With the end of April comes the end of frosts, so now’s the perfect time to lay the groundwork of a beautiful spring and summer garden.
Being in a natural green space is always delightful and hugely positive for our well-being, while gardening itself has proved a healthy and joyous activity. On top of all that, gardens have become a bigger selling point than ever.
Post lockdown, outside space remains a high priority for buyers, so it really pays to make the most of whatever you have, from a bijou balcony to rolling lawns.
The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert or wait for months to have a blooming garden to enjoy. In fact, you could create your perfect room outdoors in a single weekend.
Whether you’re looking to savour the summer where you live now, or you’re getting ready to sell your home, you’ll find everything here to sow the seeds of a gorgeous leafy haven.
GARDENING BY NUMBERS
Whatever size garden you have, there are some universal principles that make planning and designing simpler. It might not be as simple as one, two, three, but these seven tips will help your garden grow to a perfect ten.
- Landscapers treat a big garden as a series of separate rooms, with physical boundaries to create different areas for dining, playing, wilderness, growing, etc.
- Think of small gardens as a single room where the position of furniture creates natural places for pots, planting and accessories.
- Plant in odd prime numbers like 3s, 5s, 7s and 11s in a triangular or irregular cluster – nature doesn’t grow in rows.
- To keep your garden in bloom for longer, stagger your planting dates or maturing dates. Gardeners call this succession planting.
- For beds, put taller plants towards the back and smaller to the front so you can see everything you’ve planted and they all get some light.
- Experiment with scale. A single large specimen plant in a small garden can add more drama than a cluster of miniatures. Try a bay or olive tree in the sun, or a fatsia in the shade.
- There is no right combination of plants. Have fun mixing shapes, colours and textures of leaf for a look that you love.
For regular inspiration and advice, you can’t get much better than Radio 4’s weekly Gardeners Question Time.
INSTANT GARDEN MAGIC
If you’re getting your home ready for sale, or you simply can’t wait to be sitting outside among blooming flowers and leaves, instant gratification is just a garden centre away.
- About-to-bloom flowers are available to drop into pots, planters and beds for immediate colour, while adding a few larger plants can give your garden an established feel in seconds.
- Use your pots and planters to create a naturalistic vibe by choosing materials like ceramics, terracotta, wood or rattan.
- Remember that pots, baskets and planters need extra watering and food because of the smaller volume of soil and increased exposure to wind.
- Create cosy spring twilights and evenings with storm candles, solar-powered lanterns and bulb strings.
- Add some interior design to your outdoor furniture with textiles and natural fabrics like wool and cotton. Think tablecloths, seat covers, cushions and blankets.
- Treat a long straight lawn to some organic curves with a few large plants staggered on either side.
- Liven up a plain patio or balcony with a patterned outdoor rug.
With these simple tricks, your garden could be ready for its close-up – or putting your feet up – in a single weekend.
HAVE FUN WITH SUN AND SHADE
Whether your garden is always in the shade or roasting in the sun, it can be thriving and beautiful with the right plants in the right places.
- Nature is never wrong. Place your plants where the label says and they’ll pay you back in spades.
- If you’ve fallen in love with a plant that won’t grow in your garden, ask the nursery about a suitable alternative with the same leaf shape, size or colour.
- Among many splendid sun-loving plants are: cardoon (massive, beautiful, prickly and purple); melianthus (think space-age rhubarb); echinops (spiky puffballs), and fennel (fluffy bronze or green leaves).
- Perfect solutions for shade include making a Victorian-style fernery with varieties from 6in to 4 ft; fatsia japonica (go for the spider’s web variety); hostas (widely used in Japanese gardens), and arum lilies.
Follow nature’s lead and your garden will have the tools it needs for continuous growth, year after year.
BEFRIEND THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
You might be surprised to learn how crucial gardens are to the survival of many species. Offering a far more stable habitat than regularly farmed fields, they can be a haven of biodiversity in rural and urban settings.
- Among the best flowers to attract bees and butterflies are: Erysimum Bowles’s Mauve, which can flower all year; the fluffy, tall and elegant Linaria with gorgeous grey-green leaves; Phacelia (aka the fiddle flower) which has the highest pollen bearing, and the humble marigold.
- Plants such as oxeye daisy, achillea and fox-and-cubs are also excellent for pollinators and can transform your lawn into a colourful perennial meadow with flowers amongst the grass.
- The healthier your plants, the longer pollinators will visit, so invest in a compost bin. Top tip: give it a stir each week to speed up the composting process.
- Hanging feeders help birds avoid food shortages, and the RSPB bird-feeding pages have excellent, seasonal tips. Spring and summer are about high protein, while autumn and winter are about high energy and fats.
- Water baths are also loved by birds, but make sure they’re not too deep (1 to 2 inches) and that the water is changed regularly. They should also be safe from cats, so in a high place with good visibility.
A garden with butterflies flitting, bees buzzing and birds bobbing about is a real delight and looks absolutely magical. Wonderful for you to enjoy, and enchanting for buyers!
GET INTO THE ZONE
Garden zones not only add character and style, they turn every corner into a special and valuable space.
Beyond a lawn and patio are so many options: try the following zoning and edging ideas for inspiration.
- Got a trampoline, slide or climbing frame? They rarely match or improve any garden design, so why not create a secret playspace behind a gazebo, greenhouse or fruit trees? More fun for the kids, more peace and quiet for you.
- Railway sleepers are perfect for building raised beds or for steps to an elevated deck.
- A mini meadow or patch of wildflowers supports biodiversity, and makes a romantic reading spot with a chair or bench.
- Kitchen gardens of vegetables and herbs don’t have to be messy. Edging solutions like woven willow, cinder blocks, recycled rubber and natural stone keep everything in check with a stylish, well, edge! (Tomatoes, spinach and French beans are all available as plug plants: get them in the ground now for harvesting around 6-10 weeks later.)
- Hedgerow plants make softer and leafier boundaries than standard garden fencing. The Royal Horticultural Society has a brilliant page on hedges.
- Cane wigwams give you height to separate zones with climbers. Try classic clematis or the quick-growing bee-magnet that is morning glory.
Whatever type of zones you create, the key to success is clear separation to make each one feel complete.
What’s your next step?
Are your knee pads at the ready and gloves in hand to give your garden or balcony a spring injection? It really is the perfect time.
If you’re wondering what local buyers are looking for in a garden, why not get in touch? Call 01843 269188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a friendly chat about selling your home in around Birchington, Westgate, Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate and to tell us about your plans.