‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,’ is a sentiment we often associate with people but can we say the same for a garden? I would say yes and it is certainly something I am feeling now during my garden renovation.
For the last number of weeks I have been researching, reading, planning, compromising and drawing up plans, in order to keep the elements important to my garden creation apparent in the design. A good plan will help the landscapers understand the vision but more importantly the action of planning itself puts me in the position of questioning the choices and resolving them where needed through new found knowledge. My plan will keep evolving in different ways but for now, when the landscapers arrive on site in the middle of April, we will be good to go with a plan in hand.
The Price to Pay
I am confident in trying new skills and I am a decent DIY’er however, for the hard landscaping in this renovation I want someone with practised skill and experience to execute the job swiftly and on budget. I obtained several quotes which resulted in a variety of prices. People often get surprised about how expensive landscaping is but the garden is another room of the house and it requires the same solid foundations and framework before we can decorate it.
Spring is an extremely busy time for landscapers as the ground warms up and people want to have their garden projects completed before summer. It wasn’t an easy process to obtain and finalise a quote and as we are being strict to our budget, one landscaper told us that he wasn’t interested in the job as it was too small. It is always worth showing your passion and enthusiasm about a project as this can stimulate positive responses from people. This shared enthusiasm is what connected me to the landscapers we have hired for the project.
Sometimes my mind wonders to the numerous hypothetical situations of what could be and much of it revolves around a potting shed: the hub of all activity in the garden. At 6×8 metres my garden is not large enough for both my design, a shed and a greenhouse. Facing these facts, I have come to the compromise of a potting shed. Whilst it is not the perfect substitute for a greenhouse, it will allow me to store my tools, sow seeds, utilise the staging shelves and windows as a greenhouse and shelter me from the rain which is going to be very important! Some time spent in researching possible heating for the potting shed could help me utilise the space as a greenhouse more efficiently, leaving me with a very versatile structure.
It will also offer me some artistic license. I have the option of painting or staining the potting shed, I could grow climbers up it or put up hanging baskets for strawberries. Next year I plan on reinforcing the roof and adding a green roof kit which will increase my garden’s habitat and wildlife planting surface area which will be wonderful.
All this will only happen through patient layering. There is no rush and this hub will hopefully evolve with the garden, blending into the landscape.
One of the easiest, yet hardest decisions to make in the garden is deciding on which plants, shrubs or trees you are going have. A simple answer would be to grow what you love but what you love may not survive the conditions and aspect of your garden.
Very early on I made the decision to omit trees and shrubs from the rear garden. I made this decision on the basis of my desired planting scheme whilst knowing that trees and shrubs will play a very important role in the borders that wrap around the house.
I have two borders in the rear garden and I want to fill them both with wonderful herbaceous perennials in a planting style that has been popularised in recent years by Piet Oudolf, called Prairie Planting or New Perennial Planting. This planting scheme revolves around planting herbaceous perennial plants and grasses in drifts and blocks whilst utilising the different flowering personalities such as spikes against spheres.
This style of planting requires very free draining soil and I am close to being able to throw pots with my clay soil at the moment. I have been stocking up on organic matter and grit to add to the soil to improve the structure and help the soil hold nutrients. It will be hard work but completely worth it and come May, I should hopefully have the foundations and framework to my garden well under way.
Andy Peasgood is a Principal Dancer with Scottish Ballet and a keen gardener. His performance career is fast paced and he finds balance in the garden with particular interests in planting, wildlife and design. You can follow Andy’s progress as he builds ‘A Garden from Scratch’ in his regular column in Scotland Grows magazine and keep up to date with him on his Instagram feed.