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I often think paint colour is one of the most underused elements in a garden and it’s something I always address when I’m producing garden plans for my clients. Paint can make such a difference to the feel of a space, making it feel bigger, smarter and pulled together, but can also be used to great effect on individual features like furniture to transform it.
I love all of the signs of spring, but one of my absolute favourites is the new growth of climbing plants. The early shoots of clematis, honeysuckle and climbing roses have a way of gladdening the heart – I want to cheer them on as they climb, outwards and upwards, to embrace the new season. Climbers that flower in spring are especially valuable as they distract the eye from still-bare borders and from the messy brown foliage of bulbs that have just finished flowering.
If word on the grapevine is anything to go by, garden furniture has been eagerly sought after since the Christmas decorations were packed away. Last year taught us that we definitely need outdoor spaces to meet family and friends in, and since that’s likely to continue, everyone’s looking to make them more comfortable.
Some of the prettiest, most dainty flowering plants belong in the woodland category – think of native bluebells for instance – spectacular as carpets stretching underneath trees, but individually exquisite when viewed close up. Our native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, needs lots of space to thrive and doesn’t particularly work well with other plants – so is perhaps best kept for larger gardens. The cultivated or Spanish bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica, should be used with caution – a sturdier, less elegant bluebell, it’s invasive and inclined to hybridise with the more delicate natives so I would avoid it.
When I’m not at the drawing board you will find me with my head stuck in a book. If it’s remotely fine and I have time, I’ll be in the garden with a book and a beverage, and surely wood burning stoves were invented for curling up beside in winter with a volume or three?
Good news this week if you’re wondering what to buy for the gardener in your life this Christmas– there are lots of lovely things available locally that would be not just useful but very welcome, and with stores opening up you can choose to visit or shop online.
Anything that makes the garden more inviting in winter has to be a good thing, am I right? So this week I thought we might look at plants with attractive scents for winter – easily overlooked, but worth exploring if you believe, as I do, that a garden should work hard for you for twelve months of the year. Most of the favourites on my list are winter flowering shrubs that will sit quietly in the wings for months until it’s their time to shine – so placing of them needs careful thought. If possible, you want them near the front door, or near a path where you can enjoy the fragrance as you pass – but you might want to combine them with something more decorative for the rest of the year.
This week it feels as though deciduous garden plants are really getting serious about bedtime. The wind and rain of the last few days have brought leaves cascading down, and those still clinging on have turned yellow overnight, as though to signal their intentions. It’s an untidy season, which is probably one of the reasons I don’t like it very much – but it was still good to get outside for an hour at the weekend to begin the clean-up. You need to keep moving outside at this time of year to keep the cold at bay, so I gathered several buckets of fallen leaves to add to the leaf mould pile beside the shed.
You might remember me mentioning last week that I’d been ordering tulips, so just to remind you, you still have several weeks to plant the bulbs if you haven’t already. As they originate in the Middle East (not in Holland – the Dutch are just brilliant at growing and breeding them), they really need baking heat in summer, after the flower and foliage has yellowed and died down, in order to flower the following year. (Don’t we all.) This not always being forthcoming in Northern Europe, for every dozen you plant you could be lucky if two or three bother to show up in year two. That said, nothing else makes such a colourful display in late spring – so if you’re thinking of indulging, here are a few suggestions.
It’s time to plant the tulips – at least it will be once they arrive. An email informs me that my bulb order has been shipped, but in these strange times who knows what adventures they will have before they arrive safely at my door?