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Save me from straight lines

NormandyLizNormandyLiz Seine Maritime, FrancePosts: 78
I feel this is a big thing to ask, so do feel free to say so or ignore me, but I badly need help with the overall 'design' of the garden. I use the word 'design' very, loosely!

I sort of know what I want, but then I get lost. I've gardened without expertise or an awful lot of knowledge for years but have always taken over an existing garden and then tweaked. This is pretty well starting from scratch.

I'll break it into two parts, front and back. They are joined by skinny bits that I know I need to consider but think will possibly (hopefully) fall into place.

Here is the front - the house faces west.



As you can see, there are lots of straight lines! On the right is the beginnings of the flower/veg bed. There's not much there at the moment, a few shurbs and things fence side and the section nearest the drive has been dug over recently with added rotted manure and linen horse bedding mulch (I get it free), hopefully ready for planting in the spring. It looks tiny but it's actually about 9m long. The current plan is to continue that towards the drive, more shrubs etc. to give height at the back and more veggies and perennials/annuals at the front.

On there left there is a ribes in the bend, a thinnish bed with mainly herbs but also will be veg mixed in. I plan to have squashes running along the drive. 

The constraints (as well as time and cost) are a) the neighbours and b) the view. We are surrounded on 3 sides by cows in the summer. The left hand boundary drops steeply into the field so they can't reach, but for the remainder of the garden I can't have anything either tempting or poisonous, and cows can reach quite a way when they put their minds to it. That's why there is a gap between the beds and the fence to the right.

We also love the view and the feeling of openness. The previous owners had planted a leylandii hedge all the way round, criminal, but that was removed about 4 years ago. On the other hand, though, I hate that straight fence! One thought is a fruit 'hedge', so gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants.

And right at the front there are daffs in the lawn, from the tree towards the road. 

Here's the back, so east facing, and it can get pretty windy in the autumn/winter so that's also a consideration.



There's my little veg patch up against the house, which gets morning sun but is shaded in the afternoon, and there the wet area, which takes the run off from the sewage system (about 100l clean water a day).


That's all very new, it was done in July, but seems to be taking well even though it looks terrible at the moment. It's on a fair slope, so I'm currently working on the steps down to it, and again mixed beds each side. We eat in the covered area during the summer and there the view has to stay.

The only thought there I have to break up the monotony of the straight fence to the left is a clump of acanthus mollis - I've got some I grew from seed, and some pink meadowsweet currently in the wet bit. I ordered white and they gave me pink, which I don't like there, so it has to move. 

The right corner is currently left to grow, with grasses and some wildflowers. It's very, very rooty - there are 2 silver birch and there was also a poplar, since felled. 

Up against the outbuilding I've got a montana clematis on the left, and a vine on the right. Herbs and compost bins round the corner!

So there we have it, all very disjointed at the moment with no sense of design, unity, flow, nothing. I'm adding bits and pieces according to 'want' (i.e. I want to grow veggies, I want mixed beds) and need (the boggy area), rather than with an overall plan. Cost has to be fairly limited as well. I'd love to have a landscaper come in and prepare everything, and go to nurseries and pick out everything I'd like, but that's not going to happen. Some plant purchases, but lots of seeds and patience. And it's going to be in sections, I don't have the energy to do more than a section at a time.

Any thoughts VERY welcome!
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  • PerkiPerki Rossendale - LancashirePosts: 2,288
    Its going to be difficult they not much you can do with the drive but I thought did come to mind , a formal border shape down the sides of it with a wavy edge or sectioned in semi circle / triangle both sides to match the other . They is a border I am thinking of but can't remember where it is I think it might be Kew gardens .  You could do this by just cutting the grass and leaving other bits if you are into that , not my sort of thing but it will give you a wild look and distract from the fence could add in some tall grasses and dot evergreen shrubs in the uncut grass area . or just fill the borders with perennials / annuals / veg but you need some sort of shrub ideally evergreen . 

    Quite a few trees around maybe add in another a tree or two, a weeping willow / other planted near the drive will help soften the surrounding area. Evergreen tree like a queris ilex and many others .

    Island beds ? could pile up soil to make a mound or just use the height of the plants tallest in the middle , this depends on what sort of plants you want to grow.  

    The fence is more noticeable because they is nothing to catch the eye they is no stop before you see the fence post if you know what I mean , the eye gets draw across grass hits the fence posts then through the fence and into the fields. I don't really see the straight lines as a problem it how the straight line is seen and it all in one go at the moment . 

