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When a blank canvas is presented, in the form of an expanse of earth, the average new gardener sows a lawn, and maybe plants a few plants at the edge, or safely in a corner. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing at all wrong with this approach, it's easy, fast and low maintenance. However, if in your dreams you imagine a garden full of flowers and interest, there is some planning required. If you are working with a large space and your time is limited, cordon off an area near the house, or shed, where you will have definite parameters. Create a simple winding path, from one point of interest to another, say, the patio to the compost bin. Along the way incorporate an arch, such as the beautiful timber Woodford Arch, or the cost effective Smart Arch. Plant some sweet peas, or a rambling rose such as New Dawn, or Paul's musk, and instant height is created. More height can be achieved by using obelisks, such as the Smart Obelisk, or even wigwams made of bamboo canes. Again, use Clematis, or Sweet pea to climb up it. Use small standard trees, such as lollypop baytrees to create more interest. In using tall shrubs, such as David Austin roses at the back of the border you will create a framework, around which you can plant a wide variety of perennials such as hardy Geraniums, Campanulas, Verbena bonariensis and Thalictrum. Peony roses are also a beautiful addition, and using frames such as the Smart beehive, will give interest throughout the year, while supporting plants as they grow taller. Use low growing plants such as Alchemilla mollis, (lady's mantle), or herbs, such as creeping thyme and marjoram, to spill over the side of the border and onto the path, softening the edges of the path. The quickest way you will have a full looking flower garden is to plant closely together, and then, every three years or so, divide the perennials, and expand your flower patch! Repeat some of the plants as you go to give the feeling of continuity. Use bulbs in Spring, and fill any spaces in summer with bedding, especially taller varieties such as snapdragons and Nicotiana.
It is important to work WITH your garden, as opposed to hoping you have the ideal circumstances, which really, nobody has. A clay soil is difficult to cultivate, but is fertile, and light sandy soil, in general is easy to work with and well-draining, but dry and infertile. The main thing with all soils is to incorporate organic matter, such as Farmyard Manure, or compost such as Jack's Magic. Mulch often, at least once in the Spring to keep down weeds and retain moisture. With a little advice, even the most inexperienced gardener can achieve a great result.