5 really obvious ways to make your garden better
Now is a good time to sit down and make a list of what worked and what didn’t in your 2015 garden. You’ve got all winter to plan and get ahead. And if you do, you’ll avoid expensive impulse buys.
1) Use a phone or camera to keep a monthly record.
Go round the garden at least once or twice a year, noting down what works and what doesn’t. Mid-September is a good time, as it’s starting to get straggly. Take photos, and find a way of filing them so you can look back.
If you have a blog, there are various blog challenges that make this easy, such as Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.You write a post with photos of what’s looking good in your garden on or near the 15th of the month and link to the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post. Gardeners all over the world link their blogs, so you can see what’s blooming in other areas. If you don’t write a blog, just make sure that wherever you keep your garden photos (eg on file on your computer), they are both captioned and backed up. Captions with dates and descriptions are the key to finding your photos again – jpg1235 means nothing, while ‘snowdrops February garden 2015’ can be searched for with ‘snowdrops’, ‘2015’ etc.
2) Think about the vertical elements
I think one of the reasons I prefer 2015 to 2014 in the above photographs is the vertical elements. We decided not to break the garden up into rooms, but to leave it fairly open. But at the beginning the lawn did look a bit like an airport runway – all flat greenness and paths. Slowly adding obelisks and topiary with a distinct upward point has really helped break up the space without ‘boxing it in’.
3) Give one bed a year a thorough makeover
Our north-facing bed is a quiet one – mainly different shades of evergreen with white. Over the years we failed to notice that the pyracantha was taking over, reaching several feet away from the wall and swamping many other plants. Some had even died. Over the winter we had it cut back and cleared. It was horrible job (I didn’t do it). Sackfuls of pyracantha were taken away. It was one of those jobs after which people say ‘The garden’s looking nice.’ Then we reply ‘oh, we’ve cut back that bed.’ They look puzzled. ‘Oh, I hadn’t noticed.’ The main bed is next. I usually leave my dahlias in over winter, and some survive but others don’t. So over the years, it has all become a bit monochrome, with Dahlia ‘Chat Noir (Black Cat)’ taking over, and my lovely purples and pinks slowly disappearing.
4) Support is the key
Support is one of those things I had to learn as a novice gardener. Yes, I did read the ‘jobs for this weekend’ in the gardening section of every newspaper and magazine. I even meant to get around to supporting my plants. But in the end I always found myself propping up plants that were already flopping, especially at this time of year. Last-minute supports always give the impression that the plant has a comb-over. Not a beautifully proportioned mound of blooms.
Last Christmas I was given some Crocus vouchers and I spent them on fluted plant supports. They’re like upturned lampshade frames and come (came?) in three sizes. I placed the largest ones over the newly-pruned hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ in spring. The supports soon disappeared under the emerging foliage. I plan to get more, although it will get expensive. I found the largest ones better than small or middle-sized (the latter weren’t quite big enough for my largest peonies), but prices hover above and just below the £50 mark. Although they’ll last for years. Or I could weave twig supports over my dahlias and hydrangeas. If I ever get round to it. Support is an area where you either spend time or money. Your choice. Cheap and easy doesn’t seem to be an option. For individual flowers, the single ‘shepherd crook’ from Plant belles are wonderful. They invisibly prop up the most statuesque of flowers. And they’re brilliant for those of us who don’t think about support until it’s too late, as they can be popped in any time. Cranbrook Iron also do plant supports, too.
5) Pots need sorting more than once a season
This is a really obvious point for those who have fabulous pots. But for those of us who never get their pots right (me), it’s something we actively need to remember. I made a big effort to get the terrace pots looking good at Easter. I planted various things that would come out at various times. Big mistake. Those with beautiful pots give them a complete re-vamp twice a year. Or more. They whizz pots in and out of hidden corners when they come into and out of flower. They empty out the potting compost (all of it!). Heaven only knows how they do it without giving themselves bad backs.
There are probably lots more really obvious ways of making your garden look better (weeding, weeding and more weeding) – do let me know yours. And I’d love it if you could share this using the buttons below – thank you!