The garden is really important for our house. It is over half an acre with a big lawn, a couple of wonderful trees, a fair bit of herbaceous border and a greenhouse with a sizeable vegetable plot. Our predecessor had clearly spent a lot of time and thought on it.
But we just aren’t great gardeners and some of our priorities for the layout will require some radical changes. We hadn’t planned a garden of this size before, so we needed to work out the best way to go about the job.
Asking friends for their advice seemed like a good idea. So we mercilessly cross-examined people over lunch and drinks and gained some useful, if often contradictory, suggestions. Three helpful points did emerge, however:
- First, we were right to start thinking about the space as early as possible. Some of the plans would take years to realise, so it made sense to begin the process soon after moving in.
- Second, and rather in contradiction to the first point, we probably shouldn’t make changes too quickly. So we took a year to see what emerged season by season. And it turned out that our predecessor had planted some wonderful things.
- Third, and perhaps most important, we had to decide on our priorities.
One of our priorities was to get some good views of the big willow tree from both inside the house and from the terrace where we eat out. That would mean clearing away some of the obstacles between the house and the willow, the greenhouse, some fencing and a row of wooden-fenced compost heaps.
Another priority was to have a good deal less herbaceous planting and a lot more shrubbery, preferably mostly evergreen with some flowering shrubs if possible.
Should we try to come up with the plans ourselves? We decided to call in some expert help, as we weren’t sure where to start and how to envisage the overall look. We needed someone to get us thinking constructively about the possibilities.
Our designer very sensibly recommended that the first step should be to get a professional survey of the garden with precise measurements of the distances between trees, walls, hedges and so on as well as the heights of the various parts of the garden.
She was right. Several hundred pounds later, once we had the plan, planning the new-look garden became a whole lot easier.