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Let creativity blossom

If you're looking for inspiration for your garden, why not learn from the masters and take a trip to Mount Usher gardens in Wicklow, writes Marie Staunton

I was thinking of swapping my bicycle for a canoe during April -- the poor old bedding plants were refusing to come out of the glasshouse in early May, unless I supplied umbrellas for them and, to be honest, I didn't blame them one little bit.

I live in hope that the summer will kick off sometime soon and that the north-east wind might be replaced by a lovely balmy southerly breeze originating in the Canaries and, sure, I might win the lotto as well.

I usually return from a trip to a well-known garden bursting with ideas and, of course, a few more plants that I just can't live without.

Mount Usher gardens in Co Wicklow is the sort of place that you can spend the best part of the day wandering around. Whether you are a gardener or an artist, it will not fail to inspire you.

Some gardens have a reputation for being either a spring or autumn garden, but for me Mount Usher is inspiring whatever the season.

Acers are beautiful at any time of the year but particularly in spring and early summer.

The early-morning sunshine filters through the trees and lights up the whole garden with flecks of gold and if you think I might be exaggerating then see it for yourself. Who can resist a bit of escapism?

Some gardens are busy little places and some, such as Mount Usher, are gentle and flowing and that's the way I like it.

The river gives it the extra edge over those gardens that have man-made water features. In autumn, as the trees take on those magical colours reflected so beautifully in the water, you might just be tempted to get out the old watercolours and capture the moment.

A mature garden will always have its complement of trees, because trees -- even the small ones -- create the backdrop in a garden, soften the look of a newly built garden and anchor it beautifully.

Next come the accessories, if you like; those will be the various plants and shrubs that make it unique. They should add both colour and scent at various times of the year.

Visiting these wonderful gardens will inspire you to try new things and, of course, learn from old hands. Always take a notebook to jot down plant names that catch your eye because they won't be fresh in your mind when you get home.

Mount Usher is not a pristine garden with lots of manicured borders. Instead, it is a naturally beautiful meandering garden with plants that sit well together.

You can easily identify with it, even if you are only a novice gardener.

It won't frighten you with an unapproachable planting style. It will, however, inspire you and make you smile.

When you look around take note of where a particular plant that catches your eye is situated, its aspect and its height and that should give you a clue as to its needs.

Take, for example, the Liquidamber tree. It loves a drop of water and will not do well in a dry situation, so it is important to understand these needs and imitate them in your own garden.

Did you ever notice the subtlety of planting in a more mature garden?

It can be compared to fashion, in a way, less is more is the usual advice and it also applies to gardening.

A few well-chosen plants in the right location will allow your garden to mature gracefully.

You can add a bit of bling using bedding plants but, as your confidence grows, I bet that you will be drawn to plants that appear seasonally and shine brightly without too much effort on your part.

Weekend Magazine