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Complete small garden re-design in Scotland- what would you do?!

Hi everyone!

I have a little cottage on the East coast of Scotland, which I absolutely love. I've spent three years renovating the interior, and it's come time to begin on the garden. I'm very much into the concept of gardening, and have always been a bit of a potterer, but just haven't had the time or the funds to spend on the garden until now!

I'm a really big fan of the idea of naturalistic gardening- wildflower meadows, ferns, lush woodland borders etc, but would like to combine a bit of this look with a nice area to sit and entertain (fire pit!), and an area to potter, as well as with some raised beds for veg and perhaps even a small greenhouse. 

The garden faces South, with a main wall and road to the North, and the house blocking morning sun to the east. The grass area in the pictures is roughly 8 x 14 meters. 

We get quite pleasant (albeit fleeting) summers- average highs of 18, lows of 11. The winter is quite long and cold, with highs of 5 and lows of around 0 (although often up to around -5).

Attaching some drone photos and a really quick sketch to show you roughly what I've come up with so far. I'm not precious about the design, and would really appreciate an experienced eye. 

Although I love gardening, plants and nature, I'm feeling completely bereft of inspiration, experience and artistic vision, and would really love to hear some ideas- what would you do if this was your garden? I'm willing to put in a lot of effort and time to make the garden really special, and am not adverse to pretty drastic ideas!

Facing South!

Facing West/West/North

Facing East 

top down, note the wall to the north and the gas box to the North West. I'd like to cover that up with some dense planting while still making sure it's accessible!

Rough sketch (feel free to draw all over this in paint!)

An even rougher sketch of my ideas so far. This roughly combines a deck, a heavily planted border to the north (hiding the gas box), a path bordering some wildflowers and perenials to the West and a potter area and boggy shady area to the South.

Your help would be dramatically appreciated!



  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 7,000
    Hello!  What an exciting prospect you have.  Nothing beats designing and building your own garden...   :)  

    Some questions occur to me:  
    1)  Do you know what sort of soil you have?  eg clay, sandy, acid etc.  Is the SW corner naturally boggy, which is why you've planned a bog garden there?

    2)  You've obviously thought about a lot of features you'd like to have.  I'd suggest you draw the area to scale, and then draw on it, also to scale, features like a patio (you need room for your fire pit, table, chairs etc), shed, greenhouse etc.  Or you can draw the features on a separate sheet of paper, cut them out & stick them on the plan with blu-tack, so you can move them about.  Decide how wide you want your path (room for a wheelbarrow?) as well.  

    3)  Your current garden has a clothes line along its western boundary.  Might it be more practical to replace this with a rotary drier in your gravel area (which you could take down when not in use, perhaps)?  Otherwise you might be forever dropping pegs in your wild flower border...

    Must make lunch.  Might think of more things later...
    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
  • Hello! Thanks for getting back to me so quickly!

    To answer your questions-

    1) As far as I can tell, the soil is fairly standard/loamy/old. As you might be able to see, the grass is completely overgrown by weeds, and if I leave it for long enough it becomes a proper grassy meadow in no time.There's no obvious clay or acid, and I imagined that I'd be buying in a bunch of topsoil to recondition my various areas. The boggy area is very much a nice-to-have. The only natural thing going for it is the shade. I love gunnera and similar plants, and have a small collection of Drosera and Sarracenia. Definitely the least essential part of the garden. 

    2) A scale drawing is on the list- the features may well be defined by any input on here, so I'm biding my time until I have a firmer idea of how I'd like it to look!

    3) Good spot! Those are the original Victorian poles, so I may either move them to the South, or leave them in situ as a bit of a feature and not use them for clothes- depending on how well they were installed 140-odd years ago ;)

  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 1,975
    You have what looks like a busy road along one of the boundaries and neighbours very close alongside another one. Do you want to do some noise reduction planting or privacy screening or are you happy with it?
    I would start with choosing the best place for your seating area - in shade or sun (whatever you prefer), with the best view, secluded (if requested), quiet (if possible and if it is important for you) etc. Then connect the seating area with the house (path, stepping stones etc.) and design around it. You could have two seating areas - one small just next to the house for a quick coffee outside and another one in a different part of the garden with the fire pit and some seating around it.
  • Yes, you're right- fairly busy road. To the North though is a 7 foot thick stone wall. I'd like to partly plant up against the wall to the north partially because it is in full sun all day, and partly to hide the gas box and some of the wall with some dense foliage..

    The fence to the West is probably around 5 feet, so I'm considering bolting on a trellis for the full length to raise the height to 6 feet, as that fence (old and brown) is the first thing you see when you enter the garden. East facing, so it'd get quite a lot of sun- I wondered if I could perhaps train climbers up it so as to break up the lines even more (and provide a nice backdrop to the border).

    With regards to the seating area, as you mentioned, there's a paved area right next to the house, but I love the idea of having a separate area separated by a little path or stepping stones.. perhaps hardwood decking sunk to grass level- bordering the grass and the planting to the North/West.. just in front of the gas box..? That way I'd be able to create a planted transition into the decking area, and thicken the planter to the North..?
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 10,968
    Some great drone shots you have there.
  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 1,975
    You have good ideas here.
    To the North though is a 7 foot thick stone wall. I'd like to partly plant up against the wall
    If it were mine, I would love to grow climbing roses there. It would be a perfect wall for them. But I am not sure how well would they do in your area. Maybe if you choose good varieties, recommended for northern regions.

    but I love the idea of having a separate area separated by a little path or stepping stones.. perhaps hardwood decking sunk to grass level- bordering the grass and the planting to the North/West.. just in front of the gas box..? That way I'd be able to create a planted transition into the decking area
    Sounds good. You could do some climbers up the north wall, have some planting next to the paved area and stepping stones or path to the northwest corner.
    Then a deep perennial border alongside the west fence, with climbers at the back and maybe one or two small trees to give you some height. Lawn in the middle and whatever you want on the south side.
    One thing to consider - you have a wide and relatively narrow garden (mine is similar). If you want to make it look bigger, diagonals would help. In your case (avoiding too geometric design), a round or oval lawn would give you a similar effect. For the same reason, it would be better to do the west border curved around the lawn and not straight.
  • hey @edhelka

    I was thinking something a bit more dense or lush for the North wall-  Maybe clematis or trachelospermum. Wondering if I should also grow something up that horrid old gas box (It's not even for my property!) in the corner.. Any ideas?

    Love your idea of separating the main seating area to the NW corner and using surrounding planting to cover up the view of the gas box from the house.. I'll post an updated photo. Have found a cool nursery nearby enough that supplies hardy bamboo.

    Still struggling with the southern end of the garden. I'd love a space for wildflowers to grow free, and I'd love some vegetable planters, but struggling with adding a diagonal element while maintaining some level of symmetry. Any ideas? I'll post a photo after this :)

    I really appreciate your help.
  • Loving your ideas for the north of the garden but struggling to tie into the south! 

  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 1,975
    What vegetable or fruit do you want to grow? Planters only or in the ground too?
  • I'd like to be able to produce leafy greens mainly. Nothing intensive, and only to a smaller scale. I'd imagine a couple of 2x1m productive planters would be enough, being honest. I've been picturing the planters as a structural break to the grass, really. I'm not precious about them. 

    This is from 'the secret herb garden' in Edinburgh a few weeks ago and just jumped to mind as some inspiration. Some low structural planters full of herbs and veg, perhaps.. 

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