Valentine’s Day will come and go, but you can create a lovers’ paradise in your outdoor space, incorporating all the senses of touch, smell, sight, taste and sound.
Whether it’s a woodland garden or flowing fields or a rustic cottage garden bursting with fragrant blooms, deliciously scented roses and clematis growing around an arbour, or waves of purple wisteria blooms draping over the walls of a house, all gardeners can have their share of romance.
Even on the smallest plot, you can create a touch of romance with old-fashioned plants, winding walkways, rustic arches, willow trellises and soft climbing blooms.
Choose your plants carefully and place the scented varieties where their delicious fragrance will come into its own, near to the house or bordering a well-used walkway.
Climbers including the fragrant honeysuckle or repeat-flowering roses, such as the silvery pink hybrid musk ‘Felicia’ or ‘Old Blush China’, can fill an area with sweet scent.
Informal planting creates a soft palette, with dainty plants such as violas or bell-flowered campanulas mingling in front of taller specimens such as delphiniums, lupins and the many wonderful varieties of clematis. Irises, peonies and gentle wild-meadow flowers can also be incorporated.
Group your plants together in small drifts, and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely, informal display of scent and colour all summer long.
I think a soft colour palette of whites, soft and deep pinks, blues, mauves and purples is ideal for the romantic garden.
Keep the design low-key, with soft edges and curved lines. Make sure the emphasis is on the plants themselves, although you can create a focal point from a statue or tall obelisk or wigwam adorned with sweet peas or clematis and climbing roses.
One arch in my own garden is planted with Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’, a large pink and white-striped variety, and Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, which form a perfect combination of soft colour and scent.
Lavender and nepeta (catmint) can fringe borders, spilling out into winding paths around the garden, while fragrant herbs such as thyme can be planted in the cracks in pathways to soften the effect.
But try to keep heavily scented plants which are planted in abundance separate so they don’t dominate the group.
Among my favourite shrubs which are easy to include in a romantic garden is the philadelphus (mock orange), which produces masses of white flowers in early summer whose scent can fill the whole garden and beyond. A good choice is the tall variety P. ‘Beauclerk’, which grows to 2.5m (8ft) and can make an informal windbreak.
If you have room, make a secret place in the garden which you can’t see from the house, such as a hidden archway over a bench, where you can sit during those summer evenings for peace and solace while taking in the scents and sounds of the garden.
When planning your romantic garden, make sure you take note of where the sun rises and sets, so that you create your seating area to enjoy the sun as it goes down at the end of the day, or when you are likely to use that area most. If you have room for a bed of annuals, go again for soft, fragrant plants such as night-scented stock and nicotiana, along with other cottage garden favourites such as aquilegia.
In the evening, candle light comes into its own to create a romantic setting, so place some close to the plants you want to highlight and include some citronella candles near where you are sitting to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Long after Valentine’s Day, you’ll have the perfect setting for romance in your garden.