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New build & new to gardening - I've had a go, but any help and advice welcome!

Hi everyone! I’ve spent a long time trawling the forums for ideas (as well as gardening books and Pinterest) and thought it’d be good to get some ideas from more experienced humans! I’ve really tried to give lots of information and my own ideas, but I really have no experience in gardening, so any help is much appreciated, and I’ll update you when we get some bits done this year (hopefully!)

I’ve got a new build garden in Leicestershire, but we’ve been in for 5 years now, so I feel it’s time to start adding some plants – I’ve never done any gardening before and finding it quite daunting, it’s taken 5 years to put in some trees and a patio, and I just got myself a little trug to play with in lockdown. The garden’s north-west facing, but does get very sunny in the summer as we have the neighbours’ gardens either side and nothing blocks the sun other than the left hand side fence. Where the trug is at the moment gets sun most of the day.

The pictures are from a mix of different years, but just to show the light the garden gets.

July – 6pm


September – 4pm


August 6pm


We’ve done the “hard landscaping” ourselves, put a patio at the back and also put some pleached liquidambar in to distract from a neighbour’s drive, garage, trampoline, and large motorhome that gets parked there for quite a while. We extended the patio outside the patio doors and have put in a pergola that has an optional canopy, and we’ve got a long narrow shed down the side of the house, so don’t need any more storage. We added the patio at the back as this gets a bit of shade, and felt like it would mean we weren’t looking out onto other houses.

View from the patio at the back

The garden isn’t square (this is my to-scale model, the white tree isn’t there, nor is the hydrangea) and I think this is confusing me about what to do with borders. 

Current pictures (this morning – January 9am):

We dug down quite a bit before the trees came to check the soil, there were lots of worms (which I hear is a good sign) and didn’t come across anything that looked like clay or sandy, so it looks like it might be normal.

My ideas so far:

I’m going to paint the patio outside the patio doors with masonry paint– they are cheap builders’ slabs, and we thought we’d matched them but didn’t quite and I don’t have the budget for another patio alongside all the planting. There is a big table on this patio which covers most of it.

I’d like to have a few veg throughout the garden if possible, mixed with some flowers and evergreens. I really like lots of white and green, but I have a huge phobia of bees and wasps (I scream and run and everyone laughs at me), so as strange as it sounds, I don’t want anything right next to the patios that is going to attract lots, where I can’t relax and end up going back inside. I’d also like it to be as easy maintenance as possible and still have some interest in autumn and winter.

I’d like a bird bath to go somewhere – we get quite a few birds going for the worms, and would like to encourage them without feeding.

I was thinking some white hydrangea (like Annabelle) down the left, maybe some hostas? Would it be sunny enough for them there? What could go with this as evergreen?  Would the hydrangeas also work on the right in a sunnier spot for some continuity?

I’ve seen something called Shrubby Veronica that looks like it might make a nice neat edge? Maybe some Hellebores?

This was my attempt at a border plan:

I love peonies, but not sure if they are too difficult?!

So my key questions:

-        How would you shape the borders? Everything looks very angular and odd to me at the moment and I’m not sure how to combine the two seating areas or maybe shield one a bit more?

-        How would you make it so that it doesn’t look like the garden is split into two with the plants? As the left gets more shade than the right.

-        Would you put a small tree in front of the patio to try to break up the garden?

-        Would you plant anything around the patios?

-        How could I get some height up the fences? I’m thinking some runnerbeans on the right hand side?

-        Do you think it’d be better to add in some soft pinks/purples to break up the white?!

 And any other ideas, help or advice you can offer.

Thank you for any help or guidance you can give – and sorry this is such a long one!




  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 21,227
    I can’t help much with planning, but I would just say that peonies are not good value especially where space is limited.

    Their life cycle goes something like this. From January to late April all you see is bare earth. From later in April to June 15th all you see is leaves. From June 16th to June 30th you have a few flowers. From July 1st to late October all you have is leaves. From November to January all you have is bare earth.

    I like peonies too.😊
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,327
    Do you need/want lawn - for children playing or pets?

    “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” 
  • Thank you @pansyface, that's good to know. Do you know anything that flowers longer, but is still pretty, and maybe could be cut for some cut flowers?

