Garden Ideas

To be outdoors in a beautiful garden is even more effect if you are at the same time enclosed yet surrounded by plants is on one the pleasures of a garden arbour, gazebo or arched walkway. Looking at the garden from within, so to speak, draws the eye to the view beyond. This type of framework will also support a huge range of climbing plants, many highly scented. You can use any of these kinds of structures to ‘divide’ the garden, sometimes on a grand scale if you have the space. Because they are almost always based on straight lines they can become an intregal part of the geometry of the garden and be used to design the rest of your outdoor space around. The important consideration here though is to always put up a structure that is in proportion to the scale of the garden. Nothing looks worse than a giant feature in a tiny town garden.

If you want an easy start to growing your own food begin with rhubarb, there really isn’t anything much simpler. It will grow and flourish with very little attention and provide delicious, pink stems for cooking. In fact rhubarb is a frost resistant plant which needs a period of frost in the winter to produce the best stalks. For thinner, sweeter and more tender rhubarb forcing, using special pots or black polythene placed over the crowns, will make a difference. However after pulling the stalks of forced rhubarb you should leave the plants alone for a year to recover or they will be weakened; nor should the plants be forced again for two years.

Safe steps are vital in a garden for the elderly or young children; just one or two unprotected steps are potentially dangerous. The best way to ensure there are no bad accidents in your garden, if you are planning to build steps, is to install hand rails, balustrading and side walls. Choose materials to complement the steps and the surrounding architecture. Treads should slope very slightly to allow rainwater to run off and have a non-slip surface. To improve visibility, steps can be finished with a slightly projecting nosing that creates a clear shadow-line on the riser below. If you choose materials of contrasting colour the steps are more easily seen. For steps that are used regularly in dim light or at night add some lighting which will flatter the steps and make them safer; many types of outdoor lighting can be built into the steps for a better effect.

No matter how beautiful the plants in your garden never forget that major design contribution can often come from clever vertical planting. Vertical impact plants might be a conical conifer, a clump of bamboo, clipped cone-shaped yew or box, clipped Euonymus japonicus, New Zealand Flax, Euphorbia wulfenii, Juniper Skyrocket, Picea pungens glauca, Prunus amanogawa, an oak pillar wreathed in roses or even a row of espalier apples.

In times of war we all dug for victory, now in times of austerity perhaps we should do it again. Do you really need all that high maintainance lawn to look after? Many gardeners have a love-hate relationship with their lawn; it’s a huge amount of work to keep it mown and properly edged so why not dig some of it up and turn the ground into productive vegetable beds? Would it really be much more work than a demanding lawn? Think of all those delicious tender veg and salads coming to your table and no huge supermarket bills. It’s not a such a bad thought is it? No more tedious mowing, no more scarifying and no more reseeding all the bald patches!

A sunken sitting area in your garden can be a stunning feature. Making sure it is well drained to ensure rainwater does not collect you can surround it with a low wall of mellow bricks with a narrow border behind it and pave the sitting area with blue stone paving and finish it off with a natural stone seat. Plant a small tree, chosen for its spring blossom, and fill the rest of the border with scented plants such as lavender, lilies, chamomile and thyme.

Is your garden getting too much for you? Is it becoming an unending source of worry? If so why not advertise locally for people who don’t own a garden to come and help you keep it under, in exchange for a piece of ground where they can grow their own produce, which they may even possibly share with you. A large garden may even encourage a small team of people to come and enjoy the fruits of your garden, while providing a source of social entertainment that you could be the centre of; perhaps offering tea and cakes.

If you love gardening on a grand scale and you have masses of open space why not consider planting an avenue of single specimen trees or tall shrubs? This was done at Sissinghurst Castle to great effect in the spring garden, where all sorts of beautiful bulbs and early flowers grow under an avenue of lime trees; the effect is stunning. An avenue is a decorative form of planting that is spaced out but symmetrical, giving the illusion of a physical barrier with espaliered or pleached trees as the most impressive style to create a really memorable picture. Espaliered or pleached trees also take up much less ground than continuous hedging, which is particularly useful where space is valuable as they allow for companion planting beneath the linear branches. Avenues by definition normally are constructed with pairs of trees or shrubs of identical shapes and sizes to ensure uniformity, for this reason it is best to select your plants carefully. Even a slight variation in growth can lead to a distortion of the essential avenue symmetry.

A small scale garden ornament needs the right setting that carefully chosen planting can provide. For example mossy saxifrage makes a good foil for stone textures and forms a neat green foundation to enhance such features such as abirdbath or an antique style sundial.

