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Down to Earth: Get outdoors – and make the most of your garden

Lighter, longer days are cue to throw open the windows and doors - and remember the garden is but an outside room, writes Cambridge designer Robert Barker

Remember - the garden is an outside room
Remember - the garden is an outside room

Clients always want their newly designed gardens to provide interest throughout the year, which, of course, is an achievable request - but the truth is, most people only really enjoy actually being in their gardens for a few months of the year.

Predictably the months most people go out into their gardens are spring and summer. The exact timing of this all depends on the weather and how wet and cruel the winter has been. The winter just past was particularly challenging for even the keenest of gardeners,

let alone those that just want to dabble in getting even remotely green-fingered.

This has meant that spring has taken longer to appear, but now that it is here and in full flow, most of us are reminded that there’s an entire outdoor space we can use, after spending months existing solely within the confines of our houses.

In winter we lead hermetic lives, moving from one centrally heated room to the next, and when we do venture out, we do so under thick coats and jackets, shuffling from A to B, under streetlights, resenting the very fact that we had to go outside in the first place. Existing almost on half-life mode.

But now - with the warmer May weather, with the sun breaking through, with the hard blue skies - it is a reminder that we can live in full again.

Despite the lack of time so many spend in their gardens, it is amazing just how important gardens are to us as a nation. Gardening is woven into the British cultural DNA and our gardens in spring, particularly from May through to late summer, turn into an extension of the house.

The wonderful thing is that you don’t need a manicured garden or a shrine to rare and exotic plants to experience this wonderful realisation that you can now breathe in fresh air deeply. Windows are opened wide, smells from the garden bleed into the house, we entertain with friends and family, we cook outside, children jump on trampolines, we pause, we reflect, we take a book outside and we reconnect with nature.

This cacophony of reconnecting to the outside world is perfectly encapsulated in the timing of Allium bulbs flowering this month, exploding like fireworks in gardens across the country. These are a marker for everything that is going on around us.

If your house is like mine, then I am sure it needs a good spring clean - but so do all of us as human beings. Get outside and let those cobwebs and winter blues be blown away.

See robertbarkerdesign.com for more.

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