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Summer dreaming

By garden designer Linda Regal. Summertime is a time to dream, and what better place to let your imagination run free than a private retreat in the garden.  Everyone needs a place to which to escape and forget the world for a while, so make a space for yourself amidst the greenery.

Green is one of the most relaxing colours, so being out in the garden amongst the plants will put you in the right frame of mind to start with. A lot can be done with trellis panels to create a secluded corner, screened from the rest of the garden and the neighbours. However, if you have the space, a garden building can make the ultimate luxury retreat. If money is no object, there are many bespoke buildings available, ranging from modern home offices to traditional shepherd's huts, and a brief search of the internet will bring up a variety of options. If more cash is what you are already dreaming about, you can do a less expensive job by purchasing an ordinary garden shed, and customising it with paint, decorative barge boards and accessories. If the retreat will be a focal point, match it to your style of garden - a country cottage look for a flowery, informal garden design, or a smart pavilion for more formal schemes. Garden buildings do not usually need planning permission. If you are planning to use it all year round, it's worth considering insulation, electricity and heating. Candles and oil lamps are ideal for summer evenings though, and add to the secret hideaway atmosphere.

Planting plays a key role around your retreat. You will want to either use plants to provide a living screen for privacy, or, if you can see your new hideaway from the house, plants can blend it into the rest of an established the garden . Make your planting sensual and intimate. Scented plants greatly add to the enjoyment of being outside. A screen of sweet peas is quick and simple or train summer jasmine or honeysuckle around where you sit. Plant some chamomile or corsican mint (Mentha requiennii) in the ground to release their scent when you put your feet on them too. Plants like grasses and bamboos, which rustle in the wind, add another dimension.

With the long summer holidays, why not create a retreat for your kids too? They'll love a place where they can go and be on their own, giving you both peace and quiet. A simple shed can be dressed up to be pink and pretty with flowering pots outside and fluffy cushions inside. Alternatively, paint it in camouflage colours, let the grass grow long, and send them off on safari!

Having a retreat in the garden is ideal when you only have half an hour to yourself, it is close to hand, and no travelling is required to get there. In the time it takes a cup of tea to cool to drinking temperature, you can be settled down and half way through the next chapter of your favourite book. So, to spend the Summer miles away, without being miles away, make yourself a place to dream.

By Linda Regel