A well-maintained garden is said to add between five and 20 per cent to a property’s value and it’s an investment that literally grows, says Elly West
Summer holidays are here, and hopefully good weather will mean we can spend lots of time in our gardens relaxing, eating, entertaining – with maybe the odd G&T or two. The concept of the garden as another room is not a new one, but it’s at this time of year that we can really appreciate outdoor living.
It’s a sad fact that gardens often come last on the list in terms of budget allocation for home improvements, and yet a well-maintained garden is said to add between five and 20 per cent to a property’s value, not to mention the hours of pleasure it can bring. And it’s an investment that literally grows. Look after your plants well and they will mature year on year so the garden just keeps looking better.
Now is a good time to assess the garden and decide what works and what doesn’t. Start planning now, and there will be plenty of time to come up with a design and find a landscaper, so that by next summer you could have the garden of your dreams. But there are still improvements you can make to maximise your space this summer. It may not be a great time to plant new borders, lawns, trees or hedges – the soil will be dry, the water table low, and they will struggle to get established, even with diligent watering. But it’s the perfect time to think about adding garden accessories.
Think of the garden as an outside room and plan your added extras accordingly, considering colour, texture, shape and repetition, just as you would any other aspect of home design. At this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the LG Eco-City garden was one of my favourites. I loved the colours and the hard landscaping, but also the attention to detail, not least because of the way the designer accessorised the space, perfectly co-ordinating the cushions with the planting (see image above), which included lemon-yellow lupins, with coppery verbascums, orange trollius and geums. While we may not all take things to this extreme, it shows how sticking to a simple colour theme throughout creates a space that is restful to the eye.
Summer brings with it evenings spent outdoors, so a good place to start is with garden lighting. If you’re lucky enough to have an outdoor power source, then electric lights give you the most choice and reliability, but there are also some great solar lights available now. Solar fairy lights are a cost-effective way to give your garden an instant boost, and can be remarkably bright and long-lasting after a sunny day. String them through trees and shrubs, along a fence, or over an arch or pergola for a bit of instant holiday magic. Outdoor candles, whether real or battery-powered LEDs, also give a soft and atmospheric effect for very little cost. Think about up-lighting any feature plants. A glowing light underneath a yucca or palm will throw the most amazing shadows on the wall or fence behind. Lights can also have a practical purpose, lining a driveway or for security.
Accessorising your garden is a fun way to revamp and update your space, and another quick and easy way to do this is by looking at your containers. Many gardens I see include a mishmash of pots in different styles, glazes and colours, collected and added to over the years. However, choosing containers that tone with each other will add a calmer appeal. Consider painting them all the same colour with a suitable acrylic paint for an instant facelift.
Or why not think about encouraging wildlife to the garden with bird baths and bird feeders? Choose a bath or feeder in an attractive stone or metal, and it will make an interesting stand-alone feature, with the added bonus of bringing in our feathered friends. Just remember to keep them clean and topped up.
Think about what is in your line of view from where you like to sit in the garden, or perhaps from a vantage point indoors, such as the kitchen window. Perhaps this area could be improved with a focal point such as a statue? Try salvage yards for unusual finds. The Greek and Roman gods are a common inspiration for garden statues, but if you want something more contemporary there are also lots of free-flowing shapes available in stone, bronze and other materials. Just a simple stone sphere, or ideally a few dotted around the garden, adds another point of interest and will fit with most garden styles.
Or you may wish to create your own garden sculpture from a piece of driftwood or other interesting find. If you’re out and about this summer, or away on holiday, it’s always nice to have a memento that will remind you of your travels. This is the way we bring our personality into the garden, with finishing touches and unique details. I like to collect things from places I’ve been for my garden, whether it’s an interesting rock or collection of shells, metalwork to hang on the fences, or an old ornate bird cage supporting a summer-flowering clematis.Elly’s summer-flowering clematis weaving in and out of an old ornate bird cage
PLANT OF THE MONTH
Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ finds its way into many of my planting schemes, as it’s such a reliable, easy-going performer that fits in well with many different garden styles. Its large white pom-pom flowers last well from July onwards, glowing out from the border particularly in the evening as the light starts to fade. Newly planted specimens may flop with the weight of the flowers, so will benefit from some support. As a white variety, it’s unaffected by soil pH, unlike many of its pink and blue cousins. Hydrangeas are woodland dwellers by nature, so cope well with drier, shadier spots, but are also happy in full sun. Leave the flowers to form crisp seed-heads and you can enjoy them in winter too, with a sprinkling of sparkly frost. As with all hydrangeas of this type, keep them to the size you want by cutting them hard back in spring as they start to come out of dormancy and new growth begins, trimming back to plump buds. This will keep them rounded and bushy.The hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ is such a reliable, easy-going performer