However dramatic your prize dahlias, however spectacular your champion saxifrage you're not going to win a gold medal at Chelsea Flower Show if your garden design doesn't appeal to all five senses.
But how often do we think about touch, taste, the sounds and the smell of a garden when it's in its planning stages?
Unless you are visually impaired the first impression you get of a garden will probably be how it looks. Is it formal or naturally wild? A palette of bold colour splashes or shades of calming subtlety. Try and look beyond the obvious - a secret corner can be accommodated into almost any size garden and an old mirror, strategically placed, will reflect a view in quite quite unexpected ways.
Birdsong has been voted one of the sweetest sounds in the world. It’s enough to lift the spirits of even the most down-hearted. Encourage our little feathered friends by feeding them an RSPB approved mix and leaving out fresh water. If you are lucky enough to have room for a water feature you get the added bonus of the relaxing, background sound of trickling water.
The humming of bees means two things. Summer’s on the way and there’ll be home produced honey this autumn. Nectar producing flowers and shrubs such as lavender, honeysuckle and rosemary will always encourage bees and birds to visit your garden. Grow different types of grasses to effect a gentle rustle in the breeze.
Can you remember the feel of cool, damp grass under your bare feet early on a summer’s morning? The springy softness of pussy willow buds between your fingers? Or even the sharp prickle of holly leaves in the palm of your hand as you cut off a branch at Christmas.
It’s a natural instinct to want to touch plants – just watch people wondering round a garden centre, they’ll look, sniff and touch – it could even be one of nature’s canny ways of pollination. A garden should be a place to experience texture at first hand – as well as underfoot.
Your garden needn’t only be a tasty place for birds, animals and insects. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t nibble your way through a cornucopia of fruit and vegetables. Mix small vegetable plants among perennial and annual flowers or grow tomatoes in a compost bag.
Small fruit trees, such as apple or cherry, are easy to grow and maintain and add ornamental value as well.
If space is truly limited to postage stamp proportions, even just a window box with a little bit of sun can grow culinary herbs for all occasions. And herbs have the added advantage of satisfying four of the five senses: taste, sight, touch and smell.
Ahhhh…. Old-fashioned rambling roses on a bright June morning, honeysuckle scrambling over a garden wall on a summer’s evening, a hedge of lavender or a ground cover of lemon thyme which emits the most glorious citrussy fragrance as you walk over it. Say no more. Once experienced, the scents of an English garden will stay with you forever.
Next time you are trying to think of what to plant in that vacant spot in your garden, follow your nose.