Landscaping Your Garden
Does your garden look a mess? Is it all bits and pieces with no cohesive plan? I f your answers are yes or even if you’re just bored with your existing layout, then landscaping is the answer. You may be frightened of embarking on such a large undertaking, but there’s nothing to be afraid of, you just need to plan each area carefully then follow your plan through.
Start by looking for ideas in landscaping books where you’re sure to find something that you like or something which you can adapt to the practicalities of real life. Often, these books show the gardens of stately homes and very few of us actually have a garden that big, but check out the planting or the hedging or the statues and you will soon get some ideas. More practically, look at books on do it yourself landscaping. These books will show step by step ways to build raised beds, to lay paving or decking and lots of other features which you may fancy in your garden.
If you want some sort of water feature, then you probably should start with that. Choose a place for it; somewhere with dappled shade may be best if you plan to have fish in your water feature. Make sure that it isn’t too big or it will dominate the whole garden but in any event, it will be the main point of focus, so create this first.
There are many ways of building a water feature; you can buy pre-formed ponds with built in waterfalls, you can buy a reservoir with a spout, which creates an interesting shape of the water and you can cover the reservoir with attractive rocks or pebbles; or you can use a liner. Alternatively you can use the type of water feature which you attach to a wall with a trough beneath it to catch the water.
Apart from the latter, whichever you choose, you will have to dig a hole and or stream so it will be as well to know whether any main drains cross your garden! Whether you’re using a liner or pre-cast pool, you will need attractive rocks or pebbles to surround it and if you plan to have plants surrounding your pool, then the rocks will need to be cemented in place to contain the earth or before long, your rock beds will be empty of soil and it will all be in your pond.
Whether or not you plan to keep fish, you will need a selection of plants to keep the water clear. It’s best to go to a specialist water plant supplier as requirements vary depending on the position of the pond. However, water lilies are a good start and look pretty. You may also need to introduce some wildlife, which will also help to keep the water crystal clear.
Now you have your focal point, start to build the rest of the hard landscaping, such as paths, decking, steps, raised beds, etc. While you are doing this, you may want to bury trunking containing electrical cable for lighting (and for the pond pump) as well as hose for a watering system.
Finally, you get to the interesting bit, which is choosing and placing your plants. Don’t forget to consider the amount of sun or shade and water each plant needs. Try to choose whatever is suitable for where you live; if your garden has a lot of wind from the sea, you will need quite different plants from an inland location. If you live in semi-desert, don’t try to grow hydrangeas and the like or you will be watering them all day long. You also need to consider which type of soil you have as some plants don’t like acid and some don’t like alkaline. If you use pots, you can, of course, change the structure to suit whatever plants you have chosen, indeed you can do this in flower beds but you will need to carry on adding what you need to change the pH of the soil or it will revert to type.
As well as nutritional requirements, check what height and width your plants will reach. The planting may look sparse to begin with but as plants grow and spread the gaps will be filled but if they start off too close together, they’ll end up squashed and the parts not getting light will die. Don’t forget to put the tall plants at the back of a bed and graduate the rest towards the front.
When you’re happy with the position of your plants, lay out your watering system, with drippers for each plant; one for small to average plants and two or three or more in a ring for larger and thirstier plants.
Soon enough, it will start to look like a professionally landscaped garden and if you can’t do all of it in one year, divide it up and do what you can then start again the next year.
Liz is a keen gardener who has exchanged the relative ease of gardening in Southern England for the trials of gardening on the Costa Blanca in Spain, where her garden is at a 45% angle on the side of a mountain. She is webmistress of Gardening for All.