Summer is on its way and thoughts inevitably turn to hazy evenings spent outdoors, dining al fresco and contentedly sipping a Pimms...
Those people fortunate enough to posses a garden no doubt know that now is the time to get all the weeding, trimming and pruning out of the way, leaving maximum time to reap the benefits when summer comes kicking in.
More application and preparation now, less sweat-inducing effort in the sweltering heat of July and August. (Well, there's no harm in a bit of optimism!)
Garden owners appreciate their outdoor havens so much, that 94 per cent are planning to spend money sprucing them up this year, with 13 per cent intending to plough in up to £4,000 - such are the findings of Standard Life's survey into the habits of Britain's garden owners.
Overall, they say, Brits will spend an average of eight days toiling in the garden, with many of them enlisting the help of friends and family - hopefully with the intention of repaying them with a sumptuous barbeque in the hallowed grounds once the work is complete.
In addition to introducing new plants, ambitions for the Garden of 2005 range from completely re-landscaping (38 per cent) to creating an outdoor entertainment space (37 per cent, with 24 per cent aspiring to include seating areas). Shakespeare in the garden, anyone?
Fruit and vegetable gardens are very du-jour, says Standard Life, with 39 per cent following the example of The Good Life by growing their own. Water features are still popular with 13 per cent of garden owners - thank you, Charlie Dimmock. But the most desirable addition to this year's garden is that of lighting and musical features, especially so with those under 25 (62 per cent).
The desire to spruce up the garden is not only for the undoubted pleasures that it can bring of a summer's day, but also because of the financial benefits that can ensue. Fifty per cent of gardeners surveyed admitted that the possibility of adding value to their property was the main motivation for their horticultural ambitions.
Andrew Boddie, Head of Marketing at Standard Life Bank, believed that the introduction of flexible mortgages such as their own Freestyle version had allowed homeowners to fund projects such as doing up their gardens. "It is fantastic to see so many people wanting to add money to their properties," he said.
Celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin has put together a list of Top Ten Tips to assist anyone planning to create their own little outdoor haven this year:
Diarmuid's Horticultural Hints1. The garden will always do well with a good feeding of humus material like well rotted farmyard manure.
2. Sometimes we get the aspect wrong. A smaller patio midway down or towards the end of the garden to catch the evening sun when you get home from work will increase your enjoyment of the plot.
3. Occasionally try repeat planting in the garden rather than having billions of species which confuse the eye. Try groups of the same recurring in parts of the garden to let your eye travel through the plot.
4. Packets of seeds can achieve miracles especially at this time of the year. Get all the seed catalogues - Unwins, Fothergills and Suttons - and look at the incredible range of annual plants that can be sown directly into the ground as the soil warms up during April, which will produce stunning displays this year.
5. The occasional oversized pot with trees in them can create dramatic impact.
6. The colour purple…a really deep purple. Go to the greengrocers, get an aubergine and get it colour matched. This is the best colour to paint background walls or other features in the garden as both foliage and flower look simply stunning against it.
7. Green up your lawn with liquid manure for that golf club look from May.
8. Reuse and recycle - the most fun you will have is making compost using all your organic kitchen and garden waste. To a non-gardener this can sound boring but when you get hooked the pride in compost and the compost snobbery in your area is something to be wholly enjoyed.
9. Organic is always better - our gardens are increasingly becoming a haven and in many cases the only haven for wildlife, so cut down or even better cut out the use of pesticides and fungicides.
10. Take time to relax with a gin and tonic - enjoy the garden.