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Let’s go outside

Outside space looking a bit 'meh'? Hatch a plan to jazz up that jardin.

I think we’re all in agreement that it’s time to step away from the dregs of the Quality Street tin, prise ourselves off the sofa and seek out some fresh air, right? So in the words of Goring’s finest George Michael, let’s go outside. To the garden, to be specific. Don’t worry, I’m not going to order you to start digging up frozen soil or mowing the sodden (and sodding) lawn. It is however, a great time of year to embark upon a garden reboot. After all we spend a lot of time tinkering around inside and making our houses look and feel chic, cosy and welcoming but the design of our outside spaces can be an afterthought. With this in mind, I asked Simon Murfitt, green-fingered guru and the lord of landscape gardening, aka The Oxfordshire Gardener, for his tips on how to maximize the potential of our gardens, whatever their size.

 

Observe and research

The key to planning a successful, enjoyable garden is to begin with observation. Get outside and make notes of what works and doesn’t work, what you like and don’t like. Where are the sunny spots and where is invariably shady? How do you use your garden now and how would you like to use it? Go out and visit gardens, see how others have adopted features and created uses for their outdoor spaces and let it feed your imagination. Big or small, any garden can be refreshed and developed to enhance your lifestyle.

 

Are you sitting comfortably?

Think about the uses for each part of your garden. Is there a place you can sit back and relax in the sun or entertain guests? Could you create a wisteria-covered seating area, an arbour or pergola? You could add a rustic table and chairs, perhaps a games table or rope up a swing. It’s also important to consider the views from each destination in the garden. What will you see in winter when it’s all a bit bleak out there? You could perhaps place clipped evergreens or grasses in line of sight to frame a view all year round. Both look fantastic when they’re covered in frost too.

 

The joy of the journey

It’s not just about creating destinations within the garden, the journey to each zone or into the garden itself should be just as rewarding as the landing place. How about a serpentine walk made from willow ? A simple pathway can become enchanting when covered by a tunnel of gently swishing willows. And have a look at local artisans and find sculpture you love, place it in the garden where it can be glimpsed as you potter about or perhaps plonk it in an alcove carved from a boundary path. 

 

Grow your own

Kitchen gardens aren’t just for the Le Manoir, even the smallest garden can incorporate growing fruit and vegetables. Make 2018 the year you finally embrace The Good Life. You don’t have to se up valuable bed space – potatoes and carrots can be grown in deep planters on the patio. If you got a spare patch in the border, adding a tripod can mean a supply of fresh, organic garden peas this summer. Herbs are perfect for pots and window-boxes. For bigger gardens, planning in raised beds can add structure to a garden as well as providing you and your family with your very own homegrown goodies for months on end.

 

Turbo-charge your outdoor dining area

More into eating than growing? Think about a paved area in a sunny spot with a built-in outdoor oven. Sunken into a lawn or roofed with thatch or tile, an outdoor kitchen-dining area can be sheltered, cosy place to entertain all year round. Add some outdoor sofas and throws and light the oven fire on crisp, cool nights. And when the warmer weather returns it will make a wonderful retreat to take in the verdant views – just add a glass of wine.

theoxfordshiregardener.co.uk

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