Just moved in and faced with a blank canvas? Or more like a green canvas! Worry not, I've got you covered. Follow my "Rule of 5" to get you going and make the most out of your limited space.
When we first moved into our home the garden was nothing but a giant pile of brambles. So if yours is anything as bad as that, get down down and dirty ASAP! Clear it all out to see exactly what space you have to play with (we were surprised by how much bigger it looked!).
"Really think what you would like to use your garden for"
Take time to observe the garden from the point of view of each corner and ask yourself whether you want focus on: Lounging? Growing your own? Creating a kids' play area? Or a bit of everything? It is all about your own personal needs and desires so weight it up and divide it accordingly.
In any case, I would say don't rush into anything until you have lived there for a while and studied the sun exposure at different times of the day.
For example for us, the morning sun hits right outside our back door just a little corner so I placed a wooden armchair there for a cosy morning coffee corner.
We kept the dining area next the house, so it is near the kitchen.
And the evening sun hits the back of the garden, so that's where we've placed the outdoor lounge, a perfect spot to sip up a cocktail (or two!) and soak up the last rays of the sun before it sets.
Go big! I always say it is easier to scale-down your plans than scaling them up in hindsight.
To create this sketch I measured the length and width of the garden, then sat down in front of the upstairs window to map it all out.
My plan here was to create little sections that would cater for all the different things we wanted. I totally reconfigured the layout, I swapped the path to the left side so it would be in line with the back door to the garden. I extended the patio so it could fit a table and 6 chairs. I stretched the patio at the back of the garden so it would cover the width of the garden and could support the garden shed that was to come.
I created a covered pergola sheltering a seating area in the corner so that we could hang out in the garden on any given day, rain or shine! Finally I decided to create a raised border on the right to feature big exotic plants, fronted by a little curved wall.
TOP TIP! Most UK urban gardens tend to be long narrow strips, so to break those lines up, it's a good idea to introduce curves in your design.
Once you've got your plan pretty secured, start marking out on the floor the different areas you want to create. We marked out ours with bricks because we had them from knocking down a wall in the house, but you could just spray paint straight onto the ground. This will help you visualise exactly how your design will look in the space, and potentially help you catch any problems areas before you start building.
"VISUALISE YOUR DESIGN IN THE SPACE"
When you've got everything marked out and are feeling ready to go, get the builders in or get going with what you can do yourself. We always try to do as much as possible ourselves. First thing we did was get a medium-size garden shed for storage and installed that at the back of the garden. Then as we had bricks left from the house reno, we decided to tackle building the little curved wall (nothing a YouTube vid can't teach you!)
TOP TIP! Make sure the shed is tall enough for you to stand in comfortably!
When choosing the shed, read the dimensions carefully and take into consideration the inclination of the roof, I promise you it is worth doing the maths on this one, your head will thank me for it later :-)
We later converted the garden shed into a popup bar, but I'll save that story for later...over drinks ;-)
"CREATE A GREAT FOCAL POINT"
Next, we turned to installing the pergola, which is just a box-standard one from ScrewFix that we customised ourselves with clear PVC roofing. As for the lounge underneath it, we created a custom-made L-shaped sofa out of wooden pallets.
(stay tuned for a separate step-by-step post on how we created this!)
The one thing we got tradesmen help for was the sandstone patio. It is trickier than it seems, as it has to be played in such a way that ensures correct rainwater evacuation, so we thought best to leave that one with the professionals!
Before you start putting anything in, take time to look at pictures on the internet of full-size grown plants, and do try to visualise how tall they will be in years to come. It is often very misleading when plants are young, the bigger ones at that time will not necessarily remain the bigger ones later.
TOP TIP! Stick to a tight colour scheme of 2 to 3 colours, it will look more coherent.
Generally with planting, tall ones at the back small ones at the front works best, but like everything else there are always exceptions (as a self-confessed rule-breaker myself I would know!) for example if it is something that grows tall and skinny like alliums they can go at the front.
If you're limited in space, a veg trug is a good idea as you can keep everything in one place with easy access and none of the back-breaking work of preparing the soil.
"DESIGN A GARDEN THAT GIVES BACK!"
Consider wildlife when planting and whether you want to attract birds (with berry bushes like pyracanthas), bees (with lavender, foxgloves, heuchera) or butterflies (with buddleia and sedum)
In an upcoming post, I will show you how I created this Wildlife Station" that keeps everybody visiting us; from ladybirds to little birds.
SHOP THE LOOK:
Pergola from Screwfix
Garden Shed from Screwfix
Veg Trug from Amazon
Garden Arch from Wayfair