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Massive garden - no clue where to start!

hello, if you have come across this message I’m not sure if this is the way to go, but I’m a total amateur, so this idea came second to googling images of other people’s amazing gardens.

2.25 acres of garden, attached to almost-but-not-quite-derelict bungalow (imagine no kitchen, no bathroom, 1 semi working toilet, no doors or flooring, rough plaster etc and you’re about there)
Previous owners did a flit, so no handover but she was (apparently) a keen gardener so there is some very overgrown mature (I think) planting of trees and shrubs mainly around the edges, a sectioned off orchard with about 30 fruit trees and a vine of some description, another similarly large area separated by some MASSIVE laurels (think huge - then double it) which at one point was a ‘market garden’ according to neighbours. Also what the kids like to call ‘the woods’ with a stream, an unconnected pond (probably about 30’ x 40’) which rises and falls with the seasons at the bottom of the garden and the rest is very uneven grass, which we manage to vaguely control with a sit-on mower - which the kids LOVE.
The majority of the garden is east facing.

What can I do with it????
Husband is a very handy man, and built an amazing treehouse in the woods, but other than that we’re in a holding pattern, just keeping it at bay while we make the house liveable.
Any ideas would be hugely appreciated- it may be that we need a professional to see and advise, but again not sure about who is reputable, what sort of price is reasonable etc etc
Would be very grateful for some pointers if you have some to give 
All the best
Dawn, Richie and the kids x


  • FireFire Posts: 17,348
    Hi, are you in the UK? What is the soil like? When did you move in? Can you go for your dream garden or are you on a very tight budget? Best wishes
  • drmedrme Posts: 9
    Wow, amazing - thanks for responding!
    * yes, we’re in the East Midlands
    * soil seems quite good, no clay, not sandy/dry, plenty of worms- but can be quite wet, especially towards the bottom where the pond and ‘woods’ are
    * we’ve been here 3.5 yrs, so getting a bit more familiar with it each year
    * sadly, no mega budget as there’s so much to do in the house, but def could put some money towards it
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,555
    I'd say you need to decide what you want from your garden ( playground? fruit and veg production? manicured lawns? pristine / relaxed? modern? traditional? etc etc ,and, without being vulgar, how much you're prepared to spend on it, both in financial terms and in labour. 
    Look at books and magazines and see what you like / what suits you and your family to get some ideas.
    Ask 10 gardeners what they'd do with it, and you'll probably get 10 different answers.
    In the mean time, use it, live with it and enjoy it.( but get the house done first  ;) )
  • FireFire Posts: 17,348
    edited April 2018
    Gardening is mostly about up-keep. Is the garden a main passion/ big investment of time or a low key, background canvas to your busy lives? It's good to be honest with yourselves if you are going to put time, money and energy into the thing. Work out your realistic time budget. How much energy you want to give the garden (over the years) might well determine a lot of what you chose to do with it. The aim is to be delighted, not frustrated.

    With such a large space to work with - I would go road tripping! The National Garden Scheme is a wonderful resource for gathering inspiration. There's a wide variety of gardens all over the country, but there could  be lots in your neck of the woods, I imagine. My friends and I tend to look for gardens similar in style, shape and intention to our own, so we can steal plant ideas, palettes and clever solutions, directly. Use your vid / camera, ask loads of questions, have fun. Many gardens also will open on request, if you book in advance.

    Also, get thee to the garden shows. There is a wide discussion of lots here.  Ask neighbours what plants work in their gardens. Get them over for tea and pick their brains. Find out about local soil, how water travels over your contours, invasive species.

    I would get a good sense of the ideas you want for yourselves (over time) and then get professionals in to plan how to do it, and building, rather than asking consultants  what you want.

    When you have a sense, I would angle towards what genuinely excites you (as a family) most. Do flowers / colour thrill you, are you mad for wildlife, do you dream of a perfect football pitch, are you party animals, do you long for (more) chickens / bees?

    It's an amazing canvas and such a great opportunity! Enjoy.

    My two cents

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    Would it be a realistic option to get some livestock to keep the grass down?  Not necessarily your own, someone might be glad to keep a pony or a few sheep on your land, provided the boundaries are secure.  They might even pay for the privilege, you'd have less work to do, get free manure, and not have to pay for petrol and then wonder what to do with the grass clippings.  And I think most children would enjoy animals even more than the mower.
  • Garden noobGarden noob Posts: 260
    2.25 acres sounds amazing. We like to go to RHS Wisley and other gardens, but get disappointed that we don't have the space to recreate their large displays in our 70' garden at home. You have a great opportunity!

