Most of us inherit a garden from its previous owners, which can be a mixed blessing depending on how well its designed, but I was lucky enough to be given a blank slate (or unlucky depending on your view point). To me it meant I could do exactly as I pleased without having to feel like a vandal! No dodgy terrace, no ugly overgrown shrubs, no boring layout and last but not least no grass. Not that I have anything against grass but in a small garden, without small children, well I do have a grandson now but he will be too busy digging up worms to worry about no grass and the park is only 2 mins up the road, so I can’t see the point when I can have more luscious colourful flowers instead.My garden was built from scratch 3 years ago and is now maturing and looking luscious so thought you might like to see some photos of its progression although I need to take more this summer to see the current changes. A garden should fit in with your lifestyle and your capabilities so plan out how you want to use the space, how much gardening you want to do and how much entertaining you want to do in the garden. My 6 top tips when redesigning your garden are:
1. Position your terrace (or terraces) to make the most of the sunshine for alfresco dining. Check out where the sun rises and sets on your garden. Mine faces south east so I get sun from early morning until about 4pm and then it starts to move around the side of the houses so in the evening I only get sun at the bottom of the garden. To be able to eat outside in the sunshine I have two terraces, both with a table and chairs – one by the back door and one near the bottom of the garden so I can catch the sun at any time. I don’t think there is anything more distressing than eating in the shade in this cold climate.
2. Check out your fences! I made this mistake as I knew one of my fences wasn’t very sturdy but ignored it to my cost. I now have to have a new fence put in and it will create havoc in my flower beds and will have to be replanted with climbing plants that were starting to establish.
3. Add height to your garden – a flat garden is a boring garden. Trees, pergolas, arches and trellis all add height and create more interest. If you are going to plant trees it’s essential to do the research and plant appropriate sized trees, my son the tree surgeon spends a lot of his life cutting down overgrown trees due to their unsuitability for their allotted space. Another pet hate of his is ivy, which I have to say I love for its ability to clothe walls and fences which makes for a gorgeous green backdrop, but again choose wisely. There are so many varieties available online and if they are kept in check there is nothing more attractive than a green wall. A mistake I made was to plant two climbing roses over an arch that grew too big for the space so we could hardly get through the middle of the arch (and they had wicked thorns) so they have just come out and I will have a small climbing rose and a clematis to flower through it instead.
4. I think every garden should have a summerhouse, not only because it’s more available space to grow climbers up but for their peaceful retreat feeling. My aunt and uncle play scrabble and drink wine in theirs in the evening sunshine – isn’t that lovely? Again think about positioning for the sunshine, there is nothing worse than a dismal shady summerhouse.
5. Plant plenty of evergreens otherwise your garden is going to look desolate in the winter. A good back drop of carefully chosen evergreens gives a green structure to a garden all year round and allows perennials and annuals to glow against the green. I have a boxwood parterre that has finally grown enough to look stunning planted with tulips in the spring and annuals in the summer and it’s still a joy in the winter.
6. Research your terrace materials carefully. Mine is Chinese sandstone (I think) and looked stunning for a couple of years with a golden glow to it but is now so porous that everything marks it – even a muddy footprint can’t be washed off! Consequently I have to pressure wash it several times a year which is only increasing the problem and still I can’t remove algae from the shady areas. So the moral of the story is buy the best you can afford but make sure it’s durable. And to me decking is a no go as it has a short life span, is slippery in the wet and needs constant recoating of varnish or paint.
Well that concludes my little lecture for the day. I have plenty more to say, particularly about plants, but I’ve been told not to write another essay so I hope you enjoy the photos of my garden progression and I will post more later in the summer as it’s maturing.