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Lesson 2: Get inspired - top garden trends

The plants and materials you use in your garden will have a big impact on its overall look and feel - and one of the keys to good garden design is to create a cohesive plan, where all the separate elements are in harmony with one another. This week you will be seeking inspiration and creating a moodboard to reflect what is important to you in your garden. Mix and match your favourite plants, pots, ornaments etc. - or take inspiration from some of the trends that we think will be big this year.

when to plant spring bulbs
when to plant spring bulbs

Garden style inspiration

We've seen these themes emerge and gain in popularity over the last few years at the Chelsea Flower Show - all of which offer the perfect antidote to our busy lifestyles. There's been a special emphasis on those plants that are beneficial to wildlife within a more relaxed, rewilded garden style packed with billowing, romantic or cottage-style planting. We've also seen a movement towards the use of gardens as personal sanctuaries, creating peaceful havens that are a source of relaxation, contemplation and mindfulness. Lastly, many modern gardens are being treated as extensions to our living space - reclaiming every inch of outdoor space to create outdoor 'rooms' to host family and friends.

This week your task is to create a moodboard to collate your ideas, the plants you like and the style of garden that you hope to emulate.

You can use a tool like Pinterest to create a moodboard or get out some scissors and snip images you like from magazines. To spark your imagination you can follow our tips to create your dream garden (and next week we'll tell you how to plan the planting).

Discover your garden style

Take inspiration from 3 garden styles we love.

when to plant spring bulbs
when to plant spring bulbs

The sanctuary garden

This is for you if you love nothing more than enjoying a moment of calm in your garden, away from everyday life, to rest, relax and recharge.

Gardening has long been a source of mindful relaxation for many and we believe in the positive impact that plants and gardens can have on our mental health. A sanctuary garden could take many forms and it can be whatever is personal to you. Here are just a few elements that we've included in the sanctuary gardens that we have helped to create.

Bring peace and tranquility to your garden by transforming it into an outdoor sanctuary with these 6 simple steps:

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Step 1

Choose aromatic plants, or those with cool-tones flowers to promote a feeling of calm and relaxation. Create fullness and a sense of harmony by only using a few different plant varieties - but planting them in greater numbers. Plants such as lavender, evergreen jasmine, thyme and sage are all ideal.

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Step 2

Plant evergreens like bamboos or other large shrubs in planters and troughs to give instant height, texture, and movement as they rustle in the summer breeze.

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Step 3

Make sure the seating is comfortable - whether it's a single lounger for you to snatch a moment of calm, or a dining area to share with friends.

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Step 4

Incorporate natural materials. Stone and wood are both very tactile, and they'll blend in well with their surroundings.

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Step 5

Use lighting to create a warm ambience at night. The soft glow of candle light in the evening is the perfect antidote to a busy day.

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Step 6

A pergola can hide you from above and make your space feel intimate. Let Clematis 'Apple Blossom' scramble through with its evergreen habit creating an all year round natural screen. Scent in spring and dappled shade in summer.

Crocus tip

Immersing yourself in greenery will certainly promote a sense of calm, but if space is limited go vertical and mount planting on walls or even balcony railings. Greenery at eyeline will encourage a sense of enclosure. Try planting up a hanging basket. For a more contemporary look choose lush foliage such as ferns and hostas. These would be ideal on a balcony wall or suspended on hooks on the wall of a courtyard garden.

Plants to promote a sense of calm
when to plant spring bulbs
when to plant spring bulbs

The garden 'room'

Getting family and friends together in the garden on a beautiful summer's evening is a highpoint in the year for many of us. Stylish alfresco living can be achieved whatever your garden size, from a small urban garden like this one where the wisteria really steals the show (photography & styling by Selina Lake) to a 'zoned' area of a much larger garden.

Sonya Patel Ellis has given us these tips to taking your indoor comfort outdoors.

Design your venue

Review your garden sketch
Review your garden sketch

Identify the perfect sunny spot to place your seating or dining area. A few hours of daytime sun is also helpful for growing many edible herbs, fruits and flowers.

Choose weather-resistant furniture in neutral colours that can stay outdoors for the majority of the year so your space is always ready for impromptu gatherings.

Style your outside space
Style your outside space

As you would your living room with cushions and pillows for added comfort. Add lighting for a warm and inviting atmosphere in the evenings with both overhead lighting such as festoon lights, and lanterns and candles for a softer glow. A fire pit is helpful for those chilly UK nights.

