How to plan a garden

View of old garden - suburban-garden

Our old garden.

Planning a garden, especially if you’re starting with a blank canvass, is an effective way of working out how and what to do with the space you’ve been given. That like most things is easier said than done and I struggled to put down on paper what I could visualise in my head.

One of our many projects next year is to sort out the very back of the garden. When we moved house next year we inherited a garden that had been much loved once upon a time. Therefore our gardening this year has been more reactive, trying to keep brambles at bay, rather than proactive.

We always knew this would be a long term project but somehow lost sight of this especially when remembering our old garden. We almost lost the enjoyment of ‘waiting.’ And that’s what I’m going to endeavour to get back next year.

Before image of back of garden - suburban-garden

Our overgrown garden at the start of November 2014.

We started by clearing the area at the beginning of November. The idea being that between now and spring, this is the perfect time for planting shrubs and trees. Also the back was a complete mess of buried old carpet, soil, bricks, breeze blocks, rusting metal and shards of glass on our side curtsey of a neighbour renewing the back boundary fence and the previous owners of our house (I spent an hour painstakingly clearing shards of glass that had been buried in soil underneath a layer of bricks).

Before we could finish it became too cold and wet but we’ve certainly made this part of the garden much more pleasant.

I’ve now started to plan what’s going to happen with the back of the garden but I need to keep remembering that gardens evolve over time. We want the back to be somewhere to sit and to have a more woodland feel to it as well as having a log-pile for hedgehogs and insects. I also want to screen the fencing which will probably be achieved by a combination of evergreen shrubs that are shade tolerant and trellis with evergreen climbers. And I want to add a couple more small trees and create a nursery bed to allow me to grow some of my plants on.plan for garden redesign - suburban-garden

I found that by putting my thoughts down on paper it became a step closer to being real. I started to work out what I really wanted to change, what I would like to change if I could and what I could live with. This helped me finalise what I wanted from this area of the garden and gave me something to work with and discuss. I’m now starting to think about the plants that would enjoy this environment and creating a list. Obviously what’s great about having a plan is that it can be changed but it gives me a place to start from.

A garden by its very nature is ‘organic’. What may grow well one year may simply wither the next. Plants you’ve put in the correct site and soil may simply disappear. Others may thrive in what you find out later are in completely the wrong place. Some plants may simply sprawl everywhere while others may grow at the pace of a snail.

Points to consider:

  • What theme are you going for?
  • What will you to use the space for?
  • Do you want colour all year round?
  • Budget?
  • How much do you want to totally change the area?
  • How much time do you have to maintain it? (more time is needed initially)

6 Top Tips

  1. Research what you want in your garden – use magazines, websites and visit gardens/show gardens (take elements that work for you, your time and your budget)
  2. Observe the conditions in your garden – soil types, where you get sun and shade (remember this also changes throughout the seasons)
  3. Draw up a list of suitable plants – (less may be more – try and be selective and keep different plants to certain areas)
  4. Draw a plan – there are online planners that may be more helpful or just use a pen and paper
  5. Ask for advice – from fellow gardeners
  6. Accept that gardens evolve

Gardening has taught me the how to be patient (plants will grow at their own rate), the value of observation and that I will keep on learning.


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