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5 ways to pimp your garden

The Muddy jardin is a sorry state right now after about, ooh, three years of neglect. Sounds familiar? But all is not lost! Here's how to give it the spruce it needs ready for the party season.

I’m so rubbish at gardening I once painstakingly planted hundreds of bluebell and snowdrop bulbs upside down so not a single darn one flowered. Doh.

But help is at hand in the form of RHS Chelsea and Malvern medal-winning garden designers The Oxfordshire Gardener, owned by Simon Murfitt. A few years back, poor Simon had the dubious task of whipping the Muddy jungle into shape and did a fantastic job. I had hoped to become enthused with gardening and design beautiful spaces myself with my own creative brilliance, but, you know, Game of Thrones was on telly. A lot. Two years on, I’ve come to the conclusion I need expert help if I’m ever going to move on from ‘mow lawn’. Here are Simon’s ideas for jazzing up my jardin this spring but hopefully they’ll provide some inspo for your very own green space too.


How can I get more colour into my garden in a natural way? Nothing too cottagey or twee please!

If you’ve already got mature trees and shrubs in your garden, I’d introduce long-flowering plants not only to produce colour but to continually repeat flower throughout the season too. Try Penstemon ‘Blackbird’ for it’s inky magenta tones, or Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’.  The palette of colour is your choice. Have space for a patch of cutting flowers? They look gorgeous and save you loads of money on florist bills.

 I need to have some more privacy from next door – what kind of trees and shrubs offer that and also look good?

This is an increasingly common dilemma, as houses are built ever closer together. You can use verdant semi-mature to mature planting for scale and perspective. A single beautiful tree or group of trees perfectly placed can be transformative. Quercus Ilex or Holm oak is an evergreen broadleaf tree with lovely yellow catkins that can look so striking.  Also look closely at how your garden is designed and redirect focal points away from shared walls – think hard about how you use and best enjoy the garden (pergola, patio areas, flower cutting area?) and go from there.


I love snowdrops, daffs and bluebells, and would love a covering in the garden – can I do all three? And how much of an expensive and labour intensive exercise is it?

Bulbs look best if planted in generous clumps or amassed as a carpet in an area of the garden where you have trees and mature shrubs. English bluebells planted as a woodland carpet in your copse of plane trees will give it a natural look as if they had always been there, but blue is a great distance colour so you’d see them easily from the house. But the lovely thing is that these kind of bulbs work in any size garden. Tempting though it is to think of having snowdrops, daffs and then bluebells arriving in the same patch, I’d choose one type of bulb and give dramatic effect and volume rather than spreading three too thin! The most cost-effective way to plant is as bulbs in the autumn – think of it as an outdoors workout, just make sure they’re the right way up! Or we can do it for you – we can plant ‘in the green’ during February to March for instant impact and save your back ache!

The driveway up to my garden is looking ropey – what would you suggest?

Well, I told you it was ropey!

You could increase the planting with shrubs to soften the existing structures, together with lots of perennial planting such as Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ and Astrantia major ‘Claret’ and bulbs to create a natural woodland scheme with year-round interest. Or for a more contemporary, clean look, reduce the existing shrubbery and create large, verdant expanses of planting working with a limited palette and singular form.


I love the long bare wall in my garden, but feel it does need some interest – how do you do that without covering it up altogether?

Along a stone wall you could create planting pockets of year-round interest where the wall remains the main focus or natural architectural trained forms to create windows such as Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum), Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’, or hydrangeas and pleached limes as above,. Espalier pears planted at regular intervals along a wall give great blossom, fruits to harvest, and develop a pleasingly gnarled appearance over time.


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