Makeover - Garden Transformation

October 06, 2014

Thanks to those of you on Instagram who requested a garden post, I've gone through all my photos and dug out the before and during photos, and the after's which will be grouped seasonally. I'd love to share our progress in the garden, a project that we started on straight away when we got the keys and has developed ever since. I'm no gardening expert but I've learned a lot in the past few years and it helps that both of our families are gardening mad and have given us lots of tips. We may have also spent the odd friday night watching Gardeners World, geez how old does that make me sound. Anyway it's a bit of a long post so you might want to grab a cup of tea and a biscuit but I hope you'll get some garden inspiration and see what you can transform any kind of bare space into with a few flowers and some galvanised tubs!
*updated photos from this year here. *
Before Photos:
Our house had been rented out before we bought it so the garden was lacking in love. It was a decent size, not too big that it's unmanageable but not too small that we couldn't fit lots of flowers and a shed in. There was an old shed and greenhouse at the top of the garden that we dismantled straight away and then started work on clearing the existing overgrown shrubs and shaping the borders. 

We decided to get rid of all the existing plants, they were too shurbby rather than the pretty cottage garden we had in mind and most were overgrown and covered in ivy. We were grateful though, for the apple tree which adds structure to the garden year round, pretty blossom in the spring and lots of fruit in the autumn. We worked the beds around that.

During Photos:
One afternoon at the end of October, we called in a working party {my lovely parents, grandparents and auntie and uncle} to help us clear the garden. My family are all massively into gardening and luckily liked an afternoon of helping followed by a bonfire and dinner afterwards, it was a fun afternoon that stopped it feeling overwhelming with just two of us. We had various chain saws, shears and loppers. We quickly filled the green bin and then made a pile for a bonfire...

....A bonfire which resulted in the fire brigade being called by concerned neighbours... haha we were so shocked when all the firemen came rushing through our gate! They just wanted to check it was under control and quickly returned to their truck when they saw a group of adults clearing garden rubbish not arsonists!

Once the garden was cleared and near enough a blank canvas, we left it over winter and then got started again in the Spring, shaping the flower beds, putting in brick edging to define the borders from the grass and started to add plants into the borders and tubs on the patio. Ben loves building sheds/summer houses and built ours from scratch, I honestly don't know how he does it! I love the shed and I painted it cream with a green overhang, it gives a pretty focus at the end of the garden and year round interest while also providing storage and if we were to have a big clear out at some stage, could use it as a proper summer house with nice chairs and pretty bits. He built a wooden deck at the top of the garden which I love with another bench and table up there if we want a shady spot.

We stocked up on plants from various local and national garden centres, Homebase and B&Q. 

And then added plants in to the borders.

As a general rule I always try and plant in odd numbers, either a single plant or in groups of 3's or 5's, it's more natural than even numbers for some reason and creates prettier displays.

In the first year, the garden started to take shape and was pretty but the plants were new and establishing. You can spend fortunes on large established plants and get an instant garden, but we bought young plants knowing how quickly they would spread out and fill the borders. We were also given some cuttings of plants from gardening mad parents and grandparents which helped to get us started. I used a lot of annuals in my first year of gardening and chucked down a variety of wild flower seeds which looked really pretty, they only lasted for that summer but it was a good way to fill the borders while we were having our building work done and weren't around much to do any gardening and until we bought more perennials.

We got this old urn from a vintage market {kempton antiques, I really must do a post about it soon} and planted it up with french lavender to give some added interest in the borders year round. 

Wild flower seeds gave instant colour and flowers for the first season.

Our extension ate into the original patio so our builders then dug out some of the grass and created a new walled patio area. We replaced the old fence and low gate with hazel hurdles which give privacy and look pretty, we've planted fast growing clematis to grow up them. Now we feel super secluded and love our sun trap of a patio. 

We started to put our pots and table back on the patio, all the building work was complete so we could focus on getting the garden back again. We planted lavender behind the brick walls around the patio for low maintenance, scented flowers that last a long time.

After Photos {Grouped by season}:
A note about plants: There are 2 main types of plants, perennials which are long lasting and come back year after year {e.g. things like roses, peonies, anemones, delphiniums, lavender, hydrangeas} and annuals which provide instant colour for just one season {cosmos, sweet peas, stocks etc}. Most cottage style gardens have a mixture of the two, we have slightly more perennials so that the garden is constantly full and they're better value in the long run as they come back but each year I do also buy or grow from seed lots of annuals too in the summer as they're so pretty, cosmos and sweet peas are my favourites but I also like geraniums and stocks in my tubs. There are so many plants that you can buy and it can be overwhelming when you don't have much gardening experience to start with. I just chose things that I liked and looked pretty and stuck to a general rule of putting taller things at the back of borders to give height and interest and smaller things at the front. People say that in nature every colour goes together which can be true but personally I'm not a fan of red, yellow or oranges preferring pinks, purples and whites in the garden. You can add more plants over time and pick up some bargains from garden centres at the end of season. We buy all of our roses at the end of the season when they've finished flowering but will come back next year. Think about climbers like clematis to grow up fences or provide screening, montana and almandi are fast growing and have pretty flowers on in the spring time. 

