Borrowing ideas is positively encouraged by garden owners. Martyn Cox suggests that you can take inspiration from every garden that you visit
Lifestyle magazines are full of features on how to steal ideas from somebody else’s home or garden, but a fabulous picture, even if it’s printed on glossy paper, is no substitute for being inspired by something you see when visiting a garden in the flesh.
As a garden writer, I visit hundreds of gardens each year, from tiny plots in the heart of a city to grand landscapes that need an army of gardeners to keep them in shape. Each of these, whatever the scale or style, has ideas that I’ve adopted in my own postage stamp-sized terraced garden.
Among those that have infl uenced the look of my own garden is Calke Abbey in Derbyshire. I fell in love with its 19th-century auricula theatre and thought something similar would be a perfect way to display my collection of aeoniums. Today, a short wooden loft ladder from a Victorian building that I found in a skip has been placed against a fence, its wide treads making perfect shelves for my plants.
Apart from making an eye-catching feature, my lucky find was a great way of reusing an object that might otherwise be thrown away.
NGS gardens are great places to pick up ideas where recycled items have been used to create individual features. For example, at The Kitchen Garden in Suffolk, owner Francine Raymond has set plants off in a variety of old zinc containers.
Many of us have a tricky spot where nothing will grow. Visiting other people’s gardens is a great way to find solutions, whether you have an area of dry shade or you need to find plants that will thrive in the glare of full sun.
If you’ve got a spot in damp shade, try visiting 9 Church Way in Buckinghamshire, where the owners have transformed a space beneath the shadow of a towering fence with hostas, astelia, hellebores and other shade lovers.
Those with small gardens often feel hamstrung by their lack of room, but there are plenty of ideas you can steal that will help you make the most of your available space. Tiny gardens, such as 28 Kensington Road, Bristol, and my own at 24 Brunswick Street, London, will give you plenty of ideas on how to make the most of your vertical space.
At 5 Moat Way, Cambridgeshire, gardeners frustrated by a paved courtyard can see how a paved area with no natural soil has been transformed with Japanese maples, conifers, hostas and grasses planted in pots of all shapes, sizes and textures, which have been arranged to make a big impact.
Many of us love to spend time maintaining our gardens, but there’s no point doing this if you never get the time to down tools and actually enjoy your garden. If you’re looking for the ideal way to relax, check out the snug gazebo at 44 Broadwater Avenue in Hertfordshire, or the opensided gazebo in the garden at One Brook Hall Cottages – it’s the perfect raised dining room, where you can enjoy an alfresco meal while looking out over your garden.
So, if your garden is in need of a pick-me-up, head to an NGS garden and you’re bound to see something you can transfer to your own space.
10 Ways to transform your garden!
1. Recycle old items to make unique pots.
2. Add a gazebo so you can relax outside.
3. Make the most of your space by adding hanging baskets.
4. Use potted plants to liven up paved areas.
5. Visit other gardens for inspiration.
6. Mix shape and texture for effect.
7. Plan ahead and plant for year-round colour.
8. Have a ‘wild area’ for bees and butterflies.
9. Add a bench for a shady retreat.
10. Plant astelia in shady areas.