Happy New Year to you all and here's to 2016 giving us a hot, sunny summer with lots of lovely rain at night time!

I was at the Society of Garden Designers annual conference recently and a common theme was the importance of boundaries in small gardens, and now's a great time to tackle them, because there's little foliage in the way. They are often neglected, sometimes because they are shared with neighbours, and perceived as potentially problematic. However, those walls and fences are the backdrop that frames the garden. Dark colour walls, fences and linear trellis are very much on trend, with charcoal greys, dark greens and blues and even black most popular. These dark tones recede and can make the space look bigger. The wide variety of greens and other beautiful colours of garden plants look great against a dark background. As a plant-a-holic, I'm obviously a fan of greening boundaries with climbers and wall shrubs, but even with expert attention, this takes years to achieve.

January is a good month for having a good sort out and planning for when it gets busy. If, like me, you spent too many irritated moments hunting for twine, bulb planter, plant labels etc through the year, this might be the time to do more than just think about sorting the shed out…. Imagine, you could actually do it! Take a good look at the plant pots and other paraphernalia lurking around in unloved corners of the garden too. Can any of it be thrown out? Free-cycled to someone else? We're designing an Arts and Crafts style garden for some clients in Denmark Villas at the moment, and I came across that famous quote of William Morris, ”Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Same goes for gardens...

If you didn't do it before Christmas, it's worth checking shrubs and trees for dead, damaged or diseased branches and pruning them out. If the plant in question is too big, then get someone in and get them to incorporate a general tidy up too. Lots of gardeners have little work at this time of the year so you shouldn't have trouble finding someone good. Tasks that you know are a good idea, but somehow never get round to doing, could be handed over – maybe think of it as a post-Christmas treat for yourself. Cleaning pots ready for spring and summer planting, cleaning, oiling and sharpening tools, clearing dead leaves from ponds, redefining lawn edges, sorting the compost and even tidying out the shed are all jobs that you could ask a gardener to do.

Best wishes