It is both thrilling and daunting to design a garden and with numerous overwhelming decisions to make, it’s important to devise a plan. To begin, analyse the size, shape and in which direction the garden faces: your sunniest walls, shadiest corners, borders and lawns. Consider your priorities: colour, scent, maintenance, outdoor dining, a place to recline. The style of garden you desire, whether it features formal planting or English cottage-style rambling roses: a vegetable patch, wildflowers, water features, height and structure, edible herbs, a pergola, hard landscaping and/or a lawn. Once you have decided on what is most important to you, a professional’s advice cannot be underestimated.
Lucy Roberts’ passion is creating gardens with atmosphere that are beautiful all year round and in tune with the natural world. We turn to Lucy for advice.
1. What are the first steps to planning a garden?
An invaluable first step is to gather images and create mood boards, both for the garden as a whole and for the various areas and elements you would like to consider; perhaps a seating area near the house, an eating area, a herbaceous border, a shade garden, container planting.
2. How do you decide on a style for a garden?
A good rule of thumb when deciding on a style for a garden is to be guided by the surrounding landscape, the architecture of the house and the interior schemes. Your personality and how you will use the garden will also play a large part. A slick contemporary style of garden sits well with a modern extension to a house located in a city. A more traditional style works well with a house that has retained its original features.
3. How do you select a planting scheme?
It’s helpful to choose some adjectives to describe the feel of a scheme: romantic, architectural, wild. The soil, aspect, prevailing wind and general conditions of an area will help determine the plants that will thrive in a particular scheme. Beth Chatto’s mantra of ‘right plant, right place’ is key to have in mind as plants that are happy where they are planted will require less intervention.
4. What are your tips for planting a border?
If a border is near to a house a scheme of predominantly evergreen shrubs will ensure there is interest year-round. The scent of shrubs like Daphne and Sarcococca, climbing roses and evergreen jasmine are wonderful to have near a house. If a border is a distance from the house and not in close view, a more seasonal scheme, such as a herbaceous border might be considered. Contrasting forms and textures make a border sing as shown in the photographs below.
5. When are containers a good option?
Containers work well at the front of a house providing seasonal colour from bulb planting and the gorgeous combinations of trailing verbenas and convolvulus in the summer months. A seating area near to a house surrounded by large pots filled with scented planting in the summer months is a joy.
6. How do you decide on lawn vs paving?
Paving is the most practical option nearest a house where there is likely to be seating and eating areas so that there’s no worry of walking into the house with wet or muddy shoes. Gravel is useful for areas like driveways to give a dry route from car parking to a house. A little away from the house a lawn can look its best surrounded by planting and equally, generous planting tends to be set off well alongside an expanse of grass.
7. What is your advice for small gardens?
Limiting the number of materials used in a small garden creates a sense of unity and simplicity which makes it feel larger than it is. In an enclosed small garden, paradoxically, larger pots and larger scale paving slabs give the illusion of space whereas lots of small pots and smaller paving slabs can make a small space feel cluttered and smaller than it is. A small garden in a countryside setting, open to the surrounding landscape, tends to sit well if elements in the surrounding landscape are brought into the garden. All feels at one and as a result, the garden feels larger than it is.
Lucy Roberts is a Norfolk based garden designer creating atmospheric, abundant, pollinator-friendly gardens which are a response to a client’s brief and that sit comfortably with the property and surrounding landscape. Services include masterplans, planting and maintenance schemes and ongoing development of the garden as it grows and matures. Lucy’s work has been featured in House & Garden, Homes & Gardens and the London Evening Standard.
Tel: 07770 995 031
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