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Cottage Garden - where to start?

Hello all

My partner and I have bought a lovely listed cottage in the Forest of Dean area, the main selling point being half an acre of flat garden to the side of the cottage, over-looking undulating hills and ancient oak trees. It really is beautiful, and we are very lucky, but I feel like it needs a beautiful garden to do justice to the scenery and character of the house. 

It's so big, so flat and so empty I totally over whelmed ! I have done bits of gardening in the past, but nothing of this scale. Where do I start? We both work full time so are mainly limited to weekends now that the evenings draw in so early, but I do have two weeks off work coming up set aside to get stuck in to home improvements. 

Any ideas, inspirations or warnings are very welcome!?  

thanks in advance, 

Josie and Jim 


Last edited: 09 October 2017 20:51:55


  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,237

    The best place to start is pull out a plan of the garden, mark on the existing features, and then start zoning it, thinking about the types of uses, activities and spaces you want. For example, "outdoor eating area", "kid's kickabout area", "entertainment area", "secluded hideaway" etc..

  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,651

    Start from the house and work out. Identify views you want to frame from the main windows and think about where you want to sit when you're outside. Focus on those areas and make them fairly low maintenance (cottage gardens are by nature low maintenance, so that's a help image ). 

    Do you want to grow vegetables? Or fruit? These need open sunny conditions with some shelter - i.e. they are quite picky, so if you do, it's worth deciding where they will be at the outset. If there's a view from a corner of the garden (the one back to the house in your photo, for example) that you like, then you need a path from your door to that view. Decide where your 'back garden' will be - where the shed goes and the compost heaps and the bonfire site and the plants that you're bringing on. And locate your washing line.

    And then begin to join the dots.

    “Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first” 
  • I'd leave areas of grass to go wild.  Mow areas near the house and paths down the rest. Consider getting a small digger and operator in for a few days to create mounds, banks, bowls or whatever you want. I'm doing this with my garden but by hand as it's a smaller scale. 

    It'll take years, have patience! And always consider maintenance...if you won't have time to keep it all looking good then simply. Make half of it an orchard!

  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,237

    Just to add to what  I said in my post - you lucky buggers, I'm so jealous of your garden and your 'problem' of planning it! image

  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,455

    I have a scrappy old bench (actually it's a conservatory bamboo thing that came free with the house) that I move around the garden considering the view.  I sit there with a coffee and try to create a picture that takes views external to the garden into the garden - they call this borrowed landscape.  When I spot an ugly space or eyesore, I plan trying to fill it with something of the right height, colour and spread (you need research for this bit).  If it doesn't work at all, I move the bench - the spot wasn't right.

    Take your time to imagine/plan/simulate.  I use bamboo poles to mark a spot where the centre of a shrub might be, for instance, then view it from all around.  I might leave it several days and view it from the bedroom/kitchen and living room as well as my scrappy bench! 

    When you have firm ideas, hire the equipment to do the work, you've a lot of grass and it needs to come up if you're planting.

    Hope this gets you thinking and helps to break your creative block!  You can do it, start small.

    Best of luck and enjoy it image

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530

    Is there a source of water anywhere other than the house?  With such a big space, you don't want to spend all your summer evenings lugging watering cans or dragging hoses around your lovely borders.  If you're going to have a veg plot, site it close to the house.  If you have a shed, summer house or greenhouse, fit guttering so you can collect the rainwater in a butt.

  • Thanks for the initial thoughts here! Very much appreciated and great to see a few different approaches - feeling a lot more 'Can do' after reading this!

     I love the idea of sitting around to look from different perspectives.. I have a fold up camping chair that I think will do the trick to start! Plotting it out on a drawing is something we can definitely do too... and half of it being a lawn/orchard is genius - start small and slowly expand... one dig (and cuip of tea) at a time! 

    We're not in a rush, its a 'home for life' and i'm only 27 so a good few years of work ahead of us but I can't wait to get stuck in at the same time. :-) 

    We're super excited about the whole thing - my OH is focusing more on the inside, and I'm hoping to take the reins of the garden. We have an outdoor tap and a hose, and yes planning to get some type of collector at the other end of the garden. 

    I'll you all posted on the progress - I may even start a little blog to track progress.... image

  • Papi JoPapi Jo Posts: 3,855


    Last edited: 13 October 2017 08:53:33

    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
  • CloggieCloggie Posts: 1,455
    josiepc says:

    We have an outdoor tap and a hose, and yes planning to get some type of collector at the other end of the garden. 

    I'll you all posted on the progress - I may even start a little blog to track progress.... image

    See original post

    Our house needed new fascia so we refreshed the guttering while we were at it.  I used the old stuff from the house on the shed, summerhouse and woodstack and ran it into water butts.  It's invaluable near the pond, compost heaps and my plant hospital (cold frame).

    I have an outdoor tap at the house end of the garden but only really use that for jetwashing cars, patio furniture, plastic window frames and our weeping silver birch trunk.

    I'd read your little blog on progress.  I'd do one but I always pile in and only realise later that I didn't get the "before" pictures! image

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