January, named from the two-headed Roman god Janus who looks both forwards and backwards, is a great time to take stock in the garden. The leaves are down, everything that dies back has done so by now and the garden is at its absolute barest – all the strengths and weaknesses of its design will be at their most obvious. Take a moment to look out from various different windows of the house, to sit in favourite spots and to evaluate. What do you want out of your garden? What is it giving you and how could it be improved?
Given the general bleakness of the weather and shortness of the days, it’s also a great time to hunker down and dig through photos from the past year. Evaluate what has and hasn’t worked. Perhaps one lone clump of lilies gave you more pleasure than the whole tangled shrubbery behind it? If so, time to plant more!
Here’s my three point guide for getting more out of your garden in 2014:
TOP TIP 1
SIMPLIFY – compare the gardens you see in design books and flower shows to domestic gardens. The biggest difference? Simplicity. If you’ve got a small garden, avoid the temptation to cram in a mini-woodland, mini-meadow, rockery, veg patch and lawn. Try opting for a couple of large patios or areas of gravel, connected by paths and surrounded by lush planting. It’ll not only look much better, it’ll be much lower-maintenance too. If you do need to have a lawn, keep its shape as simple as possible, for ease of maintenance and a clean, stylish look.
TOP TIP 2
TAKE THE HOUSE OUTSIDE – for a harmonious look use the house’s dimensions in the garden. For example, continue the ceiling height of a room out into the garden using a pergola or shade sail. Even better, make your patio at least the size of an adjoining room.
Which leads neatly on to the next tip…
TOP TIP 3
SUPERSIZE ME – when it comes to patios and ponds, the commonest mistake people make is to make them far too small. By the time you’ve put a table and chairs on many patios there’s no room to walk – let alone fit some decent pots in too. Ponds shrink enormously once marginal plants have established, often leaving just a puddle in the middle of rampant greenery. The solution? Make patios and ponds at least twice the size you initially thought appropriate. You (and the party guests/frogs) won’t regret it!