Slopes and Ladders

“Gardens with different levels are always more interesting than flat ones”, I reminded myself, staring down at a new garden that would be more suitable as a ski slope than a British garden. But mostly we don’t have any option other than making the best of what we have, and what we have seems to be coming along in more unusual packages as housing gets crowbarred into more marginal areas of land.

Slopes! How do you deal with them? Well, the steeper they are the more you have to concentrate your resources regardless of whether they slope away or towards the house. Decide where the main sitting area is going to be, for entertaining, catching the evening sun, kids play area, BBQ, whatever you use it for, try to create as large a single level space as you can. A single garden divided into 5 narrow terraces, for instance, is actually 5 small gardens because you can’t use them all at the same time. Building retaining walls or raised decks can be expensive if your not careful but so is wasting half the ground your sitting on if you can’t get more than a couple of steps out of the back door.

Continue reading

Time to Take Stock

About this time of year is ideal for stepping back and taking stock of your garden. Most of the leaves are off the trees and shrubs and the bare bones of the garden are revealed, with the summer not too far behind you can also now review just how the area outside your door works for you.

Gardens have to fulfil a lot of different functions and they should work hard for their keep and pay back your investment of time, money and effort. With the garden making up at least half, often more, of the property you own you need to be making the most of what you have. And there are plenty of questions you can ask yourself.

Have you got enough privacy or is that tree just blocking out the sun rather than a neighbours overlooking window? Is there enough room outside of the patio doors to entertain, relax and still use for everyday use? If you want a patio table and chairs for 6 people you will need a minimum of 3 metres depth or it will feel cramped with guests pushing their chairs back onto the lawn or into shrubs and plants. Is there enough lawn for play space? If there is, can the shape be altered to a more interesting one to create semi hidden seating areas or focal points? Did the garden work for you over the summer? If it didn’t what was missing or even how would you like to use it ?

If you would love more colour and interest you can have that without necessarily having a work intensive herbaceous border. Like most other things you only get out of a garden what you put in, but that doesn’t mean you have to be out there every weekend slaving away.

A garden should make you want to go out in it and enjoy what has been created. Things can look very drab this time of year but it also makes it easier to see where you may have gone wrong. And if it is looking drab consider hardy cyclamen, Mahonia Japonica types are starting to come into flower, Viburnam Bodnantense will soon or even is starting to show flower buds. Hellebores in many varieties should be put in the ground or pots to flower in the grey days of January and February.