Transforming a challenging garden

Hi everyone!  I have been overwhelmed by the helpfulness of the gardeners on this forum and hope you can all help me with a very big and challenging project.  My family have finally bought our own home with a substantial garden, about half an acre.  The previous owners weren’t really gardeners so there are some things planted but not all that I want to keep.  Here are the details:

- Wall on the north side and flattish area where it gets full sun (thinking of vegetables/cut flowers/greenhouse here)

- Shaded by large conifers on the south side

- Huge natural clay pond which dominates the garden, currently planted all around with trees/shrubs as it is quite steeply sloped.

- Flat area on the east side, gets full sun, but is exposed to prevailing wind.  Just past this it slopes down towards the pond.

- Narrow path goes around the west side of the pond.

- Clay soil, not sure about acidity but I don’t see any acidic loving plants in the garden.

My vision is that this whole garden would pretty much be planted up in 5 years time.  I think the full sun areas would be best for vegetables/herbaceous flowers, and the areas closer to the pond be more natural wildlife areas, but I am keen to hear any ideas.  What would you do to tackle such an unusual plot?  I’m particularly concerned about the wind so any ideas for windbreaks would be welcome.

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  • What a fantastic plot and great opportunity to shape it as you want. Looks like you are high up there, what part of the UK are you?

    I don't think I'm qualified to offer too much guidance but wish you all the best in your project and it would be great to see updates as you develop it. 

  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 18,174

    It looks very well laid out to me.  I would wait and see what comes up this next year - for instance, the longer grass may well conceal naturalised spring bulbs and wild flowers and shouldn't be cut before the bulbs have gone over and had time (6 weeks minimum) to store new energy in the bulbs.  Those beds no doubt have all sorts of invisible bulbs and perennials too so wait and see and just keep them weeded for now.

    For windbreaks, I would go for wildlife friendly hedging and there's still time to plant young whips very cheaply now or take the time to do more research and get to know your garden then plant them in autumn.

    South facing walls are good for training fruits such as apples, pears, blackberries etc if you can attach training wires.   Leave a path in front for access for care, pruning and picking and then some raised beds for veggies - as long as you like and 1.2m wide for access from both sides.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Dave Humby says:

    What a fantastic plot and great opportunity to shape it as you want. Looks like you are high up there, what part of the UK are you?

    See original post

     Thanks Dave, we are in Somerset in the hills on the eastern side of Exmoor, so a bit elevated.

  • Obelixx says:

    It looks very well laid out to me.  I would wait and see what comes up this next year - for instance, the longer grass may well conceal naturalised spring bulbs and wild flowers and shouldn't be cut before the bulbs have gone over and had time (6 weeks minimum) to store new energy in the bulbs.  Those beds no doubt have all sorts of invisible bulbs and perennials too so wait and see and just keep them weeded for now.

    For windbreaks, I would go for wildlife friendly hedging and there's still time to plant young whips very cheaply now or take the time to do more research and get to know your garden then plant them in autumn.

    South facing walls are good for training fruits such as apples, pears, blackberries etc if you can attach training wires.   Leave a path in front for access for care, pruning and picking and then some raised beds for veggies - as long as you like and 1.2m wide for access from both sides.

    See original post

     Thanks Obelixx, am keeping a keen eye out for bulbs as we moved too late to plant spring ones. We have a few apple trees near the wall that were in a bad way, have pruned them back and hopefully get some fruit.  Will look into planting some hedging maybe along the far western edge.

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 2,409

    If it was mine I'd start a duck sanctuary!  But I'm just soft in the head about ducks.  I'd like an ornamental pond with a fountain in sight of the sitting room, with an overflow into a rill down the slope into the pond. I'd plant lots of edibles: fruit trees, soft fruit bushes, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and globe artichokes.  Have you thought about bee hives? Chickens? A rabbit warren? A composting toilet?

  • josusa47 says:

    If it was mine I'd start a duck sanctuary!  But I'm just soft in the head about ducks.  I'd like an ornamental pond with a fountain in sight of the sitting room, with an overflow into a rill down the slope into the pond. I'd plant lots of edibles: fruit trees, soft fruit bushes, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and globe artichokes.  Have you thought about bee hives? Chickens? A rabbit warren? A composting toilet?

    See original post
    Funny you should say that!  There are mallard ducks that apparently nest in the pond every year (you can spot the duckhouse in the photos), looking forward to the ducklings in spring.
    Definitely be doing lots of soft fruit where I can and maybe more fruit trees and other edibles.  I’d love hives but might wait a year until I‘m sure I have plenty of fodder.  Will have to consider the others but pretty sure Dh will say no to the composting toilet ;)

     

  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 3,626

    You're not far from me, then image Halloo!

    There are plants that don't mind the wind - eleagnus ebbingei is the classic evergreen windbreak hedge in this part of the UK, but I prefer holly. Elder, hawthorn, hazel and beech will all make good hedges quite quickly. Hedges make the best windbreaks in the long term - walls create swirls and updrafts that are difficult. Trellis is fine but maybe consider something you can live with not being covered in climbers, (which make it more wind resistant and eventually blow over). 

    Your best bet is to go slow this year, see where the best places to sit out are, plan some windbreak hedging/trellis fence around seating areas and the veg plot (I grow horizontal Brussels sprouts but I wouldn't recommend it image) and then go a-visiting. Hestercombe must be close to you, Knightshayes is not a long stretch - they both have lots of different types of garden - formal, woodland and hard landscaped - see what sort of layout you like. Shrubs in long grass with mown paths? Wide open lawns and sweeping borders? Woodland glades and secret paths or open views and grand vistas? Or maybe like Dunster Castle which has very lush gardens around a winding path.

    Take notes, make plans, see what comes up and then start laying things out and digging things up. In the meantime, grow a few things in pots, or chuck down annuals seed to have some colour this year.

    Flying...
    Or am I falling?
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 3,237

    Beautiful photos in winter already. On your raised flatter ground, you might want to form a wind break hedge on the upper parts. These areas, once protected will allow you to plant more sheltered plants. That could be a working kitchen garden, a herb garden, or even a formal knot garden. It's all a matter of how much time you have or are willing to give and how you will use it. You aleady have nice contours with soft undulations which allows for long sweeping borders for mixed planting with shrubs and smaller trees.

    On a scale like that you either have to approach it bit by bit or start by mapping out the more permanent structures like trees and shrubs, then perennials and annuals another year. You can afford to theme your areas if you are really into gardening already. Example, grass borders, cutting garden, wild garden, orchards etc. Lucky you....

    Last edited: 11 January 2018 18:32:10

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  • WaysideWayside Posts: 722

    The plot looks loved to me.  Lots of landscaping.  How about identifying those small trees?  They are likely planted with a long term vision, and will change the dynamic of the space.

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