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Exteriors, Lifestyle

New Year – New Look For Your Garden?


Over the past couple of years, our outdoor space has become more important to us than ever. If you have wanted to do something with your outdoor space but not yet taken the first step perhaps the 2022 is the right time to get started.

 Before you start planning to create something that would not look out of place at an RHS show, be realistic about your resources. How much time do you have? What do you want from your outdoor space? How much money are you prepared to invest? It is also worth deciding what style of garden appeals to you. Even if you are planning a low maintenance garden, you may opt for one with a tropical feel or something elegant with box topiary and very low-key planting. On the other hand, you may want to create a vibrant cottage garden full of colour including some areas given over to vegetables. Watching gardening programmes on TV and reading gardening magazines will give you lots of ideas. 

Make A Plan

Once you have identified how you would like to use your space, create an overall plan for the garden and remember – like Rome – gardens are not built in a day or weekend. They evolve and grow and provided you have an overall masterplan for your garden, you can create sections at a time. If you have recently moved into a new property you will only see what hidden treasures the previous owner planted over the course of a full year’s cycle, so take your time. Take notes and photos, and if you are unsure about anything, ask family, friends or local garden centres for their advice.

  Planning on paper is a less expensive way of making mistakes so start by measuring your garden. The obvious way is a direct line measurement from points A to B. To this you can add running dimensions of several points along the same line, eg when you measure each wall of a house take notes of the position of doors and windows along the line.

A slightly more complicated but very useful measurement is the use of ‘Triangulation’: by splitting the outside area into a series of triangles, this gives you an accurate overall plan. Search the internet for details of how to do this and you may be surprised when you have ‘triangulated’ your garden as the plot you think is square could be slightly off centre. This is particularly important if you are considering laying hard landscaping in the form of a patio and pathways. Remember also to mark the position of any drain covers and the interconnecting path they follow to avoid expensive damage.

Establishing the Perimeters

Many of us must work with what we have – unless all the garden consists of is a patch of lawn. Check your boundaries are sound if you have fencing as it is easier to replace fences before you start planting beds if there are any signs of rot. And remember, fences don’t need to be painted brown –darker greens, greys, blues or black can help emphasise any plants and these darker colours can often make the garden appear larger. You may also consider planting a wildlife-friendly hedge but they can take up valuable space in a small garden and need clipping back at the appropriate time of year once established. However, if your garden is exposed to a south-westerly prevailing wind, consider using hedging to establish a wind break to protect expensive shrubs and trees.

  If you have established trees and shrubs in the garden and you’d like to remove them for your new scheme, check with your local council to ensure it does not have a TPO – Tree Preservation Order. Sometimes simply having a few branches removed from an established tree can make a huge difference and open up a space. 

Sun and Shade

The aspect of your garden is one thing you cannot change, but you can work with it. Identify the sun’s path through the day: where is sunny and where is shady. If you plan to create a patio area to catch the late afternoon and early evening sun, ensure it is correctly sited. Allow for the space required for chairs to be pulled out and if possible, more than one seating area could give you a choice of sun or shade.

  Don’t be down hearted if your outside space has areas of shade. There are a wide variety of plants and shrubs that grow happily in low light levels, giving colour and interest all year. Hot sunny borders are the place to plant sun loving perennials, roses and Mediterranean shrubs that can tolerate drier conditions. Look around gardens in your local area to see what is growing well. If there is a garden with plants you particularly like, speak to the owner and they are likely to be happy to tell you what the plants are. 


One of the key elements that will influence what you can grow in your garden is the soil type. If you have clay or sandy soil, both can be improved by incorporating as much well-rotted manure and garden compost that you can get hold of. Dug into the soil, this valuable organic material will help get plants established. The addition of sharp sand or fine grit dug into clay soil can help improve the soil too. As the organic matter rots down, you will need to re-apply annually each spring as a mulch about 5cm thick. It is worth feeding the soil using blood, fish and bonemeal in March before applying mulch to give your plants a good start each year.

  Get hold of a soil testing kit to establish whether your garden soil is acidic with a pH reading below 7.0 (neutral) or alkaline with a reading above 7.0. If your soil’s pH is acidic, you can grow a range of acid lovers such as Rhododendrons, Pieris, Camellias and summer flowering  Callunas. If your soil is chalky and alkaline plants such as clematis, hardy geraniums, Lavandula and  Polemonium caeruleum  (Jacob’s ladder), to name but a few, should thrive.

 Even if you decide to appoint a garden designer and landscaper to work with you (which will require a more serious budget) you will need to think about what you want from your garden. Providing them with an accurate, well thought out brief, saves time and money in the long run.

Above all, don’t let your garden overwhelm you. Once you make a start you’ll soon start to experience the joy that a garden or even a well-planted window box can bring.

  Happy New Year! Happy Gardening!


New build houses
Thu 18 Jul 2024

Congratulations! Buying a new home is such an exciting moment. Whether it is your very first home or you are upgrading your current property for something a bit nicer, there is no feeling like it. New build homes are such a great investment. Not only are they brand new for your family but you can feel confident that they have been designed with the future in mind. Many properties come with eco-friendly features which are great for safeguarding your family. Financing a new home can be a bit of a minefield. Let’s take a look at how you could buy your new home as well as some things to look out for along the way. Mortgage Mortgages are the most common financing option when buying a home. Buyers of new builds can benefit from mortgages designed for the intricacies of the new build process. Lenders may be a lot more critical when looking at your application as there is less security for them with a new build. As construction timelines can be subject to delays and issues, be sure to keep in touch with your lender and see if you can extend your mortgage in principal agreement. You may be able to get some help with buying a new build home. If you are a first-time buyer, look into whether you are eligible for a discount under the First Homes Scheme. Incentives from builders It is in the best interest of building developers to sell their new homes, so some may offer you incentives. You may be offered cash towards your deposit which will be transferred to your solicitor on completion. If you do take advantage of this, remember to inform your mortgage lender. For people who have already purchased a home, developers may be able to help you sell your old house. A developer-assisted sale is one where they will aid you with independent valuations, appropriate deals or the actual sale. This is often free, and they may pay for your estate agency fees. Hidden costs Buying a house can come with hidden costs such as stamp duty and moving costs. Delays in the construction of your new build can often be costly too. When thinking about your moving budget, it is wise to incorporate a buffer zone for additional expenses. Advice The home-buying process is not a straightforward one, so seeking help from professionals is prudent. A lot of the process includes legal intricacies which will be beyond your capabilities. Mortgage brokers, for example, will be invaluable when it comes to getting you a mortgage in principle that works for your situation. Not only will you be able to get the best deal and save money, but a broker will save you so much time. Instructing a firm of solicitors will also be worth the expense. They can do land searches, deed transfers and keep everything above board for you going forward.

Endellion Lycett Green - you drifted by
Mon 15 Jul 2024

This summer the Laura Lopes Gallery presents works by botanical artist Endellion Lycett Green in the Tithe Barn at Thyme. Through her art, Lycett Green pays testament to the inspiration she finds in the natural world.

Lydia Millen
Mon 15 Jul 2024

For anyone who hasn’t come across Lydia Millen, she is an influencer-turned-writer who has embraced a life of bucolic bliss. Her debut book, Evergreen: Discover the Joy in Every Season, came out last autumn and encourage readers to be inspired and soothed by connecting with the natural world.

Urban winner   Danny Kidby Hunter
Mon 15 Jul 2024

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has opened its annual nature photography competition for 2024 with new categories and prizes.