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Softening a formal suburban garden

Like many people this year I have left my flat in the city to buy a traditional suburban house and a labrador. OK, probably not the labrador but definitely a dog of some kind! I imagine the previous owners having amazing cocktail parties on the deck but its a little too formal for my taste. How do I build on what is already there but make it feel softer and less structured? 



  • I think it's more about bringing some life into it that breaking any formality. Is that artificial grass? The whole area desperately needs some proper beds to plant in. It all depends what you have in mind aesthetics wise and of course what state the soil is will probably need enriching for planting in the spring. 
    Of course it depends on where you are and what the weather and orientation of the plot is so you know where is the sunny and shady sides before deciding on plants. So much to think about but what a great opportunity to make it into a living space not just a bunch of plastic and hard landscaping. 
    To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow
  • AnniDAnniD Posts: 11,429
    edited December 2020
    What sort of garden would you like ? It's now yours to do with what you like, bearing in mind any future dog .
    Do you want flowers or a veg patch maybe ? Something easy to look after or something involving a bit more work ? Is it sunny or shady ?
    I know, so many questions :) 
    Personally, l would have a think about what you would like, maybe look at sites such as Pinterest to get some ideas and draw up a mood board. That's a strong if simple design, do you want to keep the straight lines ?
    Remember, you have plenty of time.
    A garden is a long term thing and now you're in a "proper home" you can really make it your own.
    And finally, welcome to the forum,  you've come to the right place for advice 🙂

  • The trees/woodland are on the south side of the garden and the house is at the north so the garden should get sun most of the day (assuming there is any as we live in scotland).

    I would like a veg patch but its probably not practical with a dog and wildlife coming in from the woods. There are raised beds around the deck so I was thinking scented but drought resistent plants like lavender instead of the faux topiary balls and I would like climbing roses on the house.

    I just cant work out what to do with the "lawn" area as it takes up all of the available planting space and I feel like cutting strips around the outside will be unsatisfying. The straight lines are not what I would normally go for but it does work with the modern house so I'm thinking about cutting a different shaped bed into each corner. When I have the shape right I can replace the astroturf.

  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 8,854
    I would make the lawn circular or oval surrounded by planting beds, which would be deep enough in the corners to have tall shrubs or small trees, and fill the beds with shrubs and perennials. And I would have lots of containers of plants on the deck to break up the large area. But neither of those are really low maintenance, and it really does depend on what you like, and how much time you can put into looking after it, ie is gardening a hobby or a means to an end for you?.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,237
    edited December 2020
    To soften the space doesn't necessarily mean you have to start introducing curves - using the deck as a starting point you could have a planting bed running parallel which partially divides the deck from the lawn. You could widen the perimeter beds substantially, perhaps including a little 'set back' which could enclose a bench or secondary seating area. I admit I'm a little OCD, but I like it when everything slots together in a logical and deliberate manner, as a foil for very informal and 'free' planting style. The fence could do with either hiding with climbers or replacing with something less visually prominent, to make the most of the nice woodland area alongside the garden (blurring the boundary).

  • josusa47josusa47 Posts: 3,530
    A wildlife pond?  A screened area for compost bins and leafmould heaps?  Those trees will provide plenty of leaves.  Have a look at other people's gardens round about you, to get an idea of which plants will do well in your climate and soil.  Chat up the owners of  the gardens which look most like you want yours to look.  And please don't buy your dog from a breeder; there are hundreds of dogs in shelters who would think they'd died and gone to heaven if you took one home with you.
  • So many great ideas, thanks!

    I am looking for an older dog not a puppy, there are two reputable adoption charities near me that provide ongoing advice, support and even commnunity events which would be great for me as a first time dog owner.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 5,237
    I can wholeheartedly recommend a greyhound! You'll get a lot of support from the rehoming charity and in all likelihood there will be local groups with regular walks etc near you. And they're an easy first dog

    No photo description available
  • They are so cute in their christmas jumpers! I have been looking at greyhound rehoming ads for months but I want to be properly moved in before I go for it.
  • sarinkasarinka Posts: 270
    edited December 2020
    Beautiful greyhounds!

    Since dogs never keep off the  garden anyway (one glimpse of a cat or a squirrel and all bets are off), I would rip up the turf and create one massive flower bed with a winding path through it, culminating in a lovely hidden bench somewhere. The decking I'd plan to pull up or at least reduce, but in the meantime you could put an array of flowerpots /planters on there.

    Good luck with your doggydoption. There's nothing better you could do.
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