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Garden for the seasons?

Hello! Very much a beginner gardener, and due to move into a new build home in January. The rear garden will be South East facing, and a complete blank canvas.

I'd really like to add some colourful seasonal and evergreen plants, so the garden looks nice all year round. Will have a mixture of beds and some patio pots. I do love the look of traditional English gardens, and want to get plants that are bee and butterfly friendly where we can. Also beginner friendly would be good!

Any advice on which plants to have, what to look for, or even how you layer up seasonal plants in beds, would be appreciated! Thank you :)
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  • BenCottoBenCotto RutlandPosts: 3,618
    This isn’t what you’re asking but I am perfectly happy with my three seasons garden. Winter is too cold, too wet and too dark to get enjoyment from the garden so I just let it get on with it without any need on my part to go in it or even look at it. From early November when the leaves fall to mid February when the snowdrops bloom I ignore the thing. There’s Christmas and, usually, lots of parties to focus on instead.

    I am not much of a fan of evergreen plants. Too often they’re monotonous slabs of dark green with little to attract wildlife and no visual variation from month to month. I would suggest doing nothing with the garden until Spring at the very earliest. Meanwhile keep thinking, keep reading, and post pictures when you move in.
  • rachelQrtJHBjbrachelQrtJHBjb South BucksPosts: 805
    If you like the English country garden look but are relatively new to gardening, you may not be aware that box (the main plant used for topiary balls, cones, low hedging, is susceptible to both box blight and box moth caterpillar, both of which will decimate your plants. RHS Wisley has a knot garden created with box alternatives which you may wish to look at https://www.rhs.org.uk/my-account/articles/alternatives-to-box

    Andy McIndoe's book "The Creative Shrub Garden" could be useful as it helps you identify suitable plants and then lists others that could associate with it, giving structure and interest. 

    You choice of plants will really be driven by the site and soil conditions, how big you plan to make the borders, etc., so post again (with a photo) when you are moved in and I'm sure a whole host of plants will be suggested. It also allows us to see what "borrowed landscape" you may have i.e. what's over the fence/in view from your plot.
  • SueAtooSueAtoo DorsetPosts: 237
    Read books (try library) and magazines on garden design (John Brookes The Small Garden is useful, The Gardening Year also) until you have an idea of what you want in the garden (shed, washing line, patio, water feature, compost bins etc and where paths of least resistance go to them. Find out what soil you've got, sun, shade and microclimate. Then plants; as suggested, borrow views and clothe fences. not all evergreens are boring but do give greenery all year, some have blossom then berries for birds. some are scented like mahonia and eleagnus. Shrubs like caryopteris, abelia and buddlieia for bees and butterflies. Bulbs you'll probably have to wait until next autumn or buy in pots. Above all have fun and don't expect to get it all done in one year.
  • JoeXJoeX Posts: 1,729
    Hello! Very much a beginner gardener, and due to move into a new build home in January. The rear garden will be South East facing, and a complete blank canvas.

    I'd really like to add some colourful seasonal and evergreen plants, so the garden looks nice all year round. Will have a mixture of beds and some patio pots. I do love the look of traditional English gardens, and want to get plants that are bee and butterfly friendly where we can. Also beginner friendly would be good!

    Any advice on which plants to have, what to look for, or even how you layer up seasonal plants in beds, would be appreciated! Thank you :)
    Hello and how exciting!

    The first year common advice is to watch uour garden and learn about it; where the sunlight is in the different seasons, where is dry, where is wet, what type of soil you have (and if there is builders rubble underneath) and so on. Then make big decisions in year two 🙂

    In January I would just start with a few winter pots; primrose, crocus, that sort of thing. Maybe try getting some snow drops “in the green” to put in the ground near an existing tree.  Winter is mostly about structure than colour but you’ll need to wait a while.

    For your first spring it could be worth sticking with planters and patio pots so you can move things around; Daffodils and tulips are easy if short lived, maybe some small evergreen trees. I started gardening four years ago and Im still deciding where I want to sit and what I want to see at different times of the year.

    In summer you can get experiment with annuals and perennials if you buy them in bloom, or maybe set a few seed trays up in a minigreenhouse in spring?  A trip to the local garden centre or nursery wont hurt.  I use begonias, dahlias, rudbeckia, roses, and geraniums - but everyone is different.

    For autumn, my rudbeckia and roses die back but leave their shape and seedheads, and the autumn colour comes into my shrubs; cotoneaster, berberis, cherry trees.  

    And I keep sone green and height through autumn and winter with cypress totem, cypress macrocarpus, yew, holly and laurel.

    For winter, the red berries of the cotoneaster plus some planted winter cherry (orange) and dogwoods (red and orange) against a white fence give me some colour.

    Mostly I would encourage you to experiment, let things die without feeling failure, and find a way to get height and shelter.🙂
  • D0rdogne_DamselD0rdogne_Damsel Saint Yrieix La Perche, Haute Vienne/Dordogne border. FrancePosts: 3,728
    All of the above but I do love a Hydrangea, several in fact, I leave the flowerheads on all winter for interest and shape, and they protect the new shoots from frost. So many different types and very robust. 
    "To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." — Alfred Austin
  • D0rdogne_DamselD0rdogne_Damsel Saint Yrieix La Perche, Haute Vienne/Dordogne border. FrancePosts: 3,728
    edited October 2020
    P.S. A good climbing rose too.... great for bare fences which you might have being a new build. David Austin have a great website with lots of information about all their roses different needs/ strengths and weaknesseses. A strong scented one adds another level of pleasure. 😁
    "To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." — Alfred Austin
  • I want to endorse JoeX's comment above: the most important advice: 'The first year common advice is to watch uour garden and learn about it; where the sunlight is in the different seasons, where is dry, where is wet, what type of soil you have (and if there is builders rubble underneath) and so on. Then make big decisions in year two'

    You perhaps don't have to be absolutely rigorous about this, but certainly it will take many months of getting acquainted with the 'genius of the place' for you to understand which parts are dry, shady, etc and therefore the microclimate with which you're working.

