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How to create more character and whimsical in our family garden

jw89jw89 Posts: 42
Hello! So this is our family garden that we pretty much created from scratch after our extension and Reno, but that was done Gradually over a few years as money and time allowed. I like it but it just doesn’t feel complete nor does it have that full whimsical cottage style I was hoping for. We need to keep some grass as we have kids and a dog,  need somewhere for the swings and trampoline etc but can anyone give me some advice on how to make this garden feel more like the enchanting garden wonderland i really want? I love overflowing and frothing gardens that take you on a journey and so far mines just falls flat. Also struggling designing it as it’s wide whereas I feel a lot of gardens I look at for inspiration are long and narrow… anyway, any advice or ideas would be very much appreciated as I’m struggling to know where to go with this now. Thank you (ps please ignore the half finished roughcast 😬)






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  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 4,339
    My first impression is that you have a lot of hard landscaping (patio, deck and gravel) and straight well-defined edging to the borders, neither of which (in my mind at least) says "cottage garden", and I'm guessing you need that space and have spent a fair bit on the landscaping and wooden edging so I won't suggest a redesign. I think it will look better when the planting matures and spills over/softens the edges, and maybe you could have more plants in containers to break up the patio, decking and gravel area.
  • jw89jw89 Posts: 42
    JennyJ said:
    My first impression is that you have a lot of hard landscaping (patio, deck and gravel) and straight well-defined edging to the borders, neither of which (in my mind at least) says "cottage garden", and I'm guessing you need that space and have spent a fair bit on the landscaping and wooden edging so I won't suggest a redesign. I think it will look better when the planting matures and spills over/softens the edges, and maybe you could have more plants in containers to break up the patio, decking and gravel area.
    Thank you for the reply. Yes I feel we got to that point in our Reno where the garden was a mud/rubble pit and total safety hazard when we had a 4 and 1 year old so we just wanted to get the deck and patio laid to give us a start but it’s not what I would choose now given the time and energy to properly think about it which is annoying but yeah like you say it wasn’t cheap so feel we are stuck with it. I thought maybe a pergola over the decking would be nice and I could grow some climbers up there so soften that and a larger dining table. Most of the planting is new so like you say once they establish hopefully they will soften the lines. I just look at other gardens and they look so much more inviting than mine. 
  • jw89jw89 Posts: 42
    Lyn said:
    I agree with Jenny,  you’ve created a formal look, square edges,  wooden planters in gravel.
    For the cottage garden look you need just grass and borders, curving borders,  but as you’ve designed it now, I would do as Jenny suggests, let the plants spill over and hide the wooden strips of wood.
    this is a part of my cottage garden, but they are hard work, it looks like it’s all planted and does it’s own thing afterwards, it’s far from that 😀


    I think my thought process behind the wooden raised planters was that it defined my planting areas so the kids / dog were less likely to trash the planting. I see now though that is has created a more modern look which wasn’t so much what I was after. Ops. Lol. We live and learn I suppose. Do you think just really pack the borders with plants and let them cascade over and hope it softens? And thoughts on adding more trees? I feel it’s very open and would love it to feel more like a little haven that just hugs you when step out and the rest of the world just disappears x
  • jw89jw89 Posts: 42
    edited 14 July
    @lyn and Beautiful garden btw. I can imagine how much work it takes to make it look so effortless lol
  • SeahorseFriendSeahorseFriend Tyne and WearPosts: 51
    edited 14 July
    Hi @janewinton89, I love your garden! But it's really open and you said you wanted to be able to go on a journey. How about using arches or pergolas to create some secret areas that you can't see at first glance? For instance, arches overgrown with roses or honeysuckle could make a hidden covered pathway leading to the shed. 
  • jw89jw89 Posts: 42
    edited 14 July
    Hi @janewinton89, I love your garden! But it's really open and you said you wanted to be able to go on a journey. How about using arches or pergolas to create some secret areas that you can't see at first glance? For instance, arches overgrown with roses or honeysuckle could make a hidden covered pathway leading to the shed. 
    Yes I do love that idea and I did originally have a path up the middle of the grass but I felt it cut the garden in half and it was chips which I was constantly picking back out the grass thanks to the kids and dog so I ended up getting rid. I think because the kids like the big bit of grass for football etc it might just always be a compromise until the point they are no longer kicking a ball around lol. 




  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 18,416
    Curves will hug you,  that photo was from a summer.
    I have shrubs at the back, this photo was this Spring, early June, on the left are just one Rhododendron, one camellia a Buddlia and Viburnum,  but they make a back drop, then you just plant in heights,   The geraniums spill out and soften the edges.
    Those shrubs will depend on your type of soil though, mine’s  very acid. 
    This is big scale but I’m sure yours will be more pleasing to you when they’ve established a bit more. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 7,775
    I rather like your garden the way it is, you have done a good job so far. I agree with the others that an arch or two clothed with climbers in the appropriate place will help soften the look but I think you will have to resign yourself whilst the children are young, to not having quite the garden you now desire. Practicality is not to be dismissed.
  • Butterfly66Butterfly66 BirminghamPosts: 685
    Your garden has lovely bones and as the planting matures in your raised borders the generous look will develop. A border separating your lawn from the gravel area would add interest by creating separate rooms. You could have a wide opening whilst the lids are still running around and then narrow it and add an arch at a later date.
     If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”—Marcus Tullius Cicero
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