Spring into ac­tion...

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - GARDENING AND PETS -

De­signer Hi­lary Thomas of­fers

Han­nah Stephen­son five great tips on how to make stylish and cre­ative changes to your gar­den that will make a real dif­fer­ence later on in the year

With longer days and bet­ter weather on the hori­zon, now is 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. 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 (above) 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. 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. THINK ABOUT HOW YOU USE THE GAR­DEN Con­sider the main use of the gar­den. 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. 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. 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 are the right size once you get them home.

You can grow al­most any­thing in a con­tainer, be it small trees, shrubs, herba­ceous plants, bulbs or 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 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

COLOUR SCHEME: paint­ing the garden fence helps flow­ers to stand out

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