It can be very frustrating beginning a new garden. Plants take a while to grow, too many decisions to make, inheriting tastes that are different to your own, which project to start first? All these things can feel like going round in circles, with no end in sight.
It’s very tempting to get stuck in straight away. However, just like with homes, we recommend waiting a year first. To see how the light falls, where a nice place to sit is, how things change with the seasons. As a very impatient gardener I was of course keen to ignore those rules and get stuck in anyway – at least with gardens you can move a tree! It’s a bit harder to move structures in homes.
Here are the things that have worked for me in the past and present with a new garden in the first year:
Start with areas closest to the house
I recommend starting with areas closest to the house and particularly views from well-used windows like the kitchen. You will see these all year round. A lovely border that you only see in summer is a bit of a waste at this stage.
Adding interest quickly is key, a herb garden is ideal for this. They can be bought very cheaply when small, smell heavenly, make for interesting dinners and cocktails and the bees love the flowers! They are also mostly evergreen so will look great in winter too. Ideal for a bed near the kitchen.
What if you’re making home improvements?
If you are also making home improvements (as we are) this can add double complication because you may not yet know where windows will be, how big an extension might get, is it even worth building a garden as the builders will flatten it? I have all these problems and this is what I have been doing:
Focus on areas where you know the house won’t change. Align views from windows with interesting garden features. Create paths to areas used regularly. Plant a lovely herb garden (see above).
Try planting around the garden boundaries as these are likely to stay put. I wanted more foliage and fruit around those areas, rather than just a fence. As I moved in during Autumn/Winter it was an ideal time to plant bare-root trees. Yet these can be moved if necessary, so don’t panic if you get it wrong (one poor cherry tree has come on 4 house moves with me!). Just be aware that overhanging trees on the neighbour’s side can be a nuisance for them (with falling leaves and fruit) and they are allowed to trim their side and give it back to you. However I have found that previous neighbours enjoyed the blossom and the fruit!
In a new place, this is often what you crave most. I have used trees around the boundaries to block an unattractive view very effectively. Don’t be tempted to plant a Laurel or a Leylandii, I know they grow quickly and that can be attractive for an inpatient gardener – but it is precisely that reason that they become unmanageable. It also leads to neighbour upset because they block out light year round, unlike deciduous trees that give you more light in winter when you need it.
Once you know where you would like to sit, a well-placed pergola, bush or tree can provide an extra sense of enclosure. This Gabion basket table and seating area is surrounded by poppies in the summer, it faces west and I often sit there and listen to the bees queuing up for nectar.
Sowing some annuals or wildflowers on a patch of bare earth (making sure you water) will give you colour quickly in summer. I also like to use these to fill in the brown patches around my evergreens and perennials that are still very small.
Letting your lawn become a bit wilder can be very attractive mine has clovers and self-heal and daisies, it’s blue, white, yellow and green.
Pots of Interest
I often plant perennials in pots, then plant them in the ground when I have a patch ready. Salvias and drought tolerant plants like Geraniums or Campanula are good for this. Alpine sedums are excellent for low maintenance pots, they barely need any water and look good year round.
I hope this will give you some ideas for that first year. If you need some more, or would like a design for your new garden, please get in touch.