Grow botanical
Grow botanical

Surround your space with containers full of ready-to-pick botanical ingredients perfect to garnish drinks and salads: try mint, strawberries and borage flowers for Pimms, cucumber and basil for a garden gimlet. If you grow one thing, rosemary is a wonderfully aromatic, container-friendly hardy herb that looks beautiful year round and adds warming, rejuvenating flavour to BBQs and roasted vegetables.

Choose plants for scent or flavour - planters filled with herbs will also provide easy garnishes for drinks and salads.

Zone your area
Zone your area

By surrounding it with pots and planters filled with plants to bring nature back into the space. It will create a beautiful backdrop for those occasions where you want to create an inviting and relaxing space. You could also perfume the evening air with deliciously fragrant beauties such as wisteria, jasmine, lilac, honeysuckle, roses and scented geraniums (pelargoniums). Herbs such as sage will scent the air as people brush past. Plus keep pots of lemon balm nearby to help keep mosquitoes at bay.

Crocus tip

Creating a herb and salad planter, from Belinda Cooper, garden designer.

Herbs and salads look gorgeous in pots and make an instant kitchen garden on a patio or balcony. Keep essentials like chives, rosemary and sage by the back door so they're convenient when cooking, along with cut-and-come-again lettuce, rocket or chilli peppers. Edible flowers such as nasturtium will give colour all through the summer. Mix and match pots of different shapes and sizes for an informal look and arrange in groups for impact.

Set the scene

with plants and styling to create your outdoor room

when to plant spring bulbs
when to plant spring bulbs

The rewilding garden

Increasingly we want to let a bit of the wild into our gardens. After all, what is a garden if not nature half tamed? Wild gardens can provide an inviting habitat for wildlife and at the same time a sanctuary to soothe our weary souls. There can be no nicer way to relax than sitting in your garden watching a bee bumble between nectar-rich flowers.

Transform even the smallest space into a thriving ecosystem, creating an area that's a haven for birds, animals and beneficial insects. Here's how:

Step 1
Step 1

Plant a variety of native plants to provide food and shelter for birds, bees and other creatures throughout the year. Dog roses, hazels, hollies, beech and blackthorn all make excellent hedges (or free-standing specimens), and they can be underplanted with cowslips, foxgloves, bluebells and violets. Also, if possible, leave the lawn uncut (or at least a section of it) and you may be surprised to see which wildflowers start to appear naturally - dandelions, yarrows and daisies are often some of the first to flower. Not only will this method cut down on labour-intensive mowing, but the longer grass will also make a wonderful habitat for a huge range of beneficial insects.

Step 2
Step 2

Encourage wildlife in. Keep birds coming back by hanging up some feeders and topping them up regularly. Birds such as blue tits, blackbirds and robins will eat garden pests, and song thrush, fieldfares and blackbirds will go for snails and slugs.

Create cosy hiding places for insects, lizards and frogs by making log piles and leaving leaf litter on the ground. Ladybirds, hoverflies, wasps (particularly parasitic species), ground beetles and lacewings are all renowned pest eaters.

Step 3
Step 3

Consider softening hard landscaping such as paving with interspersed planting. Lifting the odd paving slab and planting with creeping thyme, or other low growing alpines will soften the environment, improve water drainage and encourage more wildlife and pollinators in.

You can also green up vertical spaces with climbers, or even by adding hanging baskets. One of the best things you can do to rewild a space is to plant a tree. Not only will it add height and interest to your garden, it will also improve the air quality, encourage in the smaller songbirds such as robins and tits and even improve your soil quantity.

Step 4
Step 4

Ditch the chemicals and start companion planting

Avoid using any pesticides that are harmful to wildlife, but instead try 'companion planting' - a method where different plants will work together to help one another. For example, many aromatic plants (feverfew, lavender, salvias etc) act as natural insect repellents, while yarrow, fennel and catmint will all help attract beneficial predatory insects that will help control aphids, mealybugs, hoverflies and lacewings.

Rewild your garden

Share your progress

This week we encourage you to share what has inspired you this week in the Lessons in Gardening group, on our FREE app Iris. It could be a style you already have in your garden, your moodboard, or a picture of a garden you hope to emulate. If you have a question why not ask the group what they would do? Our Plant Doctors are also on hand every day to impart their gardening advice and to answer your questions.

Share progress

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