    What I particularly like about Wisley (sorry, not close to you - maybe worth a trip?) is that it contains lots and lots of different elements: Formal gardens, orchards, heather gardens, rhododendrons etc in a bit that feels more like woodland, a rock garden, a lake etc etc etc - there's loads! You could cherry pick the pieces you like the most (that work for your budget, time for upkeep, lifestyle etc) and then look to recreate something similar at home. 

    If you plan a trip or two to gardens for inspiration, I would suggest picking the timing carefully, e.g. there's not much point in visiting now if you only use the garden in the summer, because they'll look very different by then. Take lots and lots of pictures of the bits you like - this will help your planning, either by yourself or if you get a gardener to help.
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,939
    I would work from the house outwards, obviously the bits you can see are the most important (!). I'm guessing your kids are on the young side, treehouse and woods sound brilliant, so l think they're catered for a year or two yet :) .
    You have such a large area to play with so l would go with the garden visiting idea, camera and notebook (or smartphone) for noting plants you like the look of. There's always a gardener or someone in the plant centre happy to advise if you have any queries. The most important thing is to enjoy it and take it steady. If the previous owner was a keen gardener there may be some hidden gems.
    Enough from me for now. Best of luck  :)
  • David WDavid W Posts: 84
    edited April 2018
    I agree with AnniD above, start close to the house, if you can see big improvements from the wi does it will make you feel better.

    With the grass you are just keeping in control with the sit on mower I would look at deciding which you want as lawn, and concentrate on that. The rest in the meantime I would grow as meadow, maybe get some wild flower seeds in these areas. Then use the mower to cut paths across the meadow to bits of the garden you want to get to such as the treehouse, the pond, stream and woods. Try not to do straight paths. At the end of the season you could then get someone with a bigger commercial mower (farmer) to come in to do the final cut.

    Doing this will cut down on the time needed to cut the grass and give you breathing space to decide on a final plan.

    Personally I would avoid getting livestock in to control the grass as those areas would in effect become off limits to you whilst they are on site.

    Beyond that some photos might help for further thoughts.

  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,904
    I too have a huuuge neglected garden with a natural pond and streams etc. As AnnieD and David said start at the house and work out. 
    For the first couple of years I tried to do a bit of maintenance and a bit of clearing every time I went out and progress was slow. Cut the grass and hack some brambles. Repeat ad infinitum. Take pictures as you go. When progress is slow it's easy to miss it! I like to think of it as eating an bite at a time. My elephant is definitely getting smaller.  :D
    Excellent advice above re deciding what you want from it. I have formalish near the house and it gets wilder towards the woods.
    Good luck. Enjoy!
  • raisingirlraisingirl Posts: 6,897
    David W said:

    With the grass you are just keeping in control with the sit on mower I would look at deciding which you want as lawn, and concentrate on that. The rest in the meantime I would grow as meadow, maybe get some wild flower seeds in these areas. Then use the mower to cut paths across the meadow to bits of the garden you want to get to such as the treehouse, the pond, stream and woods. Try not to do straight paths. At the end of the season you could then get someone with a bigger commercial mower (farmer) to come in to do the final cut.

    Mown paths through long grass look really good, even when the long grass is a complete jungle of weeds. I would add though there's no point putting wildflower seeds down, they won't survive in existing grassland. You have to completely strip the grass off and start again - maybe one day but it's not a top priority. Just plain old long pasture looks fine with lovely neat paths cut into it and maybe a big shrub here and there. You can try adding some wildflower perennials as plug plants into the grass - go for the tough ones like ox eye daisies and cow parsley if you want to try it. Be warned though - if they 'take', they will spread.

    Otherwise I concur with the others - start near the house, make a pleasant place to sit outside and you'll find, while sitting, the next bit you want to do will present itself, then just follow your daydreams around the place and see where you end up. Having quite a lot of structure already there - the fruit trees and the laurel hedges - gives you a leg up. We found that mowing paths made it easier to walk around, and then began a summer habit of walking right round the garden every evening after sunset. It 'fixes' the shape of the place in your mind and helps it seem less alien and distant - more like your own place than some field you live next to.

    The NGS published a book a little while ago, which has lots of inspiration. It's called 'Making Gardens' edited by Erica Hunningher - I think it's still available on A***n - and it also references various NGS gardens - you may find one near you worth visiting. And that is definitely the way to find ideas.
    “It's still magic even if you know how it's done.” 
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