You can plant in flower beds or pots on a patio, I like to use galvanised tubs as I love the look of them and have collected lots over the past couple of years at bootsales, vintage junk shops and antique markets. In general try not to pay more than £8 for a small bucket, £12 for a watering can or more than £20 for a tub size dependent. Most of ours were bargains but some places will rip you off. I love how hard wearing they are compared to terracotta, just make sure you drill holes in the bottom first for drainage.

A couple of other tips, Green Thumb have done wonders for our grass, eliminating weeds and making it look super green and healthy. And we installed an irrigation system to make watering a lot easier. We still need to do the pots with the hose but it saves us a lot of time.

You want to think about the different seasons as different plants come into flower at different times, in our garden this year:

{Winter} - Heathers gave some colour in buckets and old watering cans over the dead of winter where everything is bare and dormant. The other tubs were filled with bulbs for spring flowers.

{March} As soon as the weather warmed up a little and Spring was well on it's way, cheery displays of daffodils, from bulbs I had planted in tubs the previous Autumn, showed their heads and brought early colour with them. The borders started to wake up with wall flowers flowering early with purple flowers and pretty hellebores.

{April} Then came the tulips and the start of planting summer bedding plants like geraniums, stocks and lobelia. The borders had lots of forget me not's popping up. They spread like weeds but look pretty at the start of the season.

Everything started to green up and start growing at the beginning of April.

{May} May onwards is a really nice time of year for the garden with apple blossom flowering on the tree and aquilegia, alliums and foxgloves out and everything else starts to grow rapidly with the warmer weather.

{June} has delphiniums and peonies looking at their best and the roses start flowering. The borders start to look full again. Sweet peas begin to flower. It's my favourite time of year in the garden I think.

{July} is real sweet pea season with roses in full bloom too and the borders really filling out with cosmos. Lavender comes in to flower. Geraniums are bushed out and the lobelia has filled the watering cans on the patio. It's a good time of year for cutting flowers to fill vases.

{August} sees cosmos, hydrangeas, hollyhocks and anenomes flowering. As the nights are still warm but the evenings get a bit darker it was nice to make use of our outdoor lights on the patio.

{September} depends on the kind of season we've had, this year has been warm and continues to be so anenomes, roses, cosmos, geraniums and lavender kept flowering. In fact right now at the start of October the cosmos is still in full bloom as are the roses and lovatera but the sweet peas have all finished and a few plants are beginning to die back for Winter.

{October}, now, is time for garden clearing and getting ready for it all again next year. Plant bulbs {tulips, daffodils and alliums for spring blooms next year} and think about what you'd plant differently if anything next year. For autumn colour that should go through the Winter I like heathers in varying shades, ornamental cabbages and pansies.

Last weekend I gathered up tubs, compost and bulbs. A lot of bulbs will reflower year after year if you leave the green foliage to die back naturally after they've finished flowering so I haven't planted any more tulips this year just daffodils in tubs and some more alliums for the borders. Cover them with soil and leave over Winter, I have to cover mine with chicken wire as squirrel's are prone to digging them up! Bulb planting is the easiest gardening ever, just leave them over Winter and you'll have Spring cheer next year.

Gardening does take some time and effort, even just cutting the grass every week, but I really love spending time outdoors laying on the grass or eating dinner on the patio in the summer. As our kitchen opens out onto the garden with the bifold doors I feel like it's an extension of the house to keep looking neat and tidy. The pretty flowers are such a bonus too for a floral lover like myself.

As I said, I'm certainly no gardening expert and am still learning but if you've got any questions then please feel free to ask away. Go, get planting and digging!

If you want to see updated photos of my garden this year, and oh what a difference a year makes, you can find them in this post here.

R <3 xx

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  1. Great post! You've inspired me to get cracking on our new place. We need to dig up all the stingers first though! Do you literally just sprinkle the wildflower mix on the bed? Also what do you about pruning clematis and roses etc? Xxxxx

    1. Good luck, it's an exciting project! With stingers make sure you get all the brown and yellow roots out the ground we had so many at our allotment. And some sting through gloves! Yeah in March/April when it's warmed up a bit just chuck the wild seed mix on to raked soil and cover it up a bit and it will all start sprouting. In the garden I used a mix of seed packets and mixed them all up in a bowl but at our allotment I used a wild seed mix in a box, both were good! Roses I prune in February, but I'm naughty I don't like to cut them back much as they're not massive at the moment so would rather they be as big as possible. I haven't pruned any of our clematis yet but just had a look on I think it depends what type they are xxx

  2. I'm new to your blog and love this garden post. My husband and I have been renovating our backyard, trying to make it more garden than suburban grass strip. Your garden is inspiring. I look forward to reading more on your blog!

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog and love the way your garden has been transformed. It looks great. I am currently in the process of working in my garden. I plan to grow lots of veg as well as flowers. I also really like the little details you have added like the wishing well.

    Norberto @ Thorburn Landscapes

  4. What a great project. We have a very small back garden and I have been putting off doing anything to it because I know when I estimate that it will take me a weekend, it will really take me 4 weekend and then 2 of those weekends I will be out of town and then it rains and so on.

    Raymond Quinn @ River Oaks Plant House


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