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Planning the year ahead

Now the Christmas decorations have been taken down and I have survived the first day back at work (it didn’t rain!!) I have been thinking about the year ahead, planning changes for my own garden as well as for clients and seeing what I can be getting on with now.

Before you know it, it will be time to start sowing seeds so now is a good time to clear out and clean greenhouses. It feels good to have everything organised at the start of the growing season. After getting a bit of inspiration from the Sarah Raven website (lovely pictures, great planting combinations) I like to make a list of any vegetables and annuals that we want to grow in the coming months. We normally go for easy to grow, classic veg; runner beans, various types of salad leaves, maybe some Pak Choi if we’re feeling adventurous. For annuals I love Sweet Peas, Ammi Magus, Cornflower Centaurea cyanus ‘Black Ball’, Nigella and the Marigold Calendula officinalis ‘Indian Prince’, all of which, once you’ve introduced them in your garden, can be grown from seeds collected the year before.

Now is the time to take stock, with a cup of tea, and think about what didn’t work last year and what could be improved on. Taking a good look at your garden in winter is a really useful exercise as it allows you to concentrate on the layout and structure, those hard working evergreens and background plants which get lost in all the exuberance of the growing season but are essential to a garden’s success. It might look a bit grey out there right now but there’s no reason why the view from your window should be a boring one. There’s nothing worse than having to look at a slightly tatty old fence for 3 months of the year; they need disguising and screening with some well chosen shrubs and climbers. Gardening magazines in winter are full of formal classic topiary, beautifully photographed in the harsh morning frost and although formal works well in even the smallest of gardens, box balls and spirals aren’t everyone’s thing.  More informal shrubs work just as well or you could consider grasses, coloured stems, attractive tree bark, or a scented winter flowering shrub.

Below are four of my favouite evergreen plants which do a great job in winter: formal box balls, spring flowering Euphorbia characias subsp Wulfenii, the summer flowering climber Trachelospernum jasminoides and highly scented, winter flowering Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’:

I have big plans this year for my own, rather small garden. With an house extension planned for early spring the current layout isn’t going to work and I can’t help but start planning a new design for the whole garden (any excuse!).  The garden was created before I was even interested in garden design and although it is packed with plants that I have discovered and fallen in love with over the years I now know that it could be so much better.  I am relishing the idea of starting from scratch, repositioning the patio and small lawn to make the space work better, and persuade my other half that he needs to construct a new fancy log store and something to hide the bins!! It’s an opportunity to dig up the majority of my plants, keep the ones I like and ditch the rest (I can be quite a ruthless gardener!). The small raised vegetable beds can go – they are awkward to get to, too shaded by a nearby tree and riddled with slugs as soon as anything starts to grow. They will be replaced with some large pots for easy to grow vegetables that we eat all the time. Most of all I would like the garden to be lower maintenance than it is now. Like most of my busy clients I just don’t have time to spend in it and when I do I want to be doing the things I enjoy, not be fighting slugs and trying to keep on top of plants which I neither planted nor like.

Happy Gardening in 2015……