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So, we'll assume that you are aiming for a relaxing and peaceful space, where you can read a book, enjoy a glass of wine, and let the rest of the world go by. Now, if your aim is to have a garden where a couple of boisterous dogs can play and the grandchildren can play football, then forget the romantic country garden. The colourful blooms will not be spilling over the green lawn, they will probably be crushed into a sea of mud where the beloved lawn used to be.

Now with the shortage and high price of building land, the majority of houses built over the past 30 or 40 years have small back gardens, and mine is no exception. Also, like similar gardens, it is a rectangle enclosed on three sides by a fence. At first glance, it doesn't now appear to be a rectangle, as my first effort was to change the boring shape by introducing curves, a corner seating area partly shaded by Japanese Maples, another larger family-orientated seating area, and a covered archway backed by a mirror, so that it gives an optical illusion of the gravel path continuing into another area. Solar lights placed along the edge of the path add to this reflection. It's cheating I know, and I don't normally like artificial additions to a natural garden, but it certainly adds interest and a feeling of space to a small garden. (A serious word of warning here. The effect of the mirror behind an archway is so realistic and inviting, that small children could easily harm themselves by attempting to run through the arch)

Now, if during the summer months I am unable to see any fence or soil, then I know that I have achieved my aim - a fence which appears to be no longer there - it is completely covered with shrubs and climbing plants, and a garden covered with country-garden flowers combined with ground covering plants and foliage. In other words a garden with the emphasis on pleasure and less on work.

So my tips for easy gardening -

1 Plant trees, shrubs and climbers around the edge of the garden about 12-18" away from fencing or boundary walls. For example, Cherry trees, evergreen shrubs - laurels, cotoneasters, camellias, lilacs, etc., buddleia to attract the butterflies, lavatera to supply masses of summer colour, and then the trees and shrubs to be interspersed with plenty of climbers, particularly a selection of clematis to ensure flowering at different times of the year. The clematis Montana is very good for rapid growth and quick coverage with a profusion of flowers in the springtime. Very good for hiding an old shed, or covering arches, pergolas, etc. In fact, it will swamp pretty well everything if left to its own devices. Another rapid and profuse climber is Virginia Creeper which needs to be kept in check but rewards you with beautiful red foliage in the Autumn. Another easy to grow climber is Solanum with good coverage and beautiful blue and yellow blooms. But, of course, a favourite of everyone is Wisteria. I prefer to see it climbing over a house. I have yet to see a house where beauty and value hasn't been added by the graceful cascading blue flowers. However, if it is grown over a fence or wall, then it is a lot easier to maintain and keep in check. A good climber for a north-facing fence is clematis Amandii. Not only is it evergreen (which is rare in a clematis) but the beautiful white flowers are a delight, nestling on the shiny green foliage. Of course, no fence or garden would be complete without the old favourite, honeysuckle. To be surrounded by the perfume of honeysuckle on a summer's evening is bliss, and for the perfume to drift in through the open bedroom window is more bliss. Now one very important point from a security angle. If there is any particular part of the fence or wall which provides easy access for a burglar, then not only add trellis to the top, but position the very prickly plants there, such as berberis, holly, or hawthorn with its needle-covered branches. These act as a useful burglar deterrent, as do gravel paths. It is very difficult to walk quietly on a gravel path.



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