes and styles for the structure of the place, the fun can begin with visualising your planting. Do you want soft, naturalistic plants that smooth the edges and boundaries and provide a floaty-feel? Or do you prefer a rigid, formal planting scheme to bring order to your life? Whatever your preference, it's all completely possible. Putting in the plants is the icing on the cake of a new garden.  

Thought 6: Styles of planting The most important aspect of a plant, when it comes to an effective planting design, is the shape of the actual plant. Not the flowers. Why? Because the flowers appear for only a short space of time. It's the shape of the plant that will be there long-term. For example, lots of people love lavender.  Lavender grows in a mounded form. Quite rightly so, it has those delectable flowers with that heady aroma, and lovely silvery foliage too. Lavender look great when planted next to a path or on the edge of a wall. A line of lavender makes a great feature because of its mounded shape and then the flowers which will be present for several weeks – even months. But just one lavender, planted next to another mounded form of a similar size (hardy geranium or Santolina, for example) will all merge into one from a distance. The form is too similar.

Santolina has a similar shape to Lavender. They look lovely when flowering but the mounded forms merge together at other times of the year. Choose identical or different, but not similar. If you plant a spikey, strappy shape next to the lavender (think of Agapanthus; Phormium or Iris) and then something with a different form behind (large ornamental grass or flat-topped Achillea, for example), every plant will complement the next. Your border structure will be pleasing to the eye.

Phormium and grasses, a great combination. Repeat the shapes throughout the garden in order to achieve a linking. Your eye will connect to similar shapes. A successful planting scheme uses shapes rather than flowers and there are some beautiful combinations to be achieved once you have tuned into the possibilities.

Thought 7: Want to inject some seasonal colour? Pots, window baskets and containers do the job rather well. You can also use the gaps in your borders to pop in some temporary annual colour if you wish. Flowers in pots can inject some lovely colour into a garden.

Thought 8: Looking for a formal design? Think symmetry, balance, geometric shapes and straight lines. Formality gives you a great chance to use clipped shapes and evergreens. Formal planting often uses a limited palette of colours as well as shapes. Low hedging and parterres are entirely at home in a formal scheme, using evergreens such as yew and box to form the shapes. A formal rose garden uses the shapes of the beds to achieve the structure – without this the bed will look uninviting for most of the year until the June flowers arrive.

The formal design creates something quite different, but equally as exciting!   There's a lot of fun to be had with garden design. Take your time during the initial stages in order to achieve something to be proud of.  

By Perfect Plants


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