Friday, 24 September 2010

Designing a garden................(I)

This is the first of a few brainbubbling things I wanted to get down about planning a garden. I did a series of articles a while back for an online magazine - I must find them........................Anyway gardens - love them - or hate them, to get the most/least out of them it often feels like an uphill task. However, its pretty simple really when you think of it, even though it feels daunting. There are a few short things you have to ask yourself:

Who - will use it with you (humans, pets, crops, livestock etc)?
What - is there already that you can't move/love/hate/need what are the limits (size, soil type, aspect etc) and fixtures you need/have?
Why -  do you want a garden (pets, flowers, relaxation, exercise, provide food/shelter) or don't you want one and need to design an outside minimal use space?
When - do you want to use it and how often/which times of day?
How - often do you want to be out in it, how long do you want to spend looking after it?

The ideal garden suits the needs of the users at the times they want to be in there. If you can answer the questions above for yourself - your garden is almost designed! I start by doing my who/what/why/when/how list and take it from there. For example, if you don't like gardening but have inherited a garden with a house you might want to make it minimal tend and reduce the work it might cause you if its not under 'control'. If you love gardening a minimal tend garden isn't really what you want from your space. Also the time of day, other users and whats there already may well be things you need to consider to get the most from your space. The plants and the other fun stuff come later..............................not much later, but later.

Here's my own example:

Who - I've older kids, a dog, hens a partner who hates gardening but likes sitting out in it and riding his bike in it, whilst I LOVE gardening :) Although we do all like to camp out sometimes.
What - My garden had a rickety old fence, no gate, no plants except a few ropey looking shrubs. It has a path around the entire house and a couple of sheds. A washing line on three poles, gravel drive and not much else. Literally a blank canvas! Its large but no divisions, and its windy - I can't change the wind but I can change the structure of the garden to cope with a windy place (we live near the beach, its normally windy, sometimes more than others, as you can see in the photo!), hedges and garden rooms I think might be needed in my own garden to cope with the wind!

Why -  I love gardening, I like flowers for the house, I like food from my garden, I like working in it more than sitting in it, but I do like to eat outside, I like a functional space which is also productive, I needed to keep my dog in the garden and my hens out of the garden area, kids are bigger - so less likely to eat any toxic plants, the dog on the other hand will have a go at eating anything. I like to look out in the garden and watch birds and look at the view. I like outside work but I don't really like mowing grass! My poor garden needs to deliver alot! Beautiful, functional, productive, wildlife haven, toxic plant free and also minimal mowing! Oh I like bonfires as well!

When - I use mine everyday if I can, lunchtime and dinner time are good if we can eat out, I don't tend to sit out at night here - so night scented plants are really wasted on me. I use mine for the washing when I can, for the dog when he wants and don't want the hens in there! Kids ramapage around in it, toy fight (see below and the girl child generally wins), but are more inclined to sit and read these days, my other half likes to cycle around the paths (!)

How - I'm happy spending alot of time out there, others aren't so keen! A minimal garden is not for me! I like to be busy and work out there. My friend on the other hand hates gardening, and has managed to make a garden look pretty with containers and gravel, no grass but a nice area to look at from the house and dry the washing in! Whilst she loves her garden from the kitchen window, I prefer to get out in mine with one of these........well a real spade - kids are bigger now and the sandpit has sadly gone!

Now I know all of those things I can start to think about 'how' to design my garden. My first priorities were to get a dog proof fence up (chicken wire on the old fence) a link here to the fence ( to keep the dog in and to get a hedge started to give me some shelter to build a garden from there. My hens were made a seperate enclosure beside the house but not in my garden (I'm lucky I have the space) a link here to the hen area My children are older, if they'd been younger - a gate and a child proof garden would have been more of a priority! Now that I've done that I can think about what I'd like in my garden and start there.

My wish list is:
a place to sit
somewhere to grow alot of plants to develop my interests
a place to eat
shelter from the wind to get a garden started (windbreak and a hedge)
somewhere to potter in the garden
somewhere to read
somewhere to grow food
somewhere to feed the birds
somewhere to have bonfires
a place to play with the dog
a place for my kids to flop and read/mess around outside
a secure place for the hens (!)
clutter free path around the house with robust plants to cope with occassional bike tyres
a nice view from the indoor rooms which look over the garden
nothing really toxic plant wise
nothing really large at the front of the garden as the view is great
flowers for the house
a nice area by the byre to greet folk
eventually a gate? I'm not sure yet...................

Now I've got those bits written down - I can start to think about how to use it and what to put in it.


  1. Ah, simple really when you think about it! :)

    If you'll indulge me, a very quick version of mine...

    Who - me! (and sometimes OH can be persuaded out for a cuppa)

    What - quite small, concrete path round two sides of house, then couple of feet of soil on other side of that - all right next to pavement, no fence!

    Why- sitting, tea-drinking, looking out of the window, growing food, cheery flowers :)

    When - all the time, but especially would really like somewhere to sit out and eat breakfast

    How - don't mind a bit of work, but it's just me, and I'd like it to pretty much be fairly low maintenance!

    Hmm - lots to think about, thank you! :)

  2. Are you thinking of making a willow based secluded area for breakfasting and partaking in tea?
    Great answers by the way! I love each individual way we use gardens.