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10 ways to get your garden ready for summer

As warmer weather arrives, it’s time to get al fresco-ready with our pick of the best garden products, tips and inspiration

rich landscapes bench from habitat

From planter ideas to growing vegetables, read our rundown of quick and easy ideas for your al fresco space

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1 Pots of style
rich landscapes bench from habitat

Garden designers Dave and Harry Rich of Rich Landscapes have turned their hand to creating pots and furniture for Habitat. The pared-back collections include ‘Rediad’, a series of simple, galvanised metal planters inspired by agricultural troughs, and ‘Hâf’, large, textured stone-effect pots with a sculptural feel. For a striking garden, the brothers advise thinking big. ‘Tall grasses such as Calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster” mixed with late-flowering rudbeckia or asters work really well,’ says Harry. ‘The sepia tones of the grasses look great over winter, too.’ Planters from £40; ‘Rolio’ bench, £195 Habitat

2 Dial up the scent
tamara bridge scented garden
Tamara Bridge

‘Scent can elevate a garden,’ says Tamara Bridge, who, along with Kate Savill-Tague, designed a scented garden for perfume brand Amaffi for this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (now virtual). Her top picks include climbing star jasmine – ‘great for city gardens, where high walls can really capture the scent’– lily of the valley and lemon verbena. ‘Just nip out the tips and add them to a gin and tonic,’ she says.

3 Take succulents outside
colourful cacti
Surreal Succulents

We’ve all got a succulent or 20 in our homes, but did you know many will thrive outdoors, too? Mark Lea of specialist nursery Surreal Succulents recommends trying Mexican gem, which turns from baby blue in summer to pink in winter; many-leaved aloe for its attractive spiral form and the large, silvery artichoke agave. ‘The key is to avoid damp,’ he says. ‘Top dress with one to two inches of gravel and plant densely to help stop rainwater seeping into the soil.’

4 Welcome wildlife
bird boxes
Ed Reeve

A healthy garden should be home to a variety of plants, animals and insects. Cosmos, scabious and foxgloves are great for attracting pollinators such as bees and butterflies, while a pond or water feature will draw in frogs, newts and dragonflies. The Garden Edit stocks stylish copper bird feeders and baths, and Geoffrey Fisher creates nifty bee hotels.

5 Go all out for gravel
prospect cottage, dungeness
Howard Sooley

Gravel gardens are low-maintenance, accommodate a wide range of plants and help prevent excessive water run-off, making them eco-friendly. Take inspiration from filmmaker Derek Jarman and the plot he created around Prospect Cottage on the shingle at Dungeness, highlighted in a new exhibition at the Garden Museum which supports the campaign to save it (24 April-12 July). Or, when lockdown is over, head to Beth Chatto’s gravel garden near Colchester.

6 Level up
raised planter and spade

For maximum impact, why not experiment by adding pots, planters and stands of different sizes, shapes or heights to your garden or balcony? Try combining pieces such as those in the ‘Maximus’ range (from £20), Broste Copenhagen and this ‘Round Plant Box’ by Ferm Living, £179, Nest.

7 Paint in black
garden with black fence

Just as with interiors, painting your garden walls or fences in dark colours helps define the space and create a dramatic atmosphere. Deep, moody hues also make a great contrast with almost all plants, highlighting the tones and textures of foliage and making flower colours pop. Try Cuprinol’s Garden Shades in ‘Black Ash’ (£46.67 for 5 litres), which helps protect your fence from the weather, too.

8 Create an urban jungle
green rooms market
Green Rooms Market

Even if you don’t have a garden, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy plants indoors, as you’ll discover at Urban Jungle East, a collaboration between Green Rooms Market and London’s Old Spitalfields Market. Sadly, since printing due to Covid-19 these events have been postponed, but check their website for updates on pop-up plant shop, as well as workshops and talks on everything from growing herbs and vegetables to making dried flower creations and macramé plant hangers.

9 Aim high
museum of the home render
Museum of the Home

As cities become more crowded, roofs are increasingly being transformed into havens for nature. The soon-to-reopen Museum of the Home (formerly the Geffrye Museum) in east London is a case in point with its new roof garden, the latest addition to its series of ‘Gardens Through Time’. Designed by Dusty Gedge, the space features four planting zones – Mexican, Mediterranean, a native dry grassland and a path of creeping thyme and tunic flower. You can support the planting by sponsoring a plant, tree or flowerbed as part of the museum’s Sow a Seed appeal.

10 Grow organic
yeo valley organic garden
Yeo Valley Organic Garden Tom Massey

With the environment in crisis, now is the time to embrace organic gardening. Tom Massey, designer of the Yeo Valley Organic Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show (19-23 May; now virtual) suggests we take simple steps. ‘Substitute chemical pesticides and fertilisers with organic ones, use peat-free, organically certified compost, buy organically grown plants and seeds and use non-plastic pots,’ he says. By growing your own vegetables you’ll also cut down on food miles and pollution – Tom recommends patty pan squash and Nasturtium ’Crimson Emperor’ for salads.

This article appeared in ELLE Decoration May issue

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