Gardening tips: how to lift your spirits as the evening draws in

Transform outdoor space into your own fragrant patch of paradise — a place where you can relax at the end of the day.
During the week, most of us are limited to enjoying our gardens at the end of the day, so it makes great sense to convert your outdoor space into a sensory haven. You might have seats on the patio that are perfect for where the sun is at its strongest, but for the evening, exploit that special golden late light with a café table and seats in the optimum spot, wherever that may be. 

My tried and tested tip is to buy the largest, cheapest terracotta pot you can find at a garden centre, and fill it with half a dozen English lavender plants, which bloom longer and later than French lavender. Pull the pot next to the seats, run your hands over the aromatic buds and foliage to release the fragrance, pour a glass of Prosecco, and wonder if there is anywhere more pleasant than your little patch of paradise. 

In fact, you can make it even more perfect by surrounding your end-ofday corner with plants that are not only fragrant but are pale yellow and moonlight-white — colours that intensify in fading light. Top of your list should be an evergreen jasmine to, ideally, train up a nearby wall, with a strong foundation of trellis or less visible vine eyes and wires. This will give you year-round greenery, but right now, and for weeks to come, provide with you with a firmament of starry white flowers that deliver a heady jasmine scent.

If you have a little more space, and don’t mind a gentle tangle of flowers, plant a honeysuckle. It can easily be trained to run along the top of the garden fence, and that strong pineapple and coconut fragrance is just luscious, although it makes you long for a piña colada. Lonicera Graham Thomas has lovely white and yellow flowers that seem to almost glow at dusk. 

You are unlikely to find perfumed lilies at garden centres at the moment, so come autumn, bury a few bulbs of white regale lilies in a potful of compost for the most glorious waxy white trumpet lilies pulsing out their rich perfume next summer. Lilium Golden Splendour is another great choice and the yellow trumpets are every bit as fragrant. 

For now, content yourself with a tray or two of nicotiana. Not the short, colourful bedding plants but the tall, original ones with white and ice-green tobacco flowers on tall stems that offer a distinctive, sublime scent. A rose for snipping is essential — buy them in full bud and bloom right now so you can see what you are getting. Any one by David Austin is a safe bet, as the nursery refuses to introduce a rose that does not have a strong perfume. 

Wandering around the garden, watering can in one hand, glass of wine in the other, is wonderfully relaxing, and you can enhance the experience by nibbling on a strawberry here, a tumbling tomato there. Berries of all kinds can be bought at the garden centre, from strawberries to raspberries — be sure to buy a summer-fruiting variety — and these will grow fine in containers. You should still be able to find easy-to-grow trailing tomatoes that are equally content in a pot or hanging basket.

Extend the time you can stay outdoors with hanging lanterns or a cluster of night lights on the table, and consider a firepit, which doesn’t have to involve excavating the ground but can be freestanding and is less obtrusive than a chimenea — visit for a great selection. Banish— or at least diminish — jarring urban noise with a delightfully distracting wall fountain ( Alternatively, hang wind chimes hand-tuned to the scales of Gregorian chants, Mozart, Balinese puppet plays or Tuscan arias (listen at that are the melodious garden equivalent of Classic FM. All the more reason to hope for a playful evening breeze.

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