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Diarmuid Gavin's tips on garden maintenence

He offers the following design tips to gardeners who want their garden to look good, whatever the weather:

:: Keep the overall design simple. When you're making a plan, use a few sweeping lines to lead the eye from the viewing point, which is often the kitchen window, right down to the back of your plot.


:: Turn your lawn into a welcoming green wide pathway, which almost acts as an arrow, drawing the eye or the visitor on a journey.


:: Keep the planting simple. Mass plant low-growing shrubs such as dwarf purple berberis for colour or clouds of Pittosporum tobira 'Nanum'.


:: If your garden is extremely small, shaded or just damp, give up on a lawn altogether. It's not going to repay any maintenance and you will spend years and fortunes bemoaning the brown patches and invasion of weeds and moss. Dig it up and replace it with a top quality artificial turf. This can be wonderful, a green carpet which always looks good, can be easily cleaned, allows rainwater and snow to drain away and doesn't need cutting or feeding. For a top-of-the-range brand, try Easigrass.


:: Consider what your specimens will look like all year round, not only when covered in foliage or flower. If you're planting a tree, why not try a multi-stemmed birch? When bare from October to April it still has a lovely sculptural shape. Enhance this through the evening by uplighting through the use of a spotlight at its base.


:: Pay attention to a few detailed areas. Surprise and delight by framing your front door with a wonderful display of massed colour in pots. For instance, a mass of flowering cyclamen crammed into a 'long Tom' terracotta urn looks special and draws attention from less well tended parts of the garden.


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