Revamp your garden for summer and revitalize

Revamp your garden for summer and revitalize

As Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, the famous 18th century garden designer, often said, all spaces are capable of improvement. So step outside and ask yourself these questions. Is it a space to relax or socialize? Is it a sanctuary for you? Is it to attract wildlife? Do I have existing plants which are flourishing? Long-term, it is well worth investing in a soil testing kit and only planting those plants which will be at home in your soil type and climate, but in the short-term there are lots of quick fixes, which will take you outdoors whatever the weather.

Clear the decks

Bin old garden rubbish, clear the shed and prune back shrubs which are leggy, reducing old wood by a third but keeping the fresh shoots.  To promote the growth of side shoots on plants in general cut back  the central stem. Monty Don, writing in Gardener’s World,  advises moving large shrubs which are in the wrong place in August to allow them to build up strength before winter in their new location. Dead head flowering plants. Clean patio areas or cover with fake grass from companies such as Easigrass.

Hot sources of inspiration for your new blank canvas:

Check out this year’s Chelsea Flower Show gold medal winners online. Once described in the Guardian as the catwalk of garden design, there are great ideas here which you can copy. Jihae Hwang focused on indigenous plants which have the advantage of growing more successfully in their place of origin than imported species. Water features such as reflecting pools bring calm but are a more significant investment. For a similar effect introduce mirrors onto walls behind planting, or pot up shrubs in reflective metal pots. Architectural forms work best and have presence. These are particularly dramatic when planted up with shrubs such as hydrangea or rhododendron.

Use a modern take on an old theme. Introduce topiary and box hedges in pots. Line them up to echo formal gardens from the Italian Renaissance as Thomas Hoblyn did, again at Chelsea, or rebel and go mad planting up containers with bedding plants for a dramatic splash of color in any part of the garden. Pinks, dahlias, petunias, begonias, violas will bring a cottage garden feel to your space.

Visit artists’ gardens such as Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Little Sparta or Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives, and add objects with personal meaning to your scheme, or source old urns and garden ornaments from architectural salvage yards. Why not commission a local artist, or let your creativity thrive with your plants and paint dull walls with bright colors?

And let’s not forget the Olympic Meadow; but for those who don’t like their gardens wild, Matthew Wilson in Gardener’s World, suggests planting wild flower seeds in a container. Cowslips, poppies and red clover will delight the bees which you can also encourage to come to the garden with a so-called bee hotel made from hollow tubes tied together in a frame, or buy one online.

Feeding more than the soul:

Forget the idea of tucking up your plants in separate beds. You can mix vegetables, herbs and flowers in the same space. Alternatively, grow woody herbs such as rosemary along borders and trim as a hedge. Plant softer herbs in hanging baskets at the kitchen door.

Birds will thank you for bird baths and feeders as they bring on their second broods, and bring life to your revamped garden.

Personal space:

Multi-functional landscape could well describe any garden, and screens allow you to create space within space. Screens needn’t just be standard wooden trellising but can be made from upcycled, industrial salvage materials, perspex sheets or tubes, or climbing, diaphanous sweet peas, honeysuckle and clematis. Use these plants to screen ugly sheds and consider planting a green roof on top of outdoor structures. A simple frame with as little as 50mm of soil will feed sweet smelling camomile and thyme amongst others. Check online for instructions.

From drought to deluge:

Investing in water butts (UK) or rain barrels (US) is a great way of storing water in case of a dry spell, and many water companies and retailers offer them online. If you don’t fancy one off the shelf, certain companies will make them from cedar at $300, or in the style of traditional oak barrels.

So if your garden is dry and boring this summer, start your revamp now and reap the benefits.

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