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Cheat your way to a perfect garden

All-star gardener Diarmuid Gavin explains how to create a beautiful garden with minimal effort.

Spring is underway; the flowers are blooming and the birds are tweeting, but the lawn is starting to resemble a jungle. Don’t worry. Let’s make your plot a veritable Eden and get it ready for the summertime.

Do the groundwork
Simply adding a fine grade of forest bark to beds, borders and pathways can help to decorate your garden and get things looking neat and tidy. And it will also suppress weed growth and preserve moisture around the roots of your plants.

Make things brighter
Adding a splash of exterior paint to a wall will instantly give your garden more personality. Take inspiration from the striking cobalt blue shade of The Majorelle Garden in Morocco, or warm up a wall with some ‘Mexican Pink’. And if painting a whole wall sounds too much, add some bright pots in single hues or even try a clashing cacophony of colour.

Take a practical view
If the lawn has seen better days thanks to too many football games, dig it up and have artificial turf installed. This can be a sensible solution for challenging or difficult areas: where it's too shady for grass or footie-mad children are winning the battle of the garden. However to ensure your ‘mini Wembley’ is level, has adequate drainage and remains weed-free, it’s a good idea to get a professional in.

Choose the fast growers
Some species can grow at a rapid pace as soon as they’re bedded in the soil. A perfect example is sweet pea, which will climb up a bamboo wigwam support or race up a netting-clad fence (that will help give it a supple grip). And this will flower within weeks – giving beautiful blossoms that can be left for garden decoration or cut and brought into the house to give a wonderful scent. The beauty of taking blooms as cut flowers is that it encourages the next load of blossoms to open.

If you have children with a competitive streak, encourage gardening by organising a tallest sunflower competition. Sow the seeds indoors in good compost using old yoghurt cartons with drainage holes punched into the base, and with some good sunshine, regular watering and liquid feeder they can grow as tall as your house!

Lighten things up
After dark you can hide a multitude of issues with some creative lighting. The ultimate for me is what I think of as ‘fairground lights’ – festoon lights (bare bulbs) set along a length of cable and draped over your terrace space. Their warm light creates an instantly welcoming atmosphere. If that's a bit of a stretch, try outdoor candles, especially ones that omit the scent of citronella (as these will keep the midges away). Simple candles or nightlights in jam jars hung from trees can also be great, cheap garden lighting solutions. And don’t forget to plant some night-scented stock for that extra sensory magic.

Only got five minutes?
If you’ve got guests coming round and literally no time to try out Diarmuid’s top tips, don’t panic! There are plenty of ways to instantly pep up your outside space with minimal effort. Get the garden BBQ-ready with some colourful paper lanterns, a few strings of fairy lights and your favourite tunes blasting from outdoor speakers and no one will even notice you haven’t pruned the bushes. Try brightening up your garden with these top picks: 

make your garden pretty!

1. Flower Pot with Leather Cord, £5, Tiger Stores

2. Cuba Feeling Tropical Slogan Plastic Dispenser, £12, Next

3. Gold Pineapple Leaf Plant, £5.99, New Look

4. Linea Villa Vista Dinner Plate, £4, House of Fraser

5. Linea Villa Vista Bowl, £3, House of Fraser

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