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100ft Woodland Garden Design

Hi Everyone,

This is my first post on the forum. We've just moved into our first home and have got a 100ft garden which is quite wild at the moment. We're really keen to keep it as a great place for nature but unfortunately it's not been well cared for in the recent past and a lot of the once nice planting is beyond repair.

As far as we know before the house was built in the 50s there was woodland and a farm where our house now stands, hence the huge ash tree and our neighbours large oaks.

We're looking to design the garden with a shed and greenhouse at the back and try to make it secluded a still maintain the really wild feel at the back.

Where should we start, what would you do and are there any really good resources to help us get going. There are a number of plants I want to keep/move.








  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,446

    1. Check for tree preservation orders. A lot of large trees will have TPO on them, which means you can't touch them or do anything that might damage the roots without permission.

    If no TPO's, the decide what you want to keep. Then get rid of the rest. It may be better to get a tree surgeion with a good shredder in to make things easier.  Move the keepers to where you want them in the dormant period, although if they are large it may be better to take cuttings or start again.

     The greenhouse  needs to be in the sunniest place. In the shade of  a large tree is not a good place.  Sheds can go under a tree or at the back.

  • GrahamSGrahamS Posts: 4

    thanks for the reply. We're not looking to remove any of the large trees bar the rear one if it's deemed beyond saving by the tree surgeon. It's a field maple which appears to be more ivy than tree at the moment. It's in the pics above. The ash will have whatever it needs done to be managed but certainly not removed.

    We have a number of yews in the garden which I would like to put in the garden as hedging. They are relatively mature though so as you say starting again may be the best approach.

    In terms of creating a plan, is this a pen and paper job or are there betters ways to do it.

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 7,016

    How long have you lived there? I think it's a good idea to go a year in a new place where there's an established garden (however run down) before starting any really significant projects. Tidy up and clear out weeds, but then watch and see what comes up. Test your soil pH.

    Spring bulbs for example will currently be completely invisible - but you could have carpets of naturalised ones in there - who knows? 

    Take note of the light through the day and the year and decide from that where you might want a seating area, the best place for a greenhouse and/or veg plot, where in the house you linger longest and would want a winter view, say. These then form the bones of an 'on paper' plan which you can sketch out next year.

    In the meantime you can begin to collect plants, grow some from seed, split perennials going cheap in the garden centres now to multiply. That's a big garden and you'll be needing lots of plants, even with what you salvage. Take your time, get the 'fillers' like hardy geraniums, geums, astrantias, heucheras, hostas - ground level plants - as cheap as you can so you can afford to get a few special shrubs and climbers.

    The only thing I'd say for definite is don't put the greenhouse near - as in up wind - of the ash tree. They are very brittle trees and you'll get lots and lots of twigs and small branches coming down in stormy weather. They make great kindling. They'd also make a mess of your greenhouse.

    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 23,169

    If it looks daunting then start on a small bit at a time, having made a basic plan of what you want.

    Is it just the back you want advice about or the whole thing? I would start with the shed and where you want it exactly as you will need somewhere to keep your tools. Then I'd deal with the area nearest the house so you have something nice to look at and gradually move back as you deal with each bit. No need to rush in and do it all at once. It's quite long so you could divide it with trellis or a pergola for growing climbers and dividing it into "rooms".

    Will you want vegetables? Most like a sunny spot.

    As you have just moved you probably don't know what has already been planted. So there is something to be said for raisingirl's advice to wait and see what's going to come up, bulbs etc.

    Keep the grass mown and existing beds weeded and have a look on the Internet, maybe buy a book about garden design and draw some designs to be thinking about.

    Dordogne and Norfolk. Clay in Dordogne, sandy in Norfolk.
  • Hi there.

    It's really tempting to get stuck in straight away with a new garden, but a bit of planing and prep (and patience) will definitely be repaid later in bucket loads.

    I think raisinggirl definitely has the right idea: live with the garden a while and see what plants you have, where the light falls, where there are microclimates (frost pockets, drafts, hot spots, and I'm guessing almost definitely dry shade) etc and keep a written and photographic record of what's happening where.

    Perhaps start by measuring up the garden in all its detail, plotting the boundaries, trees and other features like inspection covers, paths, ponds and so on, where gates and windows are, which bits are secluded or over looked. And draw it up on a A2 or A3 piece of paper to scale. (Later on you can place tracing paper over and have a play with layouts and shapes and ideas.) 

    pH test your soil (you can get kits from garden centres) and dig down about 30cm and have a good feel of your soil to see if it's sandy, silty or clay as both pH and soil texture will determine what you can grow.

    If the garden hasn't been cared for, the soil structure could be poor - compacted or really stony say - and lacking in organic matter (although those trees will have helped with lots of leaf mould). So one thing you could do now and through autumn is dig it over and dump in lots of compost and manure/soil conditioner, really getting it down into the soil. And/or add a really thick layer of mulch. the soil will be much better for it come next spring.

    And this autumn bag up and keep all the fallen leaves you can to create lots of lovely leaf mould that can go back onto the garden once it's rotted down.

    For design ideas visit as many different gardens as possible to get an idea of what you really like, looking at how things are laid out and how space has been used, which plants work (and which don't), how features and seating are used to draw you round the garden or make you stop and linger. As well as taking photos, draw the bits you like - the structure of a border or the shapes of the design etc as it'll be much easier to remember it all when you get home.

    Then get scribbling on that tracing paper!

    You could also ask a designer - you can pay some just for advice and quick outline designs while they walk round the garden with you, rather than expensive full service design - they will come up with stuff you would probably never have thought of and it's often money well spent.

    Other than that I'd say don't be mean with your borders - give them plenty of depth - and don't restrict them to the edges of the garden: bring planting into the space and use it along with low hedges or other divisions to break up the space so the garden slowly reveals itself, particularly if yours is a narrow garden - creating a gentle of deliberate zig-zag will make the space seem wider.

    Um, I've rambled haven't I?! I'll shut up now!


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