Starting out, a few do's and dont's
a wealth of experience behind him, Christopher Lloyd
suggests there are a few basic guiders for all gardeners.
primarily, be about growing plants. This is the greatest
excitement of owning your first garden; the opportunity
of handling these living beauties, of giving them the
conditions that suit them and then, not without a touch
of pride, revelling in your results.
into planting may be messy and, especially if you have
a new garden, you might want to consult an expert designer.
With plenty of cowboys out there, you need to find the
right person for you, by asking around and by seeing
examples of their work that you like. Make it clear
to the designer (who needs to be keen to listen and
not just talk) that you want the design to be simple.
After all, it’s your garden.
I have always
found that the more features you include, the fussier
the result. Furthermore, while the design before planting
may look gapingly empty, once the plants grow, that
space will be gobbled up.
Make a spacious
sitting-out area for a start, so that chairs can be
pushed back without reaching the patio edge. Make paths
as wide as the size of your garden will allow, so that
plants from borders on either side can spill comfortably
over them and still allow two people to walk side by
side. Two metres will not be too wide in many cases,
even though the space looks vast to begin with.
Make your pond
as large as you can, so that you need never lose sight
of the water (and its reflections), even when a waterlily
and some emerging aquatic plants are included. A cramped
neither high nor wide enough once it is covered in climbing
plants, is pointless. Forget it.
Then, think about
Consider carefully whether you really need one - it
makes for a lot of work. If pleasant paving or gravel
will do instead, your plantings can spill forwards without
your getting into a twitch about them possibly killing
If the garden is on a slope, will
you want it to be terraced?
Terracing looks very nice, and retaining walls offer
vertical space for plants that enjoy good drainage,
but it is expensive. Alternatively the slope can be
filled and taken up by plants.
After the hard landscape features (paths, patios etc)
are in place, examine the nature of the soil in the
beds which you are longing to plant. If it is rubbishy
found in new building sites all too frequently, you'll
never get anywhere with it. Have it removed to a depth
of at least 30cm; more if you can afford to, and replace
soil, which is easily available to buy. Also, do
make sure that drainage is adequate throughout - few
plants will happily endure sitting in water.
When it comes to planting, friends are likely to ply
you with cuttings
from their own gardens. Kind of them, but always retain
a modicum of suspicion. The easiest plants to give away
are the ones that spread rapidly - they may become weeds.
Another danger, is that lurking in the roots of the
gift may be some dastardly perennial
weed, like ground
grass or bindweed.
Once established, these are very hard to get rid of.
In fact, to rid your garden of such perennial weeds
it may well be wise to treat the garden with 'Roundup'
once everything is growing strongly, perhaps applying
a second dose later on in the season, when you can spot
Next, visit established gardens (always remember to
take a notebook), find the sort of plants that you like
the look of and go on from there. With perennials, it
may be enough to buy one of each and then work up your
own stock by propagating
at home, so that eventually you can make a nice group.
We have workshops on planting perennials, making ponds,
laying paths and paving, propagating and much more.
here to visit the ‘How To…’ section
and check them out.
Christopher Lloyd’s garden, Great
Dixter in Sussex, is open to visitors.
to visit our Superstore and see its vast range of plants,
tools and related products
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com