In May, Tina Mantle of Kidderminster won our competition to receive a garden makeover worth £20,000. Planning has begun and, in her second column on the garden, designer Ruth Chivers outlines how the brief is taking shape.

At Greenfingers, we’re not in the business of rushing into a quick fix, build in two days type of makeover. Our aim is to balance the new design with Tina Mantle’s existing achievements, adding elements that suit her garden. The overall brief for the makeover is to add good-looking, lasting features for the whole family to enjoy. Tina and Roy have four grandchildren under ten years old, who visit their garden regularly.

On our first visit, the Mantles agreed their conservatory could go – they have a friend waiting to take it away! Removing this opens up the area behind the house, creating more possibilities for the new layout. We decided to concentrate our makeover plans on this patio space, the first of the existing terraces, and the area beside the house.

In addition to the checklist in last month’s column, I added the following to the brief:

  • add the sound of water – Tina and Roy to decide if pond and fish still required
  • rebuild the existing steps
  • widen the pergola, but retain the wisteria on it
  • add new steps between the middle and top terraces
  • move the lamp post to the front garden, but replace with a new light that suits the new scheme
  • remove the conservatory
  • remove the brick barbecue
  • make more planting areas, both at ground level and as raised beds
  • retain the topiary on first terrace
  • retain the Japanese-style area
  • new paving and decking
  • hot tub – if budget allows – great therapy for gardening aches and pains

    After drawing up the survey, the new design has to fit these elements into the space. Practicalities are important in garden design. Useful patios for eating at a table require generous space – allow 3.5 x 3.5m for comfort. Here, removing the conservatory makes this possible outside the patio doors. Making raised beds in a new courtyard beside the house will be in tune with Tina’s interest in container gardening. But the paved area must remain large enough for her existing wrought iron round table and chairs to be used.

    Tucked to one side, the existing steps are a bit hard to find. I plan to rethink new ones. Garden steps should be less steep than indoor stairs and wide enough for the path they lead into. They should have risers of uniform height, with treads the same depth throughout. A formula for getting the proportions of steps correct: twice the height of the riser plus the depth of the tread should equal 62–68cm. Using an average length of stride, the ideal outdoor step should have a 15cm riser and a 37.5cm tread. A lot depends on space, but a good general rule is to make risers no lower than 12.5cm and no higher than 20cm, with tread depth no less than 27.5cm. Visit any garden designed by the great Edwin Lutyens, and notice how comfortable the steps are.

    Adding a new set of steps between the middle and top terraces will make a circular route around the Mantles’ garden possible, and fulfil the strong desire to leap down from one to the other. A sure sign that a pathway is required.

    Related workshops:
    How to set out a garden from scratch
    How to install a decking tile patio
    How to make a paved or brick path

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    Other Ruth Chivers Articles
       Design Corner - Making Changes        Design Corner - Simply Does It
       Design Corner - Tips from the Shows        Design Corner - Visits Two Nurseries
       Greenfingers Garden: Planting Up        Greenfingers Garden: The Brief
       Greenfingers Garden: The Design        Greenfingers Garden: The Survey
       Greenfingers Garden: Wrap Up        Greenfingers' Garden: Work Begins
       Message From… Philadelphia USA    
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