Create your own secret summer space

Being single has its rewards, especially for keen gardeners who don't want to compromise on style
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Dine alfresco: keep plastic for picnics and use the best china and cutlery for entertaining
Dine alfresco: keep plastic for picnics and use the best china and cutlery for entertaining
The great thing about living on your own and having a garden is that you get exactly what you want. Many gardens are the result of compromise between partners: one might want a wildflower meadow, while the other prefers the grass neatly clipped.

You, however, need kowtow to nobody: no washing line, children's play area or football pitch.

And if the cactus garden you visited on holiday in Lanzarote lit your fire, you can buy a posse of cowboy cacti, a few agaves, a couple of aloes, ship in the sand, and have yourself a desert landscape (though you'll need to bring the lot - sand excepted - indoors come winter).

Often, though, it's difficult to nail what you want, in which case it's a good plan to create a mood board, as you would for an interior. Gather together pictures of gardens that strike a chord with you, plants that appeal, borders or groups of containers with striking colour palettes.

Add swatches of colour with fabric or paper and you can translate these into accents of colour with cushions, maybe a sailcloth, candle-holders and containers. Keep the mood board where you can see it and work towards it.

You could include a vegetable plot for regular, small pickings, from just a few roomy containers and a couple of window boxes. With the singleton's potted kitchen garden, you can have your kale and eat it - without having a glut of the stuff. If sowing is too much hard work, buy small plants - lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers - that just need settling into some multi-purpose compost to get growing. And if you love cooking, enjoy basic window-sill herbs that keep on growing year after year: aromatics rosemary, oregano, thyme. Grow them in generous pots and keep them close to the kitchen, where you can clip them in a second.

If you're coming back to an empty house or flat, it's not just your home that should be welcoming. Make the garden - or patio - a place you want to be on summer evenings.

Warm glow: lanterns and a fire make this space welcoming
Warm glow: lanterns and a fire make this space welcoming
Switch on the atmosphere with a few basic uplighters that enhance the planting and allow you to stay out there for longer. A firepit warms chilly nights and is a great focus when friends come round. In a small space, just one honeysuckle, trailed along a fence or camouflaging the corner drainpipe, looks gorgeous and scents the air.

When romance is in the air, set the scene with atmospheric lighting, music and beautiful surroundings, which might be nothing more than a pot or three of fragrant lilies.

And if you are no great cook, alfresco dining never fails to charm - even if the meal is no grander than a takeaway. Gather together candles that create soft, flattering lighting; cushions to soften hard garden seats; linen napkins, china plates and proper wine glasses.

And note that plastic picnicware is not permitted: you normally shop on the small scale so for that special night, you can afford the best.

Pictures: Clive Nichols/Designer: Charlotte Rowe

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