Life

5 designer tips for giving your garden a makeover this spring

Garden designer Hilary Thomas offers 5 tips on how to make stylish changes to your garden that will make a real difference later on in the year

Try to select a colour that will fit in with the colour of the planting around the sitting area in the garden

With longer days and better weather on the horizon, now's the time to take a look at how your garden has fared over winter. Garden designer and lecturer Hilary Thomas, who teaches garden and planting design online through Learning With Experts, explains: "Gardens are great places to be creative, as even small additions such as painting the garden furniture, or the addition of colourful cushions, will have an instant and exciting effect."

She offers five suggestions for giving your outdoor space a spring makeover.

1. Boost your boundaries: During the cooler months, we spend a lot of time looking at our gardens from the windows of the house, so take a long hard look at your garden and decide whether you like the view.

Walls and fences are the same height in a tiny garden as a large one, so their importance increases as the size of the garden decreases. If all you can see are bare fences, spring is the time to do something about it.

Plant some structural evergreens at the back of the border so that as they mature, they will hide the boundary fence. Use plants like Elaeagnus x ebbingei, Osmanthus x burkwoodii, Phillyrea latifolia, Pittosporum tenuifolium and Viburnum tinus.

Plant some clematis between these shrubs, and they will mix and mingle, creating a soft boundary around the garden with summer colour and all-year interest.

If you look out at an unsightly concrete or brick wall, consider having it rendered and painted with an exciting new shade of masonry paint. Think carefully about the colour and select a few climbing plants with flowers and foliage that will complement the new wall.

2. Screen with green: If your sitting area is overlooked by the next-door neighbours, consider planting a row of trees along the boundary to block out their view.

Go for narrow, fastigiate trees such as Pyrus calleryana 'Chanticleer' a flowering pear with wonderful autumn colour, or Carpinus betulus 'Frans Fontaine' a narrow form of our native hornbeam.

3. Think about how you use the garden: Consider the main use of the garden and if it is primarily a space to sit, relax and entertain friends, consider digging up the lawn and enlarging the sitting area. Keep the paving simple and mix slabs with gravel or stone chippings to keep costs down.

4. Revamp your garden furniture: If the garden furniture is looking a little tired and you don't want to buy new, put it in the garage or shed to dry off before rubbing it down and applying a coat of paint.

Try to select a colour that will fit in with the colour of the planting around the sitting area. There are paints suitable for both wood and metal furniture. Add some colourful cushions and tableware too.

5. Perk up your patio with pots: Spice up your back and front garden with colourful, welcoming pots. Your front garden should offer a welcome to visitors, so try to have a selection of colourful pots near your front door.

Containers come in a variety of materials, but a group of terracotta or glazed pots will suit most situations. Make sure the pots you buy will be the right size once you get them home, because most people buy containers that are too small and out of scale with the house and patio.

You can grow almost anything in a container; small trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, bulbs and seasonal bedding. Clipped evergreens such as Ilex crenata, Buxus sempervirens and Phillyrea latifolia add a touch of formality to a group of flowering plants.

In spring, narcissus and tulips will add seasonal excitement and colour to a container planted up with a winter flowering shrub or coloured winter stems. In summer, a mix of herbaceous plants and seasonal bedding can provide colour from June through to autumn.

For more information on the full range of courses visit www.learningwithexperts.com.

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