For lazy afternoons in the sun and long evenings socialising, there is no better time to enjoy your garden than the summer months.
Make the most of the warm weather by creating a beautiful space to relax in and be the envy of friends and family, whether that's with blankets of vibrant flowers or an impressive focal point.
Keen to create an amazing garden before Summer is in full swing? Transform your space from so-so to sensational in no time with these quick and clever ideas.
Easy summer garden ideas
These nine simple tricks should be all the inspiration you need.
1. Think big
One large shrub or tree can instantly make your garden feel more settled and mature. Go for the biggest you can afford – reputable nurseries will offer a guarantee. If there’s a wholesale nursery in your area, you may be able to grab yourself a bargain by buying a large shrub in full flower.
2. Quick break
Do you need to mark a boundary, or divide a long, thin garden into ‘rooms’? There are three speedy solutions. You can put up sections of small-squared trellis, draping it with fast-growing annual climbers such as black-eyed Susan or runner beans. This can give you the chance to experiment with bold colour – try the dazzling sky-blue morning glory Ipomoea tricolor ‘Heavenly Blue’.
Alternatively, plant a bulwark of Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, which will grow up rapidly to make a feathery screen that will stand all Winter, sparkling and rippling in the wind.The downside is that you will have to cut it down in February and wait for it to grow again.
You can also invest in a ready-grown hedge. This isn’t cheap: six 2m yew plants will set you back in the region of £700 (though faster-growing laurel or privet are a good deal cheaper.) But nothing will have a more immediate impact on the garden.
3. Add structure
When planning a garden, begin with evergreens – these will be the backbone, creating structure throughout the year. Repeating the same plant, such as box balls or columns of yew, makes a pleasing framework so showier plants can strut their stuff.
Evergreens can be showstoppers, too – let’s not forget the glossy, plate-like leaves of Fatsia japonica, the gorgeous blooms of camellias or the striking silvery spears of Astelia chathamica. And they needn’t even be green: the hugely versatile pittosporums are available in a range of gold and silver, creamy or purple shades.
4. Create a focal point
A strong feature will add impact and draw the eye away from any less-perfect areas of your garden. A dramatically planted container works well – especially in a small garden – and the larger the container, the less often you’ll have to water it.
As an alternative, try grouping your containers, always remembering that less is more. If they are different sizes, or you’re using a variety of plants, make sure they’re all made of the same material – coloured resin or galvanised steel for a modern, urban look, or weathered terracotta for a more traditional garden.
To make a bold statement, plant up three identical containers with the same plants – you can change them with the seasons. It’s a trick often used in show gardens, and it works just as well at home.
5. High living
Turn a dreary balcony or roof terrace into a joyous up-in-the-air allotment, choosing plants like tomatoes and chillies that enjoy a hot, sunny spot and won’t be too upset by windy conditions. Try sweet cherry tomatoes like ‘Sungold’, ‘Sweet Aperitif’ or trusty ‘Gardener’s Delight’ for a steady supply of fruit.
Juicy plum tomatoes are always worth a try, and there are many good varieties bred specially for hanging baskets, such as ‘Tumbler’ or golden-fruited ‘Balconi Yellow’, while vigorous, cascading ‘Hundreds and Thousands’ makes such a pretty show that you may almost be persuaded not to nibble. They are really easy to grow – just pop one plant into each basket, remember to water it (ideally adding a splash of tomato food) and that’s it.
Runner beans, French beans, chard and spinach all deliver decent crops from pots; peas are better sown and harvested for their shoots. Rocket will manage – just – in a shady corner, but rotating pots of cut-and-come-again salads will make the best use of space.
6. Instant meadow
Here’s the ultimate in labour-saving gardening: you can now create a beautiful wildflower meadow as simply as rolling out a carpet. Instead of waiting to sow seed in Spring or Autumn, simply peg down a mat of biodegradable felt, studded with seeds of some 20 different flowers. The felt acts as a barrier to competing weeds, especially thuggish grasses, allowing the flowers to get a head start.
You do, alas, still have to prepare the ground: the simplest way is to weed-kill where you wish to lay your mat, then rake off the dead vegetation, leaving a fine tilth. Find wildflower mats at turf.co.uk.
7. Quick colour
Pelargoniums are the instant gardener’s best friend, bulking up quickly to fill the garden with colour all Summer long. In a new garden, concentrate them in key spots to give a ‘full garden’ feel while the rest of your planting catches up. They’re easy to find in garden centres, but a specialist nursery will offer a much more exciting range of colours and forms.
It’s hard to beat Lord Bute for sumptuous colour, and don’t forget the scented leaf varieties, with aromas of cut grass or lemons, peppermint or cinnamon. Plant them in your kitchen window box . Check out Fibrex Nurseries.
8. Easy herb garden
Go to the supermarket and fill your basket with growing herbs. Then, instead of watching them wilt away, plant them in a window box. Nine times out of 10, they will thrive, even if you sometimes forget to water them.
Read our full herb garden guide for more detailed guidance.
9. Screen stars
Hide eyesores with some clever planting. For a small area, a few pots of bamboo will offer rapid screening – not too dense or light-limiting, but evergreen and pleasing to the ear and the eye. And if you don’t need screening at a lower level, you can remove the bottom leaves to reveal the bamboo’s brightly coloured stems.
Where space is at a premium, nothing is lovelier than pleached trees. You can buy them already trained into a variety of shapes – cubes or oblongs or highly space-efficient flat screens.
While you will generally need planning permission to build a fence over 2m high, there is no such restriction on deciduous trees, so you can effectively create a hedge on stilts, guarding your privacy while retaining valuable planting space below. Many trees can be grown in this way, but hornbeam is an excellent choice – unfussy about garden conditions, and holding its leaves well into the Winter.
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