Weekend Work: Thinking is often better than doing at this time of the year

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The Independent Online

What to do

Thinking is often better than doing at this time of the year. By March, the To Do list will be so long, there'll be no time for considering changes in the garden, looking hard at the basic design, taking decisions about fences, decks, pools or other features that may not be earning their keep as well as they should.

In small town gardens, ricketty boundaries, often of wooden larchlap or trellis, may be the single greatest problem in terms of the way the garden looks. If you do not have a secure background against which to pin climbers and wall shrubs, you can't prune them effectively, or tie them in properly. The shrubs mound up, they sag, they lean out from the boundary into the garden space, smothering whatever might be underneath them.

Spending money on securing boundaries, with strong fenceposts in between sound panels, will improve the look of a garden more radically than extra plants. When the boundary is secure, stretch wires across at intervals of 30cm, so that you have plenty of places to tie in new growth. When climbers are properly and tightly tied in, the dimensions of a garden alter radically. Most town gardens are too long in proportion to their width. If you keep climbers on the long side boundaries well trained, you gain perhaps as much as a metre and a half where you most need it.

What to see

The Garden at Normanby Hall, Normanby, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire DN15 9HU is just one of the attractions at the enormous Normanby Hall Country Park. An ambitious restoration has been under way here for the past ten years, and the Christmas Garden highlights good winter plants such as holly and ivy, Christmas box, evergreen ferns and winter hellebores. The park is open daily (10.30-4.30); £4.60. Call 01724 720588 or visit northlinc.gov.uk/normanby