Friday, 15 December 2017

Great time to plan a new look for your garden

RESOLUTIONS. Now there’s a word. Re-solutions: a new way of looking at something or a new way of solving an

RESOLUTIONS. Now there’s a word. Re-solutions: a new way of looking at something or a new way of solving an old problem.

As with many things, gardens are cyclical and many could be forgiven for thinking about them in a similar vein to housework. Same old thing day in day out, year in year out. Once you’ve done the weeding, it all needs doing again after a (very) short period of things looking lovely. And indeed this is how many people treat gardening and their gardens. Planting the same vegetables year on year; the same things coming into flower in the same places at the same time every year; the same bulbs and annuals in pots and in the same arrangements. Many people are happy with this cycle of things, and it does have a certain rhythm of contentedness to it.

But not for me. I became a designer because I love variety. The same thing day after day — whether it’s a meal, a TV programme, taking the dog on the same walk, or choosing the same bulbs for my pots — these things would drive me bonkers. So I love a new year. And it comes very conveniently at a cold, dreary time when you rarely want to be out in the garden, but when you can plan to your heart’s content.

Also, January is that wonderful time when there is a lot of space in the garden. Most things have died back, there is a lot of room at the base of plants and you can get a good grasp of what’s going on in terms of overall design. My best ideas arrive in January. It’s like I need a blank canvas in order to really put in place some exciting things for the year ahead.

So I am delighted that this year I have a most enviable task ahead of me; to totally re-design the gardens around my house. I’ve actually never done this for myself before. We are having our house renovated and the gardens are a blank canvas, with very little of any merit that should be retained. I cannot wait to get started. It’s the perfect time and place to start planning for 2013.

Now, I know that I have the luxury of complete refurbishment and new design, but we can — and in fact, should — all approach our gardens in such a way.

I have never been one to leave something in the “wrong” place if it’s niggling me, or just put up with something I don’t like. I firmly believe that even the most gorgeous, mature, perfect specimen of a plant is not the right one if it’s in the wrong place.

Therefore I am up for renovating, removing, relocating and replacing anything in my garden if it’s not working. It’s such a great feeling when you make a change you thought would be for the better and you get that “If only I’d done it before” feeling. Go with your gut. It’s normally right. So I recommend that you start the planning process right now. And despite my cynicism over repetition and sameness, the planning can still work and be helpful even if you are doing the same things as last year.

If the budget is tight, why not grow the same things as last year but try them from seed? Now is the perfect time to start planning your productive growing. Order some seed catalogues and buy in some seeds. With a warm windowsill or a heated propagator you can get many things under way in no time.

Also, use the time to prepare your soil. There’s nothing better than digging to work up a sweat, burn off some Christmas calories and get the soil in peak condition for planting out in spring.

Visit your library too, or some of the lovely local gardens that can look spectacular in winter, for inspiration. There’s no shame in copying someone else’s ideas.

I always ask my clients what their dream garden would be, it’s a hugely helpful tool to a successful garden to know what you most love in a garden, even if it’s off the scale in terms of size and budget!

Everyone can have a taste of Sissinghurst or Highgrove or Stourhead in their garden, no matter how tiny their plot. Likewise, take inspiration from your neighbours and friends or even the garden you have spied over the fence. Above all, the most important part of planning the year ahead is to actually write down your aspirations.

Even if the ideas are madly ambitious or “back of a fag packet” (where most of my best ideas lie), a list or a physical plan pinned up on the wall focuses the mind. It keeps your goals close and will encourage action. Often the act of writing something down can spur you on, whereas ideas that remain in the mind can soon be discarded and forgotten.

Do a rough outline of your garden (ideally to scale) and scribble on your ideas, shapes of beds, lists of plants, pot combinations etc, sticking pictures on if you have them, and look at it (and add to it) in the coming days, weeks and months, taking care to action the ideas whenever you can of course or it will forever remain a pipe dream.

Good luck. I take solace from the fact that readers out there will be planning and tinkering at the same time as me. I need some moral support so I hope you take heed and enjoy it as much as me.

Jennie Herrington runs The Green Room Garden and Interior Design in Wargrave. Email info@ jennieherrington.co.uk, call 0118 940 4204, or go to www.jennieherrington.co.uk

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