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Designing a garden - where to start?

DT

Designing a garden - where to start?

by 4 years ago
16

Hello all,

I've wanted to get our garden designed for some time - finances are not permitting getting someone in at the moment, so I thought I might give it a go myself.

We have a large garden and only weekends to really work on it. We have 3 children so part of the garden is dedicated to them (the obligatory trampoline, swings etc) I'm rather struggling to get started. Has anyone done anything like this for themselves? Would love to hear any tips, what worked for you?

Thanks in advance- David

AN
4 years ago
Hi David, I'm a part-time garden designer and gardener in Lincolnshire UK, where are you? A few ideas for you. Start by considering what you want from the garden? I can see that you already have the backbone of the needs in your question....Child friendly, large toys, large garden to revamp for your choice & keeping budget low....maintenance at weekends (i guess minimal). Make a plan drawing of the site, to scale if you can manage it. Photocopy this about 20 times and pick a sunny day to just sit and look...not crazy, it's a shade requirement to see where the sun is coming from and where shade is created throughout the day. While you are taking shade snapshots you will begin to see the areas for different planting options. Soil samples to see what type you have, cheap kits available at most garden centres. Do some research either on-line or books/magazines on the plants you like and the theme you are trying to create. Sensibly work out a budget for materials. Consider seating and patios...preferably in the sunny spots! Look at neighbouring gardens for ideas and plants that already thrive close by. Hope this helps, Ash
BM
4 years ago
Hi David - I am an ex-pat who grew up in Kent but have lived for 35 years in Massachusetts, USA. I’ve always gardened, but I haven’t had any training in garden design. I see that Ash has given you some great suggestions but I would just like to add a few thoughts about things that I’ve learned from planning my own gardens. I hope my thoughts aren’t too simple and obvious. 1. Most important! Don’t try to hurry the process! What seems like a great plan today is often riddled with problems when you have had time to mull it over. I’m planning a border that will be mostly shrubs instead of perennials for ease of maintenance. I’ve spent lots of hours of research and thought, and was proud of my plan in which I thought I had considered all potential problems. I showed it to my husband yesterday. His comment: “You’ve planned to put taller, fragile shrubs just where I have to blow the snow. They’ll get broken every year”. He’s right! Talk to others about your plans! 2. As Ash suggests, I always make a plan of the garden noting sun, shade, soil type, soggy and dry spots, where I want to keep the view from the garden and where I would like to hide it, etc., etc. I do this on the computer and keep multiple copies because, when you start to plan, it is easier to move things around than it is on paper. (There is probably software for this, but I don’t use that). 3. It is worth signing up for Pinterest and looking at all the pics of gardens. You’ll get some great ideas for gardens, patios, and inexpensive ways of making things. 4. Plants are the last step in building your garden but you will see things along the way that you like and would like to incorporate later. Keep a list of these and include height, width, water requirements, sun/shade, soil and maintenance needs. These notes will help a lot later when you can look at your list and know immediately where the plant will fit into your new plan. Have fun with this. I have found that a garden is an ever-evolving thing and I enjoy the process most when I share the task with nature and note what “she” is doing with the space as well as what I am planning. Brenda
LD
4 years ago
Hi David. You've been given great advice by Ashley and Brenda . I have three children (young adults now) and when we first got started 23 years ago we had the wendy house, sandpits etc so only certain areas of the garden for plants knowing that ball games would be played and damage done. All that gradually went and the garden has evolved piece by piece and is now very different from when we started. The one thing I did do was plant some trees as they need years to mature. Everything else can be gradually added as the children grow up. As you say you have a big garden so you may be able to to more than I did sooner. Good luck.
SC
4 years ago
Hi David, I'm a gardener and garden designer from the U.S. -- what I've discovered is that the real bones of a garden is the hardscaping, so I always design that first. Where do you walk most frequently in the garden? Those will be hardscaped paths in your plan. Then how big of a space would you like to sit and entertain? Once you get the "bones" in place, then the rest of the garden starts to flow around it and the plan becomes more clear. Best of luck! Shawna
EB
4 years ago
Hi Shawna - thanks and welcome to the MyGardenSchool community!
AC
4 years ago
I asked garden consultant and designer Matt Jackson to write a post for The Middlesized Garden blog on this particular topic - he is a garden professional with small children of his own. He has some lovely ideas. One point he makes is that you should design yourself into the garden - make sure there is a seat for you near the children's area if you want to keep an eye on them. And also to create private areas, if you've got space, where they can play safely but unsupervised, so gaining independence. There's more here:http://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/how-to-create-a-family-garden-14-child-friendly-garden-ideas/
DT
4 years ago
Wow - thank you all for your suggestions! Ash, I am in Surrey. It sounds bonkers now I am typing it, but I had never thought of actually planning it out like that, working out all the different spots, where the shade is etc. Makes absolute sense now you've said it! We lose the sun in the early afternoon in the part of the garden we use the most, so now I think about it, we kind of need to flip it all the other way around and utilise the back much more. This could be fun.. :) Brenda, I really like the idea of planning out the areas we want to hide too (we have plenty of those!) You are so right about taking time too, we have a habit of jumping out whenever we have nice weather, trying to find a home for new plants and not really sitting with it and planning. Pinterest is another great suggestion, I'll get my wife to show me the ropes with that, I know she uses it a lot. Liz, absolutely agree re adding trees. We had a few more trees when we moved in, but after a couple of storms a while back we lost 3. Luckily we are not overlooked too much, but definitely want to add some more back in, especially fruit trees. Shawna, yes, it feels like we need to play around with the areas we are using, we have fallen into a habit of using certain parts of the garden, but now I think about where the sun is in the evening, we've been using it all wrong! Unfortunately the sunniest spot is at the back where we also tend to hide things. We'll have to find new hiding spots, or just hide them better (as per Brenda's suggestion!) ;) Alexandra - Great idea to have seating near the children's area. Off to have a look at that article you've shared. Many thanks! Thank you again everyone, really appreciate your suggestions and I'll report back to let you know how we get on. David
AN
4 years ago
fun is what it should be for sure.......so you're half way there already. future-proofing your design is always difficult, but keep one thought on how you could develop things around as time moves on.
EB
4 years ago
Hi everyone - just to let you know that we now have a NEW course on beginner's garden design.
taught by
Hilary Thomas
Book Now

