New designs on your outdoor space
Bored with your garden? Hannah Stephenson has some ideas to help get you started
It may still be a bit nippy to be doing many jobs in the garden, so now’s a perfect time to relax with some of your Christmas leftovers and make design plans for the year to come.
Whatever you decide to do, whether it’s creating a new bed or making radical changes with hard landscaping, work out how much time and effort you’re prepared to spend on the project and the subsequent maintenance that will require.
Think about where you are going to site any new project. If you’re planning a raised bed for vegetables, make sure it’s going to be in a sunny spot with not much shade from overhanging trees, or you won’t be able to grow a huge variety in there. And remember that veg patches can be high maintenance too, as weeding, watering and feeding is likely to be a regular requirement.
If your garden is dry, shady, or you have clay or acid soil, you need to work with it. Don’t try to fight it by changing the makeup of the soil because no matter how much organic matter you add, eventually the original type will come through. If you want to grow acid- loving plants such as azaleas but have alkaline soil, you’re best off growing them in pots of ericaceous compost.
Other practicalities to consider when creating a new area include drainage, storage space, available electricity andwater. If the garden’s on a slope, you may need to level the site or install a drainage system. If you’re planning a paved area, make sure it’s level but with enough camber to drain effectively or you’ll endup with puddles you don’t want.
Think outside the box and you may come up with a more interesting design. Never, for instance, make narrow borders along boundary fences, because following the boundary lines will just emphasise the shape of your garden and make it look smaller.
If you’re creating a new bed or border, the minimum width should be 1m ( 40in), and even that will restrict what can be grown.
Strong shapes are important and need to blend with your house, keeping everything in proportion.
The general rule of thumb with proportion of planting and features to open space is onethird planting to two- thirds space. Without the space, the planting and features within the garden cannot be seen to best advantage.
Even if you have an awkward-- shaped garden, you can create spaces within it which can be explored - it might be a circular lawn or a winding path, fringed by planting and focal points to give it depth and structure.
You may want to create a change of level in your garden to define specific areas, using terracing, or install points of interest along the way such as a water feature, seating or an eye- catching statue. Consider light and shade, which can also be used to change the shape of a space by creating the illusion of depth and distance.
Most of all, when planning, work out what you want the garden for - is it to relax, to experiment with gardening or to use as a family- friendly play area? If your children are regularly playing football in it, forget a bowling green finish or planting delicate plants around the lawn.