But before you stick the spade in, you need to think. Is your garden going to see some frantic goal-mouth action in the kids’ re-enactment of a champions league final? Have you already been bitten by the gardening bug and fancy getting your fingers green? Or does the thought of yanking up weeds every other day make you think of kicking back on the patio with a G&T instead? How you feel about your garden – and how it will get used – needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you start to make plans.
In this blog we outline the basics, so you can create the garden you want. So before you get the trowel, grab yourself a pen and paper instead.
Plan before you plant
If your garden is going to become the kids’ playground, don’t go digging wide borders and planting fragile bedding that will be trampled in a week. On the other hand, if your space is your own private sanctuary, planting sun-loving flowers close to the patio doors might seem like a good idea, but not if that patch of the garden gets little or no sun. This is why you need a plan! Let’s assume that you are not leaving the garden as a football-pitch lawn and you want a bit of flora and fauna to cover up those big new fence panels.
Right, which way’s north?
First, understand the aspect of your house and garden. North-facing gardens are shady most of the day, with the house casting the shadow. Remember there will be less sun in winter as the sun does not rise so high. South or south-west facing gardens are great for bedding and flowering shrubs, but if you plant in pots they will dry out super-fast. Even if you know which way is north, or have a compass, make a note of the garden’s sunny and shady spots. Don’t be too down if your garden is mostly shady – there are plenty of flowers and plants that thrive in shade, too.
Windy or sloping garden?
If you have a sloping garden, you’ll need to think about terracing because the nutrients in a sloping border will eventually drain to the lower part and you will spend a lot of time and energy trying to keep the soil fertilized. Flatter spots or plots are better for planting.
Also determine how windy your garden is. Even if your garden is not exposed, your house or a neighbour’s can create “wind tunnels”, so avoid planting taller, fragile plants here, or remember to give young plants extra support until they become established. Trellis, obelisks and arches make attractive garden features in their own right and will help protect windy gardens as well as provide vertical support for flowering climbers such as clematis and climbing roses.
Sketch out your ideas
You don’t need to be master garden planner to draw some ideas on a piece of paper. Think about how much time you want to spend in the garden. If you want something low maintenance, don’t go overboard with wide borders, island planting and pond-digging. Be practical.
If you want to grow your own herbs, you might want a herb garden near the kitchen. Herbs grow well in containers, too.
Think about how plants might mask your fence or provide additional privacy, but be wary of them throwing your garden into shade if you don’t keep up with the pruning.
If you fancy growing vegetables, have you got room for them? Is there enough sun (most need sun to grow)? A vegetable plot can look untidy, so do you want to screen it from your ornamental planting? Don’t forget to leave yourself enough space for a bench, patio set or the sun lounger when it’s time to put the trowel down and enjoy the fruits of your labour. Large pots or planters could also be used for growing veg such as green beans
Finally, don’t be too eager to dig up your new lawn. A mown, cared-for lawn is an attractive and practical garden feature, and relatively low-maintenance considering the space it covers.
So you’ve analysed your garden and you have your plan. Now let’s look at some no-fuss, quick-growing plants to get you started.
Shrubs, climbers and perennials for short-term impact in new gardens
- Sage (Salvia × sylvestris)
These blue-flowering spires may not fill space quickly, but they’ll make an instant impact, survive the winter and spread in time. Some varieties, such as Mainacht, are not tall enough (up to 18inch) to need staking, so they make good, reliable, low maintenance border plants.
- Lupins (Lupinus arboreus)
The scented yellow tree lupin flowers when very young and quickly makes a big plant with evergreen leaves. It will come for a few years before dying off naturally. It needs sun and good drainage and won’t mind the poorer “virgin” soil of your new garden. Avoid in colder gardens.
Yes, they are common, but there’s a good reason for that – the shrub is easy to grow and readily wears its yellow flowers every spring. It’s the perfect choice to hide a boring corner in the fence. Clip it back because it can grow spindly if left to its own devices. Try underplanting with daffodils – they will flower as the deciduous forsythia wakes from the winter.
Those bare fences are crying out for a climber. A honeysuckle thrives in full sun or dappled shade in any soil type, and is semi-evergreen, meaning that it will mask the fence all year round, barring the harshest of winters. Give it some support – tree stakes, trellis and/or wire and train it to climb onto and cover your fence. Honeysuckle halliana boasts white and yellow flowers and has a heady scent, especially in summer evenings.
- Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium)
Don’t sniff at the idea of planting privet. It will put up with the poorest of soils, and even grow over builders’ rubble. Aureum has rich, golden yellow leaves with green centres and is happy in sun or partial shade. Once established you will want to keep it trimmed to shape, so bear that in mind if you decide to plant a hedge with it.
- Bugleherb (Ajuga reptans‘Catlin’s Giant’)
At the front of shady borders, or between newly planted shrubs, Ajuga reptans ‘Catlin’s Giant’ will quickly cover the ground and help prevent weed growth. Their bronze colouring and spikes of blue spring flowers will quickly make a bold impression in your new garden.
Plant breeders have created compact, better flowering varieties in recent years and because they are easy to grow, they are a great idea for a new garden. Deadhead them after flowering or leave them on for some extra winter interest.
In all but the coldest gardens, hebes make a great, compact shrub with neat evergreen foliage and plenty of mid-late summer flowers that come in pink, white and purple. Best in sun, they also attract bees.
And a timeless annual plant…
Who doesn’t love planting and watching sunflowers grow? Especially popular with children, why not leave a space in your new border for some big, flashy sunflowers? As the name suggests, they need sun and a sheltered spot. Ripe seeds will attract goldfinches to your garden, too.
Enjoy your new garden as much as your new home. It’s your own private outdoor space and just like the rooms inside, you can put your own stamp and personality onto it.