Emma Townshend: 'This year, let your most bonkers desires take over in the garden'

Never had the gumption to tear down the tree that obscures your view? Or the guts to plant something tropical?
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Something has happened to me over the winter. Normally in March I'm a very lazy gardener, waiting for the weather to warm up considerably before I start feeling my way back into actual horticulture. This year, though, I'm In the Mood for Machete-ing. And here's my vibe: 2015 as the year for a more spectacular garden, one with WOW. Let's finally have the garden of my dreams! And so first, the practical:

Check your look

Do this with a camera, capturing the garden from its most-viewed angles: the washing-up sink, the window behind the telly. Want to see more of your neighbour's apple tree, or less of your own washing? Talk to others who have constructive opinions. Take votes on whether to get a trampoline…

Identify what needs to go

A landscaper friend consistently marvels at the sheer quantity of stuff you can remove from a garden before it starts to look even remotely tidy. Take those tough decisions now: sentimental tree, now grossly overgrown its spot? Bless it, wish it farewell, take an axe to it. Ooh, it's like a Sondheim musical.

Firm up your boundaries

No garden looks good with wonky fences. Fix gaps, mend those gently leaning bits; then try to hide the rest. A repaint can do wonders: I painted the fence in my side-return a creamy white a few years ago, and have never ceased to enjoy how much it has lightened up the kitchen.

Become extremely friendly with the people at the tip

As town gardeners, we are never going to become Beth Chatto. We do not need 76 plastic flower pots saved just in case we start a propagation business. We do not need giant packets of lawn fertiliser, spare dustbins or bits of broken terracotta. Chuck the lot.

Then comes the fun part:

Cherish what's there

One great plant in full growth is worth about 19 frustrating trips to the garden centre. If you have one good rose, manure it; one really nice apple tree, cut away the other plants that stop you seeing it from your bedroom window.

Fake it

There's a reason design books talk about using mirrors in dark backyards, or plugging looming gaps with quick purchases from the garden centre: it works! If you can justify it, splash out on instant hanging baskets, or planters that create the illusion of a green wall.

Plant something out of character

If you are a messy gardener, explore formality: proper paving and box balls. If you always propagate a glut of veg seedlings, treat yourself to some useless and deeply decorative flowers. If you are uptight, let the children meddle. Gardens are telltale records of ourselves, and there's always room for change.

Embrace the spectacular

Always longed for a huge stand of pampas grass? A bougainvillea? Indulge your wildest desires. I can't explain why, but I've always wanted a wet bar under the palm tree. If you go for it, I will too. *Scuttles off to find phone numbers of potential builders.*

Find the best garden furniture

Begin the search now, and you may find something by the time spring arrives. Outdoor seating is tricky to get right, so spend time pondering whether you want something stylish and wooden or metal and modern. Just don't spend another year sitting on that set your mother-in-law gave you.

And finally, be still...

Most keen gardeners have far too much work to do in their garden to actually sit down. This is stupid. Gardens are for people, not people for gardens. If your garden is too much work to let you sit in it, think about whether this is actually a good idea. A simple, joyful garden might only have four or five really nice plants in it, plus a large jug of gin and tonic.

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