How to Work with an Established Garden

If you have moved into an old house there will probably be an established garden. This may have been beautifully kept or be a jungle, but either way there are bound to be things you wish to change or adapt.

Consider the shape of the garden. If it is very square you may wish to soften it by creating curved borders with flowing planting. Awkward triangular or long narrow plots can also be transformed through design -narrow sites by adding a diagonal feature (be it a flower bed, steps or a path) and triangular by creating a circular shape, for example.

Once your basic framework is in place you will be ready to think of adding the plants which provide structures, colour, perfume, flair and flounce – the more transient stars of the garden.

garden work How to Work with an Established Garden

As soon as you move in, walk around the garden and do a safety check. Remove any obvious hazards, such as poisonous plants, barbed or rusty wire and crumbling walls, and cover ponds until you have time to consider safety measures. Mend or remove loose paving stones and trim back any dangerous branches and shrubs.

Do not be too hasty in removing established shrubs. You may not find a particular plant appealing, but it may provide a useful framework while other plants are becoming established. It is surprising how much better a shrub can look after pruning and with new planting around it. After all, if it does not grow on you, you can always take it out later.

Delay starting major work until you have been in the garden for a full year. You need to see a complete cycle of seasons to appreciate fully just what is in your garden, and how all its elements work together.

A delay will also give you the chance to watch how your children play in the garden. You may be surprised at the features that attract them. For example, an overgrown hedge which you had earmarked to be grubbed up may prove to be the perfect site for a den. You may have planned to buy them a climbing frame, or metal-framed swing, only to discover that they are getting such enormous enjoyment from climbing the trees that a swing from a sturdy branch, rope ladders, commando-style netting and even a tree house would be much more appreciated.

Throughout the year make notes about the elements of the garden that give yon most pleasure and those that annoy you. In practice you may find that the diving area is too far from the house, that the outdoor lighting is insufficient, or that the position of external laps is impractical. On the other hand yon may discover that a flower border which seemed out of place is ideally positioned for maximum/minimum sunlight. Frost risk and perfect drainage. And what a wonderful excuse not to do any work in your first year!


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