Survey and brief completed, Ruth Chivers has produced her new design for Greenfingers’ competition winner Tina Mantle’s £20,000 garden makeover. Here she outlines its main features
Unless you have a brand new house with a bare garden, few gardeners have a blank canvas on which to make their ideal garden. One of the challenges of garden design is to incorporate existing large plants and features into a revamped scheme.
The brief for my design for Tina Mantle’s garden was to concentrate on the area at the side of the house, the space outside the patio doors and the lower terrace. Pulling the whole garden together, increasing a sense of flow and making some new planting areas were priorities. Ground shapes are a good place to start with any garden design. Fitting these into the area you have and matching the dimensions you give to each with what you want to do in the space is what makes a successful garden design. A lawn or patio is usually a good starting point and can help you shape the rest of the garden.
Here, the new design does not include a lawn. A deck takes the space of the conservatory, blending into paving slabs through the side courtyard and the rebuilt main steps up into the top part of the garden. The plan for the upper deck makes use of the existing retaining terrace wall and new timber steps improve circulation around the whole garden. The positions of manhole covers also have to be taken into account when making patios and decks. Removing the existing pond will allow a spa to be incorporated into the upper deck. The whole team wanted to make planted areas at the sides of the garden as large as possible. Setting these at an angle, reflected by the front edge of the top deck, gives a generous bed size, bringing plants into the foreground.
The triangular-shaped side garden is at present little more than a passageway, narrowing from the entrance. At our first visit to the Mantles, I’d envisaged developing this area using raised beds to minimize the impact of the boundary fence on top of the retaining wall. Setting these timber-raised beds at an angle of 30° matches the lines of the back garden and leaves a useful paved area. Laying paving slabs and decking at the same angle helps to make narrow spaces appear much wider, and gives a sense of continuity throughout. Tina Mantle wants to move an existing table and chairs into the new side courtyard to catch the evening sun, a perfect example of practicalities affecting design ideas. It’s something to remember when rethinking your own garden.
See also the Helping Hands workshop: How to set out a garden from scratch and the Fresh Ideas article: Simply Does It