Introduction To Garden Design

How to Design and Plan a Garden From Scratch

KA
3 years ago
Hi David, did you mention how old your children were? Funnily enough I was researching the same, but with a view to making the garden as safe as possible for my children. I was amazed at the amount of people nowadays that want their kids to learn 'the hard way' by getting bumps and scratches, but I just couldn't bring myself to fall into that camp (though I do somewhat see their point). Nyway, if links are allowed here's a resource that might help both with the kids and the design: https://www.trusted-treesurgeons.com/creating-child-friendly-garden.php
LK
3 years ago
There's even have a course on building a treehouse! So glad you got a wealth of responses. It's lovely to see our community working well.
taught by
David Parfitt
Book Now

How to Build a Treehouse

Designing & Building A Treehouse

LK
3 years ago
How far have you got now? We'd love to see your progress
KA
3 years ago
Well... where to start! 1. We took down a dwarf wall the length of the garden made of bricks as my 2 yr old almost managed to pull it over (new house to us, the garden hadn't been done very well). Replaced it with a hedge. 2. replaced the shed base which was rotten, splintered boards with non-slip decking. 3. Created a new decking area level with the garden so there was no trip hazards. 4. Added side gates with latches the other side that only adults can reach 5. Removed sunken 'stepping stone' pathway across the lawn as one of the kids fell on it (plus right in the middle of the football pitch apparently!) 6. Leveled the existing patio which had flagstones pointing up all over the place. I appreciate that reads like we're paranoid... but actually the garden was a complete mess, so all these added to the aesthetics :)
LK
3 years ago
Wow, most people have only got round to nipping to the garden centre. Congratulations you have achieved so much, child safety and parental peace of mind are very important, not paranoid at all. I'm sure your fans and advocates would to see a before and after if you find the time :-)
LK
3 years ago
One of the things a lot of family gardeners have started to look at is vegetable growing. It not only feeds the family but it's great lesson for the children of tomorrow. I imagine your child is a tad to young for that yet?
LK
3 years ago
We were recently at Chelsea Flowe Show. Our friend Andrea also has small children and wanted to keep some items out of reach. She was mesmerised by these wall stacks. Take a look at her video https://youtu.be/kN4rDvg1DXQ

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