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Garden design - blank canvas

My husband and I moved in to our new build home last year and we're a bit stumped on what to do with our garden. It's 14m long and 13m wide. It's East facing and the soil doesn't seem to drain that well. I think it's clay.

The garden is empty save for some rose cuttings I took last year of my mum's 40 year old rose bushes (4 of which have survived and are in pots at the bottom of the garden) and three blueberry bushes that we planted last year, which are at the bottom right of the garden if you look out from the house. They are covered in buds which I'm told is a good sign! 

I've attached a plan of the garden. Does anyone have any suggestions/ideas?




  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645

    You need to start with a list which identifies what you want in a garden.  eg seating area, eating area, grass, paving, plants for colour, perfume, ornamentals, veggies, herbs, fruit, pond, tree....

    Then identify how much time you are willing or able to spend on building a garden and maintaining a garden and also how much money you have to spend on it now and in the future.

    You also need to know what sort of soil you have as this will determine which plants can be expected to thrive and which will struggle - it can be clay, loam, sandy, a mix of these in different parts of the garden.  Also is it acid, neutral or alkaline.

    Lastly, new build gardens tend to have lots of compacted sub soil and all sorts of rubble and gubbins below the surface.   Be prepared to do a lot of digging to improve the soil and remove crud and then working in lots of lovely compost and other organic matter to improve the soil.  

    Get the initial preparation right and you'll have a lovely garden that will make you happy.  

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Nick74Nick74 Posts: 44

    imageimageWe moved into a new build a couple of years ago and got rid of our lawn. Never planned to keep it but realised after the first winter that it didn't drain well!

    You'll find that the nice top soil will hide compacted earth and rubble. In our case, it also hid clay. In the end, we removed around 8 tonnes of clay and soil to get the patio and raised beds in (all done by hand!). Before and after pics attached  

    We're SW facing and I wanted plenty of patio space and nice deep beds. I have no real plans for what I'll plant - just grow the stuff I like, on a loose cottage garden/insect friendly style.

    Depending on the style of garden you want, you might want to consider a compost bin - your local council may subsidise them so it's worth checking. 

    As Obelixx says, get to know your soil and  the initial prep right!

    Last edited: 17 March 2017 06:40:56

  • EsspeeEsspee Posts: 274

    I would be tempted to do without grass too unless I had young children.  Decide where is best to have a patio, and the other features you would like.  How much work can you do yourself?  Have a look at other gardens and don't rush it.  I hate seeing fences and would be concentrating on masking those as a priority plant wise.  Once you have the hard structure in soil quality is the next thing I would tackle.  It is going to take time but you could beautify the place with plants in pots which eventually can be planted.  Good luck.

  • I would also say to avoid grass unless absolutely necessary. Think about how much time you want to spend maintaining it as there are a lot of plants that are drought tolerant so you don't need to be watering regularly.  My husband and I have just started on our new garden and we love the cottage garden plants and also plants that give us all year round colour and are drought tolerant

  • Thank you so much for all of your advice. We're going to keep some of the lawn because we have a little boy but we'd definitely like to scale it back a little. Putting a patio in is probably our first move. We get sun at our french doors in the morning and at the bottom of the garden in the afternoon/evening so I'd like to pave both areas with a path in between I think. 

    I'm also planning on going for a little walk around the estate to see what everyone else is planting. Our cul de sac is quite new but the rest of the houses in the estate have been here for some time so hopefully I can get an idea of what's working for other people. Our soil seems to be clay but I'm not sure of the PH.  

    Does anyone have any suggestions for plants to grow up the fences and especially ones that might help to cover part of the garage without doing any damage to the structure? If that's even a thing? It's such a big space (for us anyway) so I was planning on taking cuttings from friends and family. 

    So here's the garden in all it's 'glory'... (looking pretty sad at the moment, especially the grass!) 

    The area to the bottom left is only temporary. We planted our rose cuttings outside (in pots) over the winter but now they're out of the ground. We planted them there because it's a sun trap and we'll be digging this up to pave/put decking.



  • Oh and Nick, your garden is lovely! I love the raised beds. Did you also lay the patio and build the beds on your own? My father in law built his own decking, laid his own patio and built raised beds and he's offered us his services when it comes to laying the patio. 

  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053

    Your grass doesn't look that bad especially as we are just into spring and no more. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645

    I suggest you get the messy stuff done first - terraces and seating areas and paths and any raised beds you decide to make as trampling the awn with all the wheelbarrows of materials will be messy.

    The fences can be disguised with climbers, shrubs and tall perennials but first you'll need to fig out some decent beds and improve the soil by removing any crud and adding lots of compost to feed both plants and beneficial organisms.   There are roses and clematis able for every aspectand you can train them across the fences and walls on a system of vine eyes and tensioned wires or painted trellis panels according to taste and budget.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • EsspeeEsspee Posts: 274

    You don't need to have all climbers to mask the fence.  You can plant evergreen shrubs and prune them to encourage upward rather than outward growth.  Right now my camellias are glorious.  I also love the Kerria japonica which is just erupting into flower but unfortunately like roses and clematis not evergreen.  

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