Our garden plans

On Sunday I headed to Grand Designs Live clutching the plans of our garden, actually that's not strictly true I'd gone high-tech and they were stored on my iPad along with many photos of varying views of our garden. We'd got a thirty minute slot booked with a garden designer in the Ask the Expert area and I fully intended to make the most of that time. 


I was looking for advice on how to approach a couple of areas that are causing me issues and indecision, which means nothing really is happening in those parts of the garden. We've already had a new patio and a stone circle laid, and we know roughly what we want, it's just about making it happen. I mean we've even got some of the materials already, and what's a tonne of slate between friends?

Our main problem areas are:

  1. The lack of shape and definition to the grass; there is a border of sorts but bits of it are missing and patches of grass are also AWOL too.
  2. Dealing with the different ground levels, especially around the stone circle. The beds on the right-hand side of our garden are generally higher than the lawn, which isn't ideal. 
  3. Our vegetable beds are disintegrating rapidly...

We picked up some good ideas:

To use upturned oak sleepers to form a low-height curved retaining wall in the area behind the stone circle.


  • I think this would work, it'd involve digging a trench and would emulate the curved wall I liked so much in the walled garden at Marks Hall Arboretum.
  • We'd also be able to replace the disintegrating veg beds with beds made from sleepers too (a long-term cunning plan of mine) and by using the same materials tie those two areas of the garden together.
  • It seems (without any further research) more achievable than a brick or block rendered wall...


  • It'd be a lot of digging, but in truth any solution will need some kind of and probably a lot of digging!
  • We'd need a large saw and a steady hand to saw them into a graduated curve, or better still maybe a professional chain saw-ist if you know of anyone?
  • MOH and I have different views about how close to the stone circle this wall should be. I've a fear that if he's allowed to dig unsupervised we'll end up with a wall right on the edge of the stone circle. And although we'll be able to sit on it, it will also restrict our use of it. And I think it could end up looking like an attempt at an adventure playround and pretty naff. 


  • I'll look into using oak sleepers here, but need to find a way to help MOH visualise what I have in mind; I expect that'll mean investing in a scale ruler, some graph paper and working out how to use them. In the meantime though I'll be hiding the spades and other tools than could be used for digging from MOH, just in case...

To give our grass definition by shaping it and adding a border

Deep down we knew this, we just needed some practical advice on how. We also knew that squares and circles of grass work in long thin gardens, and to look at the design we mark out from the house to make sure they work from there too. I got one of those looks from MOH when we received this advice, as that's exactly what I did after the hole for the stone circle had been dug.


  • We both agree with this and we already have a spray can of paint, but I think we were just a bit too scared to use it!
  • And with the lawn shapes marked we can measure the edges and order the steel edging we'd already decided on, and start to make progress.


  • I don't think there are any.


  • Spray paint at the ready... What's the worst that can happen? If it doesn't look right the rain will wash it off or MOH can mow it off. Cue very bald grass at 139a...! 

Throughout the day we loitered around other garden design stands chatting to garden designers trying to garner other advice, we got plenty of it too:

  • Not to get too hung up on what plants are already there

mmn, nice idea but this isn't a blank canvas we're starting with, there's lots of large trees and shrubs which it just isn't practical or economical to remove. And that's nearly twelve years of gardening, of course I'm going to be attached to it.

  • Move the stone circle 

.... Not gonna happen. Ever. 

  • Move the shed and the greenhouse

 That's easier said than done, there's a huge slab of concrete under the shed. And in most garden's the greenhouse position is determined by where the sun hits the garden. It's highly unlikely that we'll take this one forward either.

  • Plant a low hedge of Box or Lavender to disguise a dip in ground levels by the shed 

We both thought this was a nice idea and one we thought might work, until I realised we'd need to get things into and out of the shed over the said small hedge... 

  • Lay plastic grass, as that's easier for shaped lawns

I'm sure it is easier in the end, but plastic grass. We've got grass (mostly) and strangely this advice wasn't from a plastic grass salesman! I think we'll stick with the real stuff...

  • It's your garden and it needs to work for you, we can suggest ideas but ultimately you'll know if they'll work for you and are something you want to take forward 


So all in all we thought it was worthwhile, but like anything the more people we spoke to the more views and differences of opinions we heard. That last piece of advice is worth its weight in gold though. If you go to anywhere where you're offered free advice on your house or garden here's a few more tips:

  1. Get to the area where the discussion will take place at least five minutes before the start of your appointment; there could be twenty other people with appointments with other experts at the same time, as well as the chancers that haven't booked in advance.
  2. Know the name of your expert (obvious I know) and remember what they look like, if their picture was on the online booking. Then work out where they're sitting and position yourself so you can move in when they become free.
  3. Be nice to the person facilitating the appointments, if you're nice they'll make sure you get to see who you've booked to see. And will even turf some interlopers out for you, if needed (see next point).
  4. As soon as the people before you go to move, move in. If you're not quick enough and they're running behind (which they're bound to be) the people with the appointment after you, who've only just arrived will have no qualms about taking your place.
  5. Take as many plans, pictures and ideas with you as you can - unless you really do have a blank canvas.
  6. Be open to their ideas, but remember that you can't implement everything they suggest and you probably wouldn't want to either. But you can choose the elements you like and move the discussion further in that direction.  Remember they've never even seen your garden, so don't take their word as gospel.

Can you tell we learnt more than just what we might do with our garden?!

An update on my seeds

Well, that was quite a while without photos wasn't it? To make up for it here's some shots from my greenhouse and disintegrating veg beds taken this morning: 









And with all the wind we've had over the past few days, there's been plenty of blossom storms and "snow" - the result of which is not much blossom left on the trees and white speckled grass!


The List