Now is the time to start planting in your garden to get ready for summer. Graham Algar, owner of GMA Landscaping in Dowland, has the best advice for achieving beautiful surroundings. His tip for creating a show-stopping summer garden is not perhaps the most exciting part, but it is essential – preparation.

Dig over the ground so it's not compacted, and incorporate some grit for drainage, especially if it is wet ground. Add some organic matter (home-made compost, well-rotted manure or similar), as: "plants need food to flower well," Graham explains. Mound the planting area slightly above the surrounding ground, as: "plants don't like their feet to be in wet ground as they can suffocate with too much moisture," he adds.

For a small summer garden that needs to deliver big on blooms, Graham recommends Gaillardia (Blanket Flower), which is a vibrant orange/yellow member of the daisy family, and Sisyrinchium Striatum 'Aunt May', with its sword-shaped leaves and clusters of delicate yellow flowers. "Sanvitalia (Creeping Zinnia) and Rudbeckia are best in beds, whereas Verbena is good in pots," advises Graham.

For those that like a riot of colour throughout the warm months, Graham suggests Thunbergia alata (Black-Eyed Susan), a herbaceous perennial climbing plant that provides masses of orange and yellow heads. It's always a pleasure to sit and breathe in a delicate floral scent, and Philadelphus (Mock Orange) gets Graham's vote as the one to plant if fragrance is required. For a large plot that needs a lot of coverage, Viburnums are a wise choice, as they are versatile, large in stature and produce glorious white floral displays.

To ensure your plants stay in peak condition, a certain amount of care and attention should be lavished on them. "Make sure the right plants are in the right place when it comes to chosen position and preferred conditions, water regularly, and dead-head daily," advises Graham.

A low-maintenance garden would benefit from Limonium (Sea Lavender), as it can thrive in most conditions, including in windy, coastal locations. There is no excuse for not having a flash of colour in the smallest plot or balcony: "Thymus (Thyme) and Lithospermum Diffusum (Heavenly Blue) both work well in either a small patch of ground or a pot," says Graham.

For those wanting a planter to fill with your chosen blooms, look no further than Haleywood Outdoor Wooden Furniture in Dawlish, which has a range of planters crafted from high-quality wood. Available to commission in any size, including extra deep troughs for vegetables, they are created from pressure-treated softwood, including redwood or thick pine, treated with Tanalith E preservative, and have a slatted base for drainage. They are supplied in their natural state, so you can apply a woodstain of your colour choice. It is recommended to stain the planter annually, to maximise its lifespan.

"plants need food to flower well"Graham Algar, owner of GMA Landscaping in Dowland

Wooden Shelter made by The Wooden Workshop in Oakford

A shelter from the showers (or even the occasionally searing heat!) is a practical idea, and an arbour from The Wooden Workshop fits the bill perfectly. Dean and Laura Lander, owners at the Oakford-based company, provide bespoke arbours to a size and specification of your choice, constructed from pressure-treated timber or hardwoods such as oak, iroko or chestnut, for a more durable and long-lasting finish.

The arbours can be created with either open or closed sides (which can be added at a later date) to ensure full protection from the elements. A flat, level base is needed – either a concrete pad or laid slabs are ideal. Dean says: "We do not advise installing them onto decked areas unless the decking has been reinforced to take the weight of our arbours."

The arbour is topped with either cedar or slate tiles, both ensuring longevity. "The slate tiles will last longer than the cedar shingles; however, the cedar shingles do have a life expectancy of 30 years," advises Dean. The wood is stained or painted: "We would recommend using a wood preserver every two to three years. If you had a hardwood arbour, then the maintenance would be a lot less," he adds.

A-frame Salcombe picnic table made from recycled plastic

Now it's time to sit down and admire the view, and The Plastic Company in Kingsbridge can provide both functional and guilt-free furniture on which to recline! Garden benches and picnic tables constructed from recycled plastic are a step away from traditional wooden garden furniture and could provide a conversation piece with friends and family!

Elliott Myatt, Company Director of The Plastic Company, is clear on the benefits: "Recycled plastic has almost zero future maintenance, it's water resistant (making it a long-life product) and completely recyclable after use."

For instance, their bench has a traditional cast iron style and shape, yet is constructed from high-density polyethylene with cedar-coloured composite plastic planks (minimum 50% recycled plastic). This produces a high performance and high-quality bench that is virtually maintenance free, requiring no polishing or painting and will not rot, crack or splinter.

Both the A-frame and Clarendon picnic table sets are available in vibrant colourways, and offer either a classic, or contemporary design. "To upgrade your existing wooden furniture to a long-life recycled plastic product may initially cost more, but the saving comes further down the line. It will not need future maintenance costs, including time, as well as complete replacement,' says Elliott.

And, despite the fun and funky look of the products, Elliott admits there is a serious environmental message behind the manufacture: "Recycled plastic is going to be with us forever, as the virgin plastic rubbish made from oil and petroleum is a very large problem in our oceans and hedgerows. It takes thousands of years to degrade and, unless we all play our part in either recycling at home or work, the plastic rubbish problem will not end."

Lucy Baker-Kind

Published 26 February 2018

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