6 steps to a glorious garden

PUBLISHED: 11:59 06 September 2016 | UPDATED: 11:59 06 September 2016

Visit places like Cliveden to get new ideas on making your garden and its displays work, photo flickr.com/photos/mariannebevis

Visit places like Cliveden to get new ideas on making your garden and its displays work, photo flickr.com/photos/mariannebevis


A fantastic garden is within the reach of us all, says Naomi Slade. We just need to plant for who and where we are!

1. Look beyond the boundary

There is a wealth of literature on garden planning and planting but nothing beats seeing good design in the flesh, so take a trip for inspiration. National Gardens Scheme (www.ngs.org.uk) garden owners are usually happy to chat or take a walk round legendary sites like Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Wisley – or gardens closer to home like Greys Court, West Green House and Cliveden. (www.nationaltrust.org.uk).

2. Be confident

It is ok to know what you like. If you hate a particular plant (and we all have our un-favourites) then there is no call to grow it. Likewise, if you love something that is widely considered infra dig (although even the humble gnome has seen a latter-day revival) then what the heck? Your garden, your tastes!

3. Work with your garden, not against it

Growing something in the wrong conditions is, to quote the wisdom of Elton John’s Honky Cat, ‘like trying to find gold in a silver mine; It’s like trying to drink whisky from a bottle of wine.’ If you have free-draining, neutral loam and a sunny aspect then luck is on your side. But on acid soil your garden will be more glorious if you embrace acid-loving plants and if you have damp shade, if you invest heavily in ferns, hostas and snowdrops.

4. Be realistic about your time

If you are supremely busy, the garden needs to be a place to relax and unwind rather than another source of endless jobs. Plenty of structure and low-maintenance planting is the ticket here (my own leafy front garden gets a prune-and-polish twice a year and that is it, honest). But if you have the leisure to potter and tinker, it can be cottage gardening and veg all the way.

5. Include plenty of winter structure

Don’t let your plot collapse with the first breath of frost, Colourful cornus stems, textured bark and skeletal seedheads will inject colour and interest even when the leaves have gone. Try escallonia, pittosporum, eleagnus and hydrangeas, persistent crab-apples and rosehips and lashings of spring bulbs. Gardens can be glorious all year round.

6. Enjoy it

It may not be immaculate, there may be weeds or children’s toys, but it does not have to be a showpiece. Install plenty of places to sit, include lots of things you like and make it somewhere you want to be. And funnily enough, the more time you spend there the better it will get: as the old as the old saying goes, the best fertiliser is the gardener’s shadow.

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