    @raisingirl I'd like to keep some lawn, no pets, but I sometimes play some lawn games with my husband, and we might have children at some point in the future.  Also, nervous about completely filling the garden with plants (other than grass) as it might make it high maintenance? 
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,327
    I'd decide how big, what shape and where you want that to be then, as a starting point. 
    The first thing to say is well done for getting stuck in.
    Second thing is that apart from trees, any soft landscaping can be changed if you change your mind/needs. Beds can be lawned over, lawns can be dug up. Trees are harder to move (though not impossible but it's better not to). So don't be fearful - jump in, try it, if you're willing to put the work in - and you clearly have done - it's better to have a go and make it your own rather than try too hard to 'get it right' - there isn't really a 'right'. You like it, keep it. you don't like it, change it.
    Gardens are better seen as a hobby and a process rather than a chore and a perfect product. For example, to me lawns are high maintenance because I dislike mowing and edging, but beds are not because I enjoy weeding and pruning and seed sowing and planting. So I like to have lots of border with loads of space to plant pretty things rather than grass which I find boring and a drudge. It's a completely personal thing - no right or wrong to it.
    So, lawn. A tree somewhere between the two seating areas so you don't have such a direct line of sight between them, perhaps. Then make paths. I'd be inclined to curve a path between the two seating areas via the trug and plant up the space between the path and the right hand fence. I'd also make some border space close to each of the patios and plant them according to how you use them - evening fragrance plants where you like to sit on a summer evening, spring or winter colour/fragrance where you sit for a cup of tea on a cooler day, that sort of thing.
    “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” 
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 7,701
    edited January 2021
    Well done on your work so far. It's looking good!
    In my garden last summer, the longest-flowering things were hardy fuchsias, shrubby salvias (the greiggii and macrophylla types and hybrids) and salvia Amistad, single dahlias (mine a Bishop's Children strain grown from seed, but you can get tubers of named varieties), scabious "pink mist", and a purple osteospermum whose name I don't know. For earlier colour you can add in some bulbs. Daffodils, crocus, snowdrops and suchlike come back reliably every year, and so do species tulips (not the big ones, they're much less reliable after the first year).
  • @raisingirl Thank you. I'm thinking I might put the border in on the sunny side as, like you said, I could always extend it and play around with what I put it and then maybe see how a path would fit between the two patios. I've started playing around already on my plan :smile:

    @JennyJ Thanks for the ideas - doing lots of googling now to see what all those plants look like! I love spring flowers, I put a few in our front garden a couple of years ago and get so happy when I see them starting to appear!
  • RuthmshawRuthmshaw EssexPosts: 41
    Hi, good to see you got stuck in and have done the work yourselves. We bought a new build 4 years ago and did a couple of things that you have.
    1. Extended the patio with slabs that are a very slightly different shade. After a year of weathering you can’t tell the difference. Don’t paint them as paint will get scraped and wear unevenly. It will look awful and you will regret doing it.
    2. Planted pleached hornbeam at the bottom of the garden. We staked them and built a frame for them, stretching wire horizontally along which to train the branches. Then we removed the cane frames on which they had arrived from the nursery. First year they looked a bit pathetic but now in their third year they are filling out nicely. Those cane frames will not give them the support they need and they are tied in too tightly.
    Hope this helps, best of luck.
  • raisingirlraisingirl East Devon, on the Edge of Exmoor.Posts: 6,327
    By the way, bees often go for blue flowers for preference, so best to avoid those.

    White foliage (such as hostas) would be safer. Or night fragrance plants 12 Plants for Evening Scent - BBC Gardeners' World Magazine which tend to attract moths rather than buzzy things, if you're OK with those. They aren't usually bright colours but may give a little subtle colour to break up the monochrome. 
    “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” 
  • Fab small tree is an Amelanchier. Lovely white spring flowers, attractive leaves, red fruit that will attract blackbirds and orange autumn leaves. Doesn’t cast much shade and is very easy to grow. Good luck with your exciting project!
  • I think I see what you are struggling with--because the lawn is so undifferentiated and surrounds every separate piece of hard landscaping, the latter look like islands and there's no organic connection between your patio near the house and the seating area away from it. Everything you've done so far is looking great (well above newbie standard!). I would have a couple of suggestions about design and some planting ideas. Suggestion 1: Work out what are your 'lines' that join the two patio areas and think of a way to demarcate these more clearly, whether with planting or otherwise. (In so doing work out how much lawn you need for various activities, which cannot be sacrificed). Suggestion 2: In the rest of the space, how about softening the edges of everything that isn't directly in your hard landscaping, such as concealing the fence all the way around.

    My own visual sense of this is that you could have some sort of path, whether curving or angled, joining the two. The John Brookes book of garden design is quite handy for giving some template designs for awkward spaces if you can invest in it.

    Planting suggestions: the ones you have here are excellent, but you'll need something on your fences. Trachelospermum would be a good option--it's a moth plant, has a wonderful smell and is evergreen. You'll also need some groundcover plants to connect the Hydrangea up to the rest of the world a bit; I can recommend Astrantia 'Shaggy' and Bergenia 'Bressingham White', for example. I sense that you might prefer a more minimalist look, so a good idea might be to emphasise textures (which are with you for longer anyway). Then, having some grassy leaves in the picture, or on the opposite side in a sunnier spot, would be good. You could try a tall grass like Miscanthus sinensis 'Variegatus' which will form a more eye-catching feature, or try lower-growing sedges like Carex oshimensis 'Everest'. Another architectural plant worth a try in sun is Agapanthus--there is an increasing range of excellent varieties, including white-flowered ones. (Bumble-bees do like them though...)

    Lastly, don't leave out winter interest. You could use some winter-flowering plants and evergreens like Sarcococca confusa, Viburnum x bodnantense 'Deben', snowdrops of course, and an evergreen with strong presence like a holly, which can be clipped to whatever shape you need, would be really valuable in cheering you up in winter. Check out 'Handsworth New Silver', while remembering that she would also need a husband to produce berries!
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