Spring is here, summer's on its way and it's time to enjoy the fruits of other people's labour. Yes, garden show season is almost upon us and there's a lot to see.
Garden shows in the UK come in all styles and sizes, so you'll be able to pick one that appeals to you. Whether you want to go to a big show and pick up some tips and bargains or to a small private viewing, there'll be something for you.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) puts on regular shows throughout the summer, most famously the Chelsea Flower Show at the end of May, in central London. Here you'll find show gardens laid out in a huge variety of styles - Mediterranean, woodland, cottage gardens, water gardens, secret gardens, contemporary designs and gardens designed by celebrity gardeners.
They are all there to impress and inspire, with gardeners on hand to explain the philosophy and practicalities behind each design. Chelsea also has countless displays by nurseries specialising in certain types of plants and there are stalls selling any number of garden gadgets, outdoor furniture and tools.
RHS shows are not just confined to London. There are also displays in Cardiff, Malvern and Tatton Park in Cheshire. All the RHS shows are set in several acres and are big, showy affairs that need to be booked well in advance as tickets sell out quickly. If you need ideas for your garden makeover, they are great places to see all sorts of plants laid out in a garden design rather than in rows in a garden centre. You'll be able to see what settings suit them and what plants make good bedfellows. There are also demonstrations and workshops, so you can hone your green fingered skills.
If you'd prefer to see something more intimate and local then look out for the National Garden Scheme charity garden openings. Private gardens are open to the public just for a day or two each year, many belonging to home owners. Gardens come under very close scrutiny before they are allowed to be part of the scheme, so what you see will be at the pinnacle of garden design and upkeep. The great thing is the gardens are local to your area (so with similar conditions to your patch) and on a domestic scale, so you can get a real idea of what a bit of imagination and hard graft can achieve.
The National Garden Scheme began in 1927 and raises money for charities which help those who need nursing care. 30 million pounds has been raised so far - from modest entrance fees and money raised from tea, cake and plant sales which the private garden owners organise.
If you want to see gardens on a grand scale but without the commercial side of the big flower shows then head for a National Trust or English Heritage garden. These are beautifully maintained and vary from formal gardens attached to stately homes, to woodland, meadows, even coastal land. Many are romantic spots that have inspired painters and novelists over the years and are a great way to escape the daily grind of modern life. Of course summer is a wonderful time to visit these places, but most are open throughout the year so you can go back and see how things change each season.
Visiting beautifully designed and maintained gardens, whether on a grand scale or small and personal is always a treat. And what better way to get some great ideas for your own little piece of Eden. Whether you want to create tranquillity or something with some wow-factor, somewhere someone will have achieved something similar and will spur you on to do the same.