Now that spring is in full swing, bringing with it warmer weather and longer days, many of us have been turning our attentions towards how to enhance our gardens in order to make the most of it.
And, from sowing a meadow to clipping trees into shape, there are plenty of quick and easy jobs to tackle over the coming weeks.
Here, we have rounded up 20 of the best top tips on creating the perfect green oasis this season.
How to give your garden an update for spring 2022
1. Plant for pollinators
Seeing plants buzzing with bees and butterflies is one of the joys of spring and summer. Verbena bonariensis is a long-time wildlife garden favourite with its clusters of intense rich purple flowers and airy demeanour, but the shorter ‘Lollipop’ cultivar has the same attributes and provides a more understated alternative for the front of borders (crocus.co.uk).
2. Think big plants
Try some supersize perennials like Ferula communis – the giant fennel – as punctuation points (and talking points). The supersized perennial will have a starring role in Sarah Price’s garden at Chelsea this year. It has a froth of feathery leaves in spring (fantastic planted with swathes of purple alliums) followed by enormous yellow flower heads (bethchatto.co.uk).
3. Show off your pots
Whether it’s a cluster of pots artfully arranged on a plant theatre by the back door or a makeshift cabinet filled with auriculas or violas, mini collections of plants are a stylish way to display your favourite pots.
4. Go green
From ditching plastic pots to harvesting precious water, many of us are now seeking out more environmentally friendly ways to garden. Chemical giant Bayer reports a big growth in greener alternatives to pesticides and fungicides, including its natural Solabiol range. Or ditch sprays altogether and fight aphids with natural predators – ladybird larvae consume 100 aphids a day before growing into adult ladybirds which will consume thousands more (greengardener.co.uk).
5. Reconsider conifers
Whether it’s a neat mound of Pinus mugo or the sculptural canopies of Pinus pinea, evergreen coniferous plants are making a comeback thanks to designers such as Matt Keightley and Emily Erlam. They look beautiful contrasted with graceful perennials including verbascums and grasses like Stipa tenuissima.
6. Make a fire
Move over barbecues, now it’s all about cooking around a campfire (or fire pit). This spring revisit books on campfire cooking;Feast by Firelight tells you everything you need to know about cooking out, while Valerie Aikman-Smith’s Feasts from the Fire is packed with ideas for al fresco cooking and eating. If you prefer to stick to the barbecue then Everdure’s sleek, chic portable mini cooker is perfect for days in the woods (johnlewis.co.uk, £179).
7. Colour-theme a table
Soon we’ll all want to entertain outside rather than in. Stick to one colour for the most impact – Summerill & Bishop’s gorgeous linen tablecloths provide the perfect base for a monochrome scheme with glasses and small vases of flowers (summerillandbishop.com).
8. Trade lawn for flowers
Follow planting designer and florist Carolyn Dunster’s lead and replace a tatty lawn with a self-seeding flower garden. In her small city garden, Dunster removed her turf in one weekend and replaced it with inch-deep (3cm) gravel before planting it with annuals including nigella, cornflowers, nicotiana, poppies and cosmos and biennials such as honesty and hesperis. “I purposely did not put down a membrane as I wanted to plant directly into the bare soil below and give my flowers the best chance of setting seed,” says Dunster. “And as annuals put all their energy into creating flower and seed heads within one season, they require very little space underground for their roots.”
9. Sow a meadow
Take a tip from designer Butter Wakefield’s west London garden and plant an urban meadow. If you have a bare patch of weed-free soil, sow a meadow-mix – just rake over the soil to a fine tilth and broadcast the seeds (mix them with sand to make this easier). You should have a sea of flowers by midsummer. You can do the same with a green manure like phacelia, which will flower with incredible lilac blooms (bees love them) and can be dug back into the soil before it forms seed heads.
10. Refresh the lawn
If you haven’t done it already then cut your lawn on the highest setting. If you need to upgrade your mower, make it a self-mulching machine so that finely chopped clippings can help feed your lawn rather than fill up brown bins.
You can make lawns more wildlife-friendly by letting grass grow longer – just mow around the perimeter for some crisp definition.
Keep edges looking sharp by installing Everedge’s smart metal edging (everedge.co.uk) or use small hazel hurdles for a cottage garden look along border edges.
11. Style a tabletop garden
Raising plants above the ground is an easy way to showcase favourites. In her book Garden Style, Selina Lake shows how to create a dramatic stage for lush foliage. “Use a pair of trestles or table legs and an old blackboard or reclaimed marble slab to make a table, then amass a collection of interesting plants with varying leaf shapes (gypsophila and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’) and add a mirror to double the impact of the display. Any surface offers an opportunity for a mini display.”
12. Sharpen the edges
Hedge-trimming may start in earnest in June but you can still neaten up scruffy topiary now. Use sharp and clean shears – Niwaki’s beautiful white oak handled shears, £159, are a joy to use (niwaki.com).
13. Light up summer evenings
Update any tatty outdoor lights with something shiny and new. Brass marine fittings aren’t cheap, but they are beautiful and built to last (from £235 for a brass bulkhead light, originalbtc.com). Or string up some festoons – the advances in solar lights means that you don’t need to run cables out into the garden for some atmospheric illumination.
14. Mini-size me
Diminutive structures are perfect for small gardens and patios. The National Trust Peckover shed is a stylish Tardis for storage (from £3,749, nationaltrust.org.uk), while a small greenhouse will transform your gardening. There are plenty of elegant timber or powder-coated metal options but Pure Greenhouse’s frameless cold frame (a smaller version of its original glasshouse) has major wow factor (puregreenhouse.co.uk).
15. Get cosy under canvas
Whether it’s a small tepee for children to camp out in or a cavernous party palace, tents have gone from purely functional to fabulous. Raj Tent Club has adorable smaller tents with pastel striped lining for children and, believe it or not, dogs (rajtentclub.com).
16. Clip trees into shape
If established trees are casting too much shade, lift the canopy (prune out lower branches) to allow more light into borders and create a more pleasing shape.
17. Invest in new pots
The National Trust has its own collection of garden accessories including grey terracotta pots made in Tuscany by Danish firm Berg. The trust has also used its oak leaf motif on a range of kneelers, pots and other accessories (nationaltrust.org.uk).
18. Easy entertaining
From outdoor drinks trolleys to “plug and play” pergolas with integrated lighting and heating, outdoor spaces have never been more party-ready. Fab Hab rugs has geometric outdoor rugs made from recycled plastic (from £54.95, cuckooland.com) and Garden Trading has a sleek drinks trolley £70 (gardentrading.co.uk).
19. Ward off bugs
Many gardeners adore marigolds, and these sunny annual flowers have long been used to ward off green and whitefly but they can make beautiful cut flowers, too. Try growing Tagetes linnaeus, which has deep rusty red petals (sarahraven.com).
20. Focus on scented plants
For an easy-to-grow perennial that will fill the air with fragrance, try Matthiola incana ‘Pillow Talk’ (chilternseeds.co.uk).