Create a garden oasis

Now is the time to reinvent your garden and value your safe haven. Caroline Bingham visits Downtown Garden Centre to get some new ideas.

Our gardens can encourage relaxation, improve wellbeing and boost exercise, while also offering spaces for dining and entertaining, as well as habitats for stunning plants and native wildlife.
I visited Downtown Garden Centre, Grantham, recently and felt the excitement of getting to grips with the new season. There is everything you could need under one roof, with expert advice on hand from their knowledgeable staff. Here are some of the highlights on my wish-list, but visit instore or look online to make the outdoor space of your dreams become reality.

Live ‘Life’ on your patio
Achieve a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors with exclusively designed patio furniture from the Life collection. Colourways, materials and configurations reflect contemporary interiors, co-ordinating with your home and lifestyle. With aluminium frames and weatherproof cushions, the innovative and virtually maintenance-free range is extremely comfortable, durable and relatively lightweight. There is a stunning Timber Corner Sofa Set with corner seat, two-seater open benches, an armchair, an extension chair, a half footstool and height adjustable coffee table. The perfect spot from which to admire the hard work you have put in!
For al fresco dining, Life offers exciting teak and aluminium combination chairs, club chairs or stools. Have a look at the six-seater Timor Dining Set with its grey lava finish. For the ultimate Caribbean feel to your home staycation, the Nevada Bar Table with eight Canada bar chairs is a fabulous choice.
I couldn’t resist taking a seat in the ultimate garden focal point: a Rotating Globe Lounger. The weatherproof pods offer infinite variety, as summerhouses, studies, secret retreats and year round entertainment spaces. I have a corner where it would sit perfectly and catch the sun throughout the day and evening.

DuraOcean Nassau Bistro Set
Sustainably designed and fabricated with plastics collected from the oceans, here is a bistro set with an innovative and contemporary ethos – £299.

Cook and chill
You will feel spoilt for choice when you move through to the displays of outdoor cooking, heating and lighting. Leading brands include Char-Broil, Landmann and Grillstream for barbecues, along with beautiful fire pits and chimeneas.
I took advice as to which barbecue might be most suitable for our home and I love the idea of being able to switch between gas and charcoal cooking.
Char-Broil Gas2Coal is priced at £439.99 and includes three burners, plus a side burner.
Watching the flickering flames of a fire is certainly relaxing and a real focal point for a cooler summer evening. Innovative designs of fire pits include features such as pit table centres, cooking plates and barbecue grills. If you need more illumination, there are mains and solar powered choices of decorative and classic outdoor lighting.

Tools and machinery
You will need to put in effort to achieve your perfect design, but choosing the right tool for the job will take away much of the strain.
Downtown Garden Centre’s tools and machinery department stocks a very comprehensive choice, including quality, traditionally made Kent & Stowe garden tools.
The full range of Cobra award-winning lawnmowers is on display and again, this is a subject on which I always take some expert advice.
Keith, the department manager, is a mine of information depending on location and size of lawn, your strength and preference for cordless, electric or pull-start.
Keith’s suggestion of purchasing an electric scarifier resonated after the very wet spring which has left our lawn embedded with moss.
The Cobra COSA32E with a 40L grass box is priced at £99.99.
The final word in effortless lawn mowing is the Cobra Mowbot, which once set up and running will robotically move across and round the boundaries of your lawn to achieve a perfect cut. Have a look at the one on display.

Wildlife, planting and garden essentials
Bird boxes, dovecotes, bee boxes and hedgehog hotels will all encourage native wildlife to visit and inhabit your garden. I never mind sharing mine with whatever chooses to come along on foot or flight. Downtown Garden Centre has a wide choice of attractive boxes, feeders and water features, as well as top quality plants and bedding.
My eye was caught by the colourful displays of pots and planters. Stunning ceramic collections and also plastic options which are much less weighty to move, but which have a similar high quality appearance and impact.
Here you could find bright pops of colour to contrast with the colourways of the Life furniture collections for glorious summer impact. Ask any of the nursery department staff for their advice on planting stunning combinations for your containers.
The shelves are also stocked with those garden essentials; a good pair of gloves for me. Compost and lawn care as well as seeds and fertiliser were also on my list.

Pamper your pets
As a dog owner, and since last year a fish keeper, a visit to the Pet and Aquatic departments at Downtown was my final point of call. There are beautiful collections of accessories and beds for dogs and cats, as well as a wide choice of dried food by leading brands such as Pro-Plan and raw pet food by Cotswold Raw.
The convenient location and large car park at the store are ideal for buying larger items, with staff on hand to help you load up into your car.
I purchased some more fish food and came home pining for a larger pool. There are such gorgeous specimens for both indoor aquariums and outdoor ponds and, of course, there is all the equipment and products to keep them in prime condition. I think my next purchase will be a filter to control algae growth in the warm months ahead.

Café Culture
It was time to visit the newly refurbished Café Culture on the first floor at Downtown and sink into one of the comfortable armchairs or cosy Chesterfields for a refreshing cup of tea or coffee.
Spacious and welcoming, you can take a seat at one of the bistro tables and Café Culture is a central point from which one or more of your group can browse the store.
Enjoy a light snack, substantial lunch or afternoon tea and cake to make it a truly special day out. If you are having a working lunch, there are high stools and a counter with access to power, USB points and free Wi-Fi. I was happy to sit and plan which project to start first.

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