My own garden is finally, after almost fourteen years living here, and one year since he builders wreaked their havoc, starting to look more mature and take shape. My priority was to get some permanent planting established – trees, shrubs and evergreens – to give it year-round interest and create some privacy (vital in a town garden), structure and refuge for birds and wildlife. The problem with this is that large shrubs and trees, apart from sapping nutrients from the soil, create shade and take up valuable space. What I have done, and am continuing to do, with young shrubs is to create a sort of lollipop effect. If you trim out all of the lower branches and side shoots, you can turn almost any evergreen shrub into a standard. This means that you create light and valuable space underneath, where you can continue to grow flowering plants. You can get really creative and topiarise evergreens into various shapes to suit. I have (admittedly a rather cack-handed-looking) sort of umbrella and a large ball of laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) on top of bare stems about one metre tall, cones, balls and squares of box (Buxus sempervirens) and am working on cloud pruning a holly (Ilex aquifolioum). Cloud pruning refers to a technique whereby you thin out the branches of the plant to a few good strong leaders pointing in various directions and create puffy cloud-like balls of foliage at the end of each. The benefits of pruning and shaping plants can really be seen in winter, when the garden is bare and the herbaceous plants have died back. The structure and various shapes give interest and look far less boring than a few blobs of untidy greenery. Take a look now at what you have growing around and underneath your shrubs and small trees, and take out a loppers to give them space to grow. Versailles it is not, but maybe I can aspire to the Petit Trianon!