I have a dream: Stop fantasising about what to do with the garden as spring hoves into view

It's hard not to get carried away fantasising about what to do with the garden while you're huddled indoors. But for once, says Emma Townshend, I might have had a vision I can actually pull off.

Never mind the bulbs and blossom – for my money, early spring is the optimum moment for crazy outbreaks of unrealistic garden fantasy. "This year I will grow all my own vegetables for Christmas dinner." "This is just the right moment to build a golden pergola festooned with roses named after my entire family." And my personal favourite: "Ooh, think I might install an outdoor shower-slash-cocktail-bar." The horticultural equivalents of deciding to make a Battenberg cake: great in theory; in practice, bonkers.

Not all spring fantasies are this grandiose, of course. Even more modest manifestations such as wanting some really good garden furniture can spread like a contagion through the whole population, brought on simply by those rare quasi-spring moments when the British sun pokes out its head and threatens to raise the temperature from freezing to just mildly cold.

It doesn't help that, like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, winter has a nasty habit of resurfacing just when we thought it was gone for good. Yep, there we were feeling all relieved that the nightmare was over, and then the Wicked Witch of the Snowy North bobs back up with icy bubbles streaming out of her nose. In the face of which we retreat to the sofa with our daydreams for another week's unrealistic, yet extraordinarily detailed planning.

This year I find myself pondering sweet peas. New and seductive varieties for 2013 include "Old-Fashioned Scented" from Suttons, a selection of smaller, more fragrant blooms that remind me of 1970s village show prize-winners (£1.85 a packet, suttons.co.uk). Thompson & Morgan, meanwhile, has a tropical "Blue Shift" (£2.49 a packet, thompson-morgan.com) , which changes from mauve to Caribbean azure during its flowering. And most tempting of all, there's "Almost Black" from Sarah Raven, a delectable shade of deep, dark purple (£1.95, sarahraven.com). Whichever way it goes, in my dreams the sweet peas are very promising this year.

And frankly I can always be suckered by a temptingly optimistic spring offer. I'm pretty partial to the one Suttons is doing on strawberries: £50 worth of plants, plastic mulch and a grow tunnel for only £19.99. Ahhh, my own fruit by June, wandering out into the garden, picking a few and putting them into a glass of Pimm's…

Sorry, I wandered off a bit there. Anyway, I should know now about the fantasy bit, because I've just had a session of effective horticultural psychotherapy. Slightly desperate about my own garden, this January I called for Ann-Marie Powell, Chelsea-gold-medal-winning garden designer, whose work on small plots I'd got to know better while writing a piece for this very magazine about her recent book.

She turned up looking both extremely cheerful and very glamorous. "Ignore this," she said, "I don't usually turn up dressed like this, I'm going on to a party." We soon got down to basics. "I'm starting to hate my back garden," I practically wept. "I can't get it under control and I'm not sure any of it is actually usable. For normal things like, um, sitting."

Talking through your garden with a good designer is a totally fascinating process. What bits of the garden do I want to emphasise? What do I want to keep, and where am I aiming to get to? I showed her Los Angeles gardens I've had lifelong crushes on: Richard Neutra glass-and-concrete creations, Huntington's crazy desert cactus accumulations, and the wilder whimsy of celebrated set designer Tony Duquette, who made several gardens in the mountains using wooden orientalist treasures saved from the productions of massive movies such as Ben Hur.

"But are you sure this is really what you want?" asked Ann-Marie, clearly accustomed to this kind of bonkers, as she interrupted me in mid-sentence ramble about that bar-slash-outdoor shower. "This doesn't sound that much like you. Is this your fantasy of all the things you wish you were, but really actually aren't?"

This stopped me in my tracks. For several days I pondered her wisdom. Fantasy plays more of a role in my garden than I had hitherto realised, but a few more days conversation with like-minded fools made me realise how much company I have in my affliction. I still want the outdoor shower. Just maybe not this year. And hopefully I've got just enough realistic energy to grow those deep, dark, almost black sweet peas.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all