The secret to achieving a camera-ready garden

If you want an instant garden, you’re going to have a hard time – in fact, you’ll need lots of hard time. A gorgeous garden straight out of the glossies might look easy, but it takes pacing, patience and clock watching precision…

As anyone with a garden will tell you, you can spend a lot of time tending and trimming (and if you’re really keen, sowing and hoeing) – but very few gardeners seem to spend time on timing.

Good timing in a garden can mean the difference between continuous flowers or gaping holes; successful crops or dismal failures; year round colour or a winter wasteland.

Do things too late or too early and your efforts may not be rewarded, and concentrate all your time and resources on only one season i.e. a stunning summer cottage garden and you may be left with nothing to look at come autumn.

Interest all year round
The holy grail of gardening is to have interest all year round, and whether that’s colour, fragrance, foliage or flowers (or perhaps even basketfuls of fruit and vegetables) Abbotswood can help.

As expert garden designers, we look at your garden as a blank canvas, designing if from scratch (if necessary) to incorporate hard landscaping elements such as paths, patios and pergolas that will give interest even when the natural elements are wilting. But with our unrivalled plant knowledge we can also devise, or update existing designs to inject clever planting schemes that will provide year round colour and structure.

No time like the present
Even seasoned gardeners find it hard to know the optimum time to plant for the best show.

It’s no good planting spring bulbs in February and expecting them to give you a spring display. Similarly, if you always head to the garden centre in the summer, then your garden will always reflect what’s looking best in the summer – but it might not look good in the autumn or spring. Everything has a time and a place in the gardening calendar. 

Our team’s horticultural knowledge can bypass all the swotting up on garden textbooks because we know our biennials from our perennials and our long-season stalwarts from our annual stunners.

We know that pre-planning is essential in getting interest across the whole year and we can incorporate this into our designs – as well as encourage a little patience! 

Always think ahead
Clients can often be surprised at the bare patches between plantings in a new design, but as we explain we’re always thinking ahead and giving enough space (and time) for things to grow and blossom. We often add summer annuals to provide a show n the interim. Similarly, while summer bulbs might not be evident in a spring design, we know this hidden element will give you a lovely surprise come July and August.

Although the magazines are full of camera-ready ‘Chelsea’ gardens, a domestic garden will not look the same all year around. Most photos are taken in early June when the garden is at its best, and in reality every plant has its season and requires a dormant period even in mild winters.

Winter wonderland
Our Cambridge clients often ask us how to bring winter interest into the garden. While we might use outdoor spaces less when it’s cold, we still want something lovely to look at out of the window.

At Abbotswood Garden Design we go beyond the quick-fix evergreens.While evergreens have their charms in creating structure in winter, we know it’s a combination of these and perennial, deciduous shrubs with fabulous winterberries or flowers that can provide the much-needed interest in the colder months.

In our garden designs we make the most of silver and variegated foliage as well as berries and bark, from Pittosporum ‘Silver Queen’ to variegated holly and ivy.

Grasses can add instant impact and offer stunning shapes and textures on frosty mornings, and drifts of dogwoods in red, dark purple and yellow can produce a display as warming as a November bonfire. Add to this silver birch, cotoneasters and winter jasmine and the effect can be as good as any summer border - and each one will take on new form and shape as the season progresses.

Time of your life
Plants have their own little body clocks too, of course. Annuals, for example, tend to flower for one summer and then die, biennials flower the following season and perennials will give and give for years to come, given the right amount of TLC. 

We’re adept at staggering perennials so you get the longest season of interest out of them as you can. For example, spring bloomers such as hellebore offer lovely foliage even after the flowers have died down and can be followed by early summer stalwarts such as peonies and poppies; midsummer stunners such as daylilies and hardy geraniums; followed later by summer/autumn colour from asters, dahlias and sedums.

Prolong flowers and scent
Insert two of the same types of plants into a scheme a few weeks apart, such as Viburnum burkwoodii and Viburnum juddii, and you’ll prolong the flowers and scent that little bit longer as they come into flower in succession.

With our unrivalled horticultural knowledge, we also have a goodie bag of what we like to call ‘powerhouse plants’ up our sleeves. These are plants that give interest across more than one season – giving you more bang for your buck. 

The paperbark maple, for example, offers fruit in the summer, tinted foliage in the autumn and gorgeous peeling bark in the winter, while silvery lavenders, mohonias, hornbeams and fat-hipped roses all provide changing colour, texture and sometimes scent across many months.

Spring bulbs are incredibly popular but summer bulbs and bare roots are often overlooked, and yet these can provide fabulous colour at a cut-price, and, in the long term, establish better than pot grown or later planted specimens.

All in all, is the time ripe to start putting some thought into your garden’s biological clock?

Call Rob on 07857 657003 and book in one of our informative planting consultations for your Cambridgeshire garden.