Make the most of your summer garden

For Geoff Stonebanks, his garden is everything. He shares it with visitors to raise vital funds for charity, but it’s also his safe place. Here he offers some of his personal techniques.

The new patio at Driftwood 2022

After the last 2 difficult years, we all know, only too well I suspect, how to make the most of our gardens, assuming that we are lucky enough to have one. But of course, we were extremely limited in terms of involving others in the experience due to covid and lock downs. If, like me, your garden is everything to you then here are some ways that I enjoy my garden, that you might like to replicate.

Looking its best

I suppose the most important thing for me in making the most of my own garden, whether that is for myself or prospective visitors, is to ensure that is looks pretty amazing all the time. There are those that see watering as a real chore, don’t get me wrong, some days so do I, but, if you are in the right frame of mind it can also be extremely therapeutic. More importantly it forces you to look at the plants in your garden and take any remedial action if you observe anything wrong.

Geoff Stonebanks watering the garden at Driftwood
Watering the garden can be therapeutic. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Social space

A garden is a great space to help you enjoy the company of others too, be they pets or friends and family. We have two pets, a tortoise called Hector and a gorgeous small terrier called Chester. Hector is over 100 years old and belonged to my aunt, who sadly died back in 2004. We inherited him and have loved after him since. He is a Hermans tortoise and she acquired him back in the 1950’s as a pet for my cousin. He was quite old then. My Aunt gave him the freedom of her small garden and could be frequently found on her knees, with a cane, repeatedly inserting it into the soil to look for Hector who loved to bury himself. At Driftwood he has a pen and large wooden house that I made for him and he also loves the attention of people. This section of the garden is fenced off from the remainder just to keep Hector safe and the dog at bay.

Geoff Stonebanks and his tortoise
Hector the tortoise is over 100 years old and lives in a penned-off area of the garden to keep him safe. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Chester on the other hand has complete freedom throughout the rest of the garden and is so well-behaved, (as was Albert, the Jack Russell we had until October 2019).

My 95-year-old mother lives with us and enjoys sitting in the garden, reading when the weather is warm enough. You can usually find Chester in his basket close by. Whatever I’m doing out there too is always of much interest to him as well and he is always inquisitive to see what’s going on.

Chester in the garden with Geoff's mum at Driftwood
Geoff’s mother enjoys sitting in the garden with Chester. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Family and friends

In the right weather, the garden is a great place to entertain family and friends, or in my case host lunch parties for visitors, with proceeds going to charity. There was a group of four celebrating a birthday last summer. This year, there will be an added reason to spend time enjoying the garden. The costly revamp of the garden behind the house last autumn created a wonderful new patio, bounded by up-turned railway sleepers. I had some elegant, mains, outdoor lights fitted, meaning the area is perfect for warm summer evenings as the sun goes down.

Visitors to Driftwood enjoying lunch
Visitors celebrating a birthday enjoy lunch in the garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

The area is pretty sheltered too and is a great place for the early morning sun right through until the early evening. The dark background of the old railways sleepers is a great foil for the fabulous ferns and stunning aeoniums as well. There is always a rug down for Chester to sit on too.

Geoff Stonebanks reading in the garden at Driftwood
Geoff enjoying a sheltered spot in the garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Finally, in my case, I love to share the garden with visitors, for me, they are the final ingredient to bring the plot to life through the summer. I’ve had several groups visit so far this year and many couples. It is satisfying on several levels for me, especially as it generates income for charity. This year we will top £100k raised for Macmillan Cancer Support and £60k for other charities.

Visitors to the Driftwood Garden
Visitors to the garden help Geoff raise a lot of money for charities. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

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