If you have a large group of pots and containers filled with plants on your patio or in a corner of your garden you may find that the area around the bottom of the pots looks rather bare and boring and you want to hide the plainness of it. This can easily be done by placing random piles of large smooth pebbles or cobbles, in different colours, around the base of your containers. If you can find it at a garden centre buy some medium sized pieces of lava stone and place them between the pebbles. This soft attractive stone lends itself to having even quite large holes made in its structure, which can then be filled with fine soil and low growing succulents and alpines. All of this presents a much more pleasing picture than just plain pot bottoms, especially if it is viewed from somewhere like an elegant summer house or a smart paved patio.

A paved garden can be versatile and adaptable, especially if you love entertaining outside and need a dry mud free area. You can devote part of this type of garden to outdoor dining or cooking for friends on the barbecue, all year round.

If you have a narrow town garden with high walls use a large garden mirror to reflect more light around your outside space and also give it the illusion of seeming larger than it really is. There are some amazing designs on the market from lavish gothic arch styles to 'window ajar' or 'gate ajar' styles which create the impression of a window or gate set into the wall. You can even buy a mirror for your garden which includes a metal or wooden trellis overlay.

To create a living shelter for your garden seat why not consider growing a structure made from living willow rods. Now is the time to plant them ready for the spring. You can purchase rods in bundles of 50, with a membrane and pins, from

If you have a really damp or shady corner in your garden where you would like to put an area of lawn to place a garden bench on but fear it will just get wet and muddy underfoot why not forget about real grass and fork out for some top grade artificial turf, which can look very realistic. You will find that it can transform your garden and give you the perfect lawn all year round.

If your garden is very heavy clay, which you can hardly be bothered to cultivate, but you would like one lovely flowering tree to look at from your window or put a deck chair under in summer what should you choose? Probably Malus, or flowering crab. It is one of the nicest small trees to grow in clay and it's not going to grow too big. It flowers profusely in spring and is followed by attractive crab apples in autumn. 'John Downie' is universally regarded as one of the easiest and most impressive varieties, with its pretty white flowers and largish orange-yellow fruits that attract the birds and also make delicious crab apple jelly. There are lots of wonderful Malus trees available, some with red leaves and all shades of blossom from pale pink to a dark wine colour.

To cheer up a dull front garden and driveway use gravel for the finished surface for vehicular access so that you can spread the interest in an undefined way beyond the the absolute minimum area required and where possible linking it to flower beds that can spread flowers and ground cover into the gravel forming loose edges that are much less severe that just plain concrete or tarmac. Then to give more interest, especially in winter, place large clay pots planted with clipped box balls, between the plants.

Searching for that last minute Christmas present for a garden loving couple? Why not buy them a beautiful wooden love seat to be put in pride of place on their patio or lawn? There are lots of different styles and this is something they will never get tired of using or indeed looking at.

Plant great bowls of Hippeastrum, Paperwhite Narcissus and winter flowering Erica and place them on a conservatory table to make a wonderful Christmas display to help to bring some of the garden indoors, on dank dark days.

Place a stone or lead container near, or next to your front door then insert into it a bucket or bowl full of water. Next stuff the whole thing with as much berried holly, ivy, fir cone branches and coloured stems as you can manage, then spray with artifical snow for a beautiful seasonal display.

Why not create a moveable herb display? As well being useful in the kitchen and for treating minor ailments, herbs are such an attractive feature with their variable and scented foliage. Grown in containers and pots, they can make a lovely display in any size garden and grown in this way may be moved around at will. Herbs even look good in old tin baths, antique coal buckets and willow baskets. The main thing to remember is to group together herbs that require the same growing conditions; some for example need it hot, dry and sunny while others prefer slightly damp shade.

If you are looking for a really unusual tree to feature in your garden that also gives something in return you can’t do better than to plant a mulberry. Well known for its unique fruit, it is even more famous for feeding the silk worms that produced the silk for the Queen’s wedding dress. You will however need plenty of room as this grand tree, which is also associated with great writers such as Keats, Shelley and Shakespeare, grows at quite a fast rate and spreads well, creating dappled shade in summer; ideal for a picnic bench.

If you love the feeling of movement and change in your outdoor living space put up a traditional style dove cote and bring a family of fantail doves into your garden. You won’t need to buy many as they breed so fast. Be aware though that they can make quite a mess so keep them well away from areas close to the house and your neighbour's boundary. This said they are well worth the slight trouble they cause since they can look really beautiful cooing and strutting around on top of a white dove cote or on your lawn.

Use a traditional trellis with a garden arch, dripping with sweet smelling roses, to frame a distant wooden bench that is approached by a slab path edged on both sides with deep purple lavender. The whole effect makes for an eclectic mixture of classic and cottage gardening.

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