Don’t despair when your Garden is Bare…

…it’s your best chance to see it in perspective, and make plans for four seasons of glory.

Travel writer Pat Richardson shares the pleasure of her own little corner of heaven to come home to

Whatever its size, shape, style and setting, getting a clear view of your plot, so you can assess its problems and possibilities, is the essential starting point for all your plans. With fewer distractions and less going on, winter’s the best time to do it. And, if you have one, an upstairs window is the ideal spot from which to view it.

Grab your camera and take pictures through the year – starting now – so you can see where you need to make changes. It’s impossible to remember in detail all that happens over 12 months, but having photos –printed out, so you can take them into the garden and scribble on them – means you can, over time, plan and produce the garden you want. And, because no garden is ever [a] finished or [b] static, you can also keep it up to scratch.

Keep the pictures, too, so you can track progress and monitor success. This also makes it easier to snap the exact same views, both early and late in every season; then you can see whether or not you’re making the most of each area all year round. And don’t be surprised by unexpected ‘Wow, that works!’ moments, when some pictures reveal altogether unplanned garden successes, courtesy of Mother Nature.

When I embark on my annual ‘How does your garden grow’ assessment, I start by ensuring that the shapes I have chosen to impose on my plot are still discernible. Sometimes, an edge needs to be sharpened, a path redefined or a shrub cut back to re-establish clear lines. Then, I make sure that there is still plenty of foliage overstepping those lines, to give a softer and more natural look.

Next, I look at scale. I want everything in the garden – hard landscaping, structures and plants – to work in harmony, as part of a whole. Oversized trees and climbers that have spread too far may need attention. I check, too, that there’s a good mix of heights, shapes and textures throughout the garden. I look for any gaps that need filling; and check that my ‘colour ribbons’ – which, in winter, are repeating bursts of gold-tinged greens, and a scattering of white flowers – are woven throughout.

And, I make notes and plans!

Pat Richardson has many years experience as a travel writer including 16 years as Travel Editor on Best Magazine. She has since turned freelance and writes mainly for the Daily Telegraph’s Escorted Travel and Cruise Supplements. As well as tending her own delightful Kew garden, she runs, a writing and editing service and consultancy, and, a website showcasing properties with a past.