The weather can be pretty unpleasant, the days are short, it seems to get dark far too early. Maybe it is hard to get inspired about your garden in winter, but for keen gardener Nancy Murgatroyd this is the time to dream and plan.  Here she shares some ideas about how to plan a garden project.
A concertina sketchbook is great way to explore new garden ideas.

Doing something different in your garden can be very satisfying but where to start? Perhaps you have a piece of ground you want to beautify or a border you want to extend or perhaps your view of your garden from the kitchen is less than appealing.

Of course, there are masses of magazines and books full of beautiful gardens, they are lovely to look at but frighten me off when I want to start a garden project. 

Start with shapes 

Like a Magpie, I gather attractive pictures and ideas in my "Inspiration Notebook"

I start with shapes of borders and paths, how do they look, will they be practical. Use a length of rope or an old washing line to lay out the shape you want to create. Leave it in place for a while, days or weeks. View it from different angles, look down on it from upstairs, imagine how tall you want the plants to be and how easy it would be to garden. You don’t want to be trampling soil and plants to do the weeding. Can you reach from the front to the back of your border, could you put in stepping stones? 

The edges are really important because they make the garden look tidy or scruffy. What happens where your border meets the lawn or the path? All the practical stuff may sound like a bit of a trial but once that is thought about you can have fun musing about plants.

Think about colour

I always start by thinking about colour. I love different colour stories in different places, pinks with reds and orange or blue, white and lemon, purple with silver and pink. In fact, purple with pretty much anything does it for me; it is a constant running through the garden, allium in the spring, verbena through the summer and autumn.

Explore plants online

Whatever your theme, there is masses of information about plants online. Dark winter days can be spent gazing at fabulous plants in their seasonal glory. The RHS can tell you all about plants you might fancy growing, how tall they grow, when they flower, what sort of soil they like, do they like a sunny or shady spot, are they frost hardy? Some online catalogues suggest lovely combinations of plants. A notebook or sketchbook is a good idea so you can make notes about what you like. You will be so much more knowledgeable when you go to your local garden centre.

Grow something different

They say the best thing to do is see what your neighbours grow successfully and plant it. That may be the safe option but I have always wanted to grow something different. Plant shrubs in the winter, perennials in the spring and annuals in the summer. Think about succession flowering through the season. Yes, I have been thinking about it for years and I never get it right. After mid summer I’m on a downhill slide but I try to do better each year. I also think about how closely to plant and I imagine how everything will grow into a magical tapestry. Inevitably I’m confounded by shapes and sizes I have misjudged and then wait for winter to move plants to a more suitable spot, hopefully before they are so big I need a crowbar.

It’s an experiment and some plants will not survive, but the winter is the ideal time to learn and think and plan for spring and summer. The garden you create will be your idea and your choice.

Woodland plants are great survivors and add lots of colour

Nov 27, 2020

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