    Critical issues are:

    Soil texture. Each type of soil supports an entirely different spectrum of plants--although you often find claims that a plant can be grown in a variety of different soil types, they often only do really well in one. Dig down a spit, take out a sample, see if you have sand, clay, chalk etc. before researching your plants. Also test that soil from the bottom of the hole with a (cheap) pH kit from your local garden centre, see if it's alkaline, neutral or acid. 
    Sun exposure and type of shade--it makes a difference if your shade is cast by buildings or trees.

    Once you have that info, you are streets ahead. Without it, it's like you're trying to fix a computer problem but don't know what operating system you have.

    At that point I'd personally advance by putting in shrubs and any trees you want, and autumn is a good time as the soil is warm and they are growing roots.

    I tend to recommend using a balance of 2/3 deciduous and 1/3 evergreen. That way you will always have something attractive in winter. Good winter interest evergreen shrubs include holly, Sarcococca confusa, (Camellias and Skimmias if your soil is acid to neutral), some Viburnums such as davidii (lime-lovers but vine weevil-haters). Daphnes can be good in alkaline soils, but D. odora is the best for ordinary gardening. Mahonias are also nice--try 'Soft Caress'--and then I wouldn't be without Jasminum nudiflorum, the winter jasmine.

    Also, for my part I find I desperately need some flowers in winter and I tend to make up for this with Viburnum x bodnantense and winter-flowering iris: try Iris lazica unless you have a really baked-hard sunpatch, when Iris unguicularis is good.

    Bulbs are then excellent for spring since you can plant perennials around them that cover their dying leaves in May and June. The best for long-lasting flowers are things like the dwarf Narcissus ('Thalia' and 'Jack Snipe' are lovely but check out some of the bulb merchants' sites, there are loads). Tulips will give you a kick but are really hard to keep from year to year--they slowly and painfully die--but you can treat them as annual plants and remove after flowering. I've had better luck with two varieties, 'China Pink' and 'Bleu Aimable', than with some others. They don't really like overshadowing so you have to watch their leaves turn brown. However, little bulbs like Scilla (check out mischtschenkoana), Chionodoxa, Anemone blanda, and Crocus will give you a long succession of trouble-free colour.

    Summer: before going in for the cottage garden perennials, be aware that unless you have the aforementioned evergreen structure in place it can all collapse into a mess for long periods. To evergreen shrubs you can also add structure from things like pillars or obelisks, which are good for the clematis or climbing roses or both; these will flower over a long period. Many perennials will die down in an ugly way, but some, like Phlomis or Rudbeckia, have attractive seed heads. I find where I am in clay I cannot keep things like Echinacea and Astrantia going, but those are good; for shade or partial shade, try Helleborus, Brunnera, Pulmonaria and above all Geranium; for sun, Penstemon, Anemone x hybrida, Persicaria, Hemerocallis and again hardy Geraniums, would give you a good start.

    Don't forget too to include a couple of shrubs with some autumn colour, such as the guelder rose on alkaline soil, for example. Some of the ornamental grasses like Miscanthus can also have 

    But the most important thing is--never be afraid to try anything!
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 46,402
    Having started several gardens from blank canvases, my advice would be - don't try to run before you can walk  :)
    Spend some time over the next few months doing sketches, checking the aspects for where the sun and shade are, drawing rough ideas of where you want to make borders etc, and most importantly, make a list of the things you need in the garden, and the things you don't need, and be realistic about how much time you have to maintain everything. If it's a windy site, you'll need some shelter if you want to grow certain plants for instance. 

    Read, watch programmes - even those much maligned makeover shows, and look at the various gardens here on the forum for ideas - the Garden  Gallery thread is a good place to start. 
    https://forum.gardenersworld.com/discussion/1034639/garden-gallery-2020/p1

    Write down plants you like, and check if they suit your climate and conditions. Very important  :)

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • K67K67 Leicestershire Posts: 2,507
    edited October 2020
    Everyone tells you to wait and see how the sun etc affects your garden. Not advice I followed so in year 2 all the shrubs I planted in what was shade and turned out to be blazing afternoon sun had to be moved. It didn't do them any harm and I have moved one small tree 3 times now and am in the process in year 3 of moving several clematis and a shrub when they have died back. New build gardens are usually small so every plant has to earn it's place.
    The only thing I wouldn't rush is preparing the soil, more often it's compacted poor quality top soil onto top of clay with what is a fitted carpet of grass. 
    We have a couple of walls round our garden and 4 ins down was a solid layer of motar so once you decide where your borders will be get digging and adding top soil and soil improver
    For me personally I would get something planted early on just to give you the satisfaction of seeing something other than bare soil or grass. 
    I envy you as for me planning and planting is the best bit of gardening having done around  8 from scratch.


  • Thank you all for the brilliant advice! Will take some photos once we are in, start with some pots and wait a few months to better work up a plan (hopefully with your help!) :)

    Will definitely check out some of your suggestions in the meantime.
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