    I hope this helps I get muddled up with ideas so if may of been confusing to read . 
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 SomersetPosts: 10,507
    My first thoughts are that your house is beautiful and the straight drive accentuates this but it doesn't give you any privacy from the nearby road. 

    I would be inclined to buy some cheap hedge whips (if they sell them in France) and plant a native hedge away from the fence and in the middle of the grass both sides.

    Secondly the garage? colour is detracting from the house so I would paint that a softer colour to match the house stone so it blends in better.

    Most people when acquiring a new untouched garden would start nearest the house and gradually work their way outwards over time. You need to analyse what you like and what you want. Have a look round your neighbourhood and make a note of gardens you like and those you don't.

    I think you need more trees, probably in groups of three so as not to spoil your view.

    I'm sure other posters will give you more ideas, particularly @Obelixx, who also lives in France.

    The only other comment I would make is to enjoy the journey and don't fret about it. Half the fun of gardening is changing your mind and moving things about!



  • NormandyLizNormandyLiz Seine Maritime, FrancePosts: 78
    Thank you, both.

    @Perki, I hadn't thought how some thing in front to draw the eye away from the fence would work, but yes I can see that. More trees - back to my wish for fruit trees, especially a cherry. If only the dog wouldn't eat fallen ones! I might have to settle for an apple or two. But yes, I'll absolutely look into that (in other words try to persuade my husband, I know he's not keen on the idea).

    @Lizzie27 - people round here aren't great gardeners and mostly seem to be happy with lawn and vast leylandii hedges, together with a few pots of vivid annuals, usually in vivid pots too. Why does anyone like bright pink and bright green plastic pots? But then they probably wonder why I don't!

    Privacy for us isn't a huge issue. The back garden is only overlooked by the cows and they're very non-judgemental. The only house that overlooks us is across the field to the right and they have... a large leylandii hedge, so that does any screening needed. Very few people walk along the road, the odd tourist in summer and a one or two locals, but otherwise it's a bit of light traffic and some bikes, and we don't mind if they can see into the front.

    The garage - yes, ugly as sin. It was pink, I painted it 'stone' as being more neutral, and I can't quite visualise what colour would work otherwise. Money no object I'd have it boarded, and the garden building too, but sadly money is an object. I'll definitely look at colours, though. But that's the reason for the buddleia and the climber, and I might try and find another screening plant that doesn't mind the shade, an evergreen of some sort maybe.

    Thanks for the ideas so far, you're helping me think.




  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,000
    This might be the border that @Perki is referring to at Kew Gardens.


  • NormandyLizNormandyLiz Seine Maritime, FrancePosts: 78
    Crikey! 

    Well that may be a little ambitious but I get the idea, or rather see some ideas.
  • AnniDAnniD South West UKPosts: 11,000
    The straight driveway is going to constrain your design, but if you can lose a little of the width you could maybe plant things to "soften" the edge.
    https://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/plants-for-the-front-of-a-border/
  • NormandyLizNormandyLiz Seine Maritime, FrancePosts: 78
    Thanks, @AnniD. The current plan is to grow squashes along the drive, allowing them to fall over the edges. They can (possibly this year, possibly next) be interspersed with other plants of varying height/colour. It'll depend on how much energy I have, whether I just prepare enough space for the squashes themselves or go for it and dig all the way along the drive. 

    So far, there are 2 things coming from your ideas - the first is that I should maybe appreciate the line up to the house more and work with that symmetry there instead of trying to fight it. The second is using trees as a means of breaking up the repeating verticals of the fence. This is an apple growing area, although the focus is often on cider apples, so apple trees would be in keeping with the surroundings. I think apple trees like a fair bit of space between them (?), so maybe two which together with the ornamental cherry would make 3 trees. I'll probably have to start a thread on choosing which ones later...


  • CrankyYankeeCrankyYankee New England, USAPosts: 132
    When I see a long, straight driveway like that, my first thought is that I would plant trees along it.  I love the tunnel effect the canopies create when they mature - it makes you want to see what's at the end of it.  You could plant fruit trees along the drive.

    Or, if you're going to grow squash along the driveway, would a long arbor be out of the question?  I'm picturing my grandfather's grape arbor...I can imagine a taller version, more near your house and perennial borders with loads of tall grasses before that...
    (grape arbor in question)

  • NormandyLizNormandyLiz Seine Maritime, FrancePosts: 78
    Are you coming to build it for me, @CrankyYankee?
  • CrankyYankeeCrankyYankee New England, USAPosts: 132
    Ooooo, tempting!  But I have my own to build, lol!
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