GIVING YOUR GARDEN A HOLIDAY FEEL

For those of us lucky enough to have an outdoor space, it’s always great to take the opportunity to spruce it up and make sure it’s a little oasis away from the bustle of life. From a lush, tropical jungle to a Mediterranean-style patio you can enjoy with friends, we’ve enlisted the help of garden design expert Claudia de Yong, to give us her tips on how to give your garden a holiday feel.

Whether you’ve been holidaying in the sun-kissed Med, the balmy tropics or perhaps closer to home in Cornwall or the majestic Lakes… on returning, there’s often the urge to capture that holiday feeling in your own garden.

A good starting point is to look back at your photos. See which plants & trees were growing, what furniture was used with other noticeable features like décor & lighting. Follow this up with some research – find out which local nurseries stock the plant varieties you like & start sourcing the finishing touches. It’s (surprisingly!) possible to have a jungle-style garden in this country, with sun-loving Mediterranean plant varieties in beds or containers.

Aim to stay true to the place you wish to recreate. If you mix too many styles, it’ll be confusing to the eye and detract from the overall effect. When planning any sort of garden design, it’s often easier to divide the spaces into bite-sized pieces, to make each section more manageable (so you’re not overwhelmed by what seems like a huge task). There’s a saying: “right plant, right place”, but you can easily alter the soil to suit certain plants, and introduce structures like hedging or walls to add windbreaks and provide shelter.

A tropical garden

You can create a lush, tropical feel with a simple green palette. Use plants with different heights to make a jungle canopy or microclimate – it can be under-planted with varying leaf shapes to add interest. Here’s a small selection of plants to try:

Trachycarpus wagnerianus also called miniature Chusan palm tree. It’s fully hardy with compact rigid leaves, preferring full sun but coping well in partial shade in rich, moist, well-drained soil. Can cope with a brisk wind and is good in smaller gardens too.

Musa basjoo, commonly called the Japanese or hardy banana. It can grow to the size of a small tree. The root is fairly hardy but apply a thick layer of mulch to protect the crown in autumn and cover the foliage with fleece in colder areas. You’ll want to plant it in full sun/partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. Can grow in pots too and overwintered under glass.

Fatsia japonica also called false castor oil plant. It looks very tropical – with big, glossy, evergreen palmate leaves and goes well with bamboo and grasses. Protect it from cold winds and plant it in moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. Small black fruits in spring follow white flowers in the autumn.

Hedychium densiflorum or the ginger lily. It’s best grown in full sun to partial shade in rich, moist soil and has exotic spires of orange flowers. It may need winter protection. Water it well in the summer but keep it dry in the winter. Cover the rhizomes (rootstalks) with mulch in winter.

– You can also add a small water feature in an exotic garden, and use large tubs for frost-tender plants that can be moved indoors in the winter. Think about what’s underfoot too, by adding creeping plants in small cracks in the paving or between rustic-style decking.

A Mediterranean garden

For a sunny, Mediterranean courtyard feel, I love the look of rustic terracotta or glazed tiles. Gravel and cobbles laid in small mosaic patterns are often used and contribute to the sunny outlook. Hanging planters work well on walls with colourful plants such as pelargoniums. Large terracotta pots can be planted up with fragrant roses and citrus plants – by adding a bistro-style table and chairs, you can create a small sunny terrace.

Think about erecting a pergola to train a grape vine or scented climbers over. Add a central bubbling water fountain or a small rill down the middle of the paving. Pleached umbrella-style trees also work well over an outdoor dining area, offering shade on warmer days. Add some formal topiary punctuated by scented plants around seating areas and paths. Outdoor candles help extend summer evenings and al fresco eating. Below are my top plant recommendations for a Mediterranean-style garden:

Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’. It’s a compact, fragrant, deep-violet lavender that’s great for paths and borders or gravel. Trim the flowers after they’ve faded and don’t cut into old wood. Plant it in full sun with very well-drained soil. Flowers July-September.

Cupressus sempervirens or Italian cypress. It’s a slow-growing, pencil-shaped tree but can get up to 15 metres. It prefers full sun and dislikes a cold site and needs fertile, well-drained soil. Water well in first season, but the tree is pretty drought-tolerant.

Santolina pinnata or cotton lavender. It’s evergreen with lovely grey-green pinnate leaves and small button-like yellow flowers in the summer. Needs full sun and dry, well-drained soil. Cut back before spring to avoid any leggy, woody growth.

Erigeron karvinskianus or Mexican fleabane. It’s fully hardy and does well in pots, paths, gravel, beds and cracks in paving. It has masses of daisy-like flowers and grows best in fertile well-drained soil, in full sun. It even grows well in coastal gardens. Flowers May-September.