“I love beautiful gardens and want to have one, but I am not a gardener” is a quote I often hear. Maybe it is just lack of confidence, but there are people out there who have neither the inclination nor the aptitude to garden.
These non-gardeners adore a fabulous outdoor space, but they don’t want to obsess about the black spot and buddleias.I find these people hard to fathom – I would be loath to “finish” my garden and would far rather be titivating and transforming it for ever and a day. But they want it done and dusted.
The Non-Gardeners’ Garden
I enjoy working with non-gardening gardeners; paring down the design so that there are no frills, just straightforward, gutsy elements.Simple, clear, unfettered, but glamorous spaces have a strong appeal and often rely on a highly individual feel.
They need character to hold the interest as opposed to successions of blooms, perfumes and other ephemeral things. This individual feel may take the lead from a point of interest in the architecture or surrounding landscape.For instance, you might be blessed with dramatic slopes, as with one garden I am working on that sits, teetering, by the edge of a small disused stone quarry.
Alternatively you may, as many people do, have a house and surroundings that look mediocre and nothing out of the ordinary. In this case you need to import or create the drama.
Definition and Proportion
If you are lucky enough to look on to countryside, making the most of the view may well be the making of the garden.Our rear garden, when we arrived, was a wire-fenced paddock, with no access from the house. It was an amorphous, rather bumpy space that you didn’t look twice at.
I lifted the level by burying unwanted spoil from building work and defined it on both of the two short sides with a series of panels of yew hedges.Then I put in an invisible, stock-proof barrier, a ha-ha (a retaining wall made of horizontally stacked telegraph poles one-metre high that can only be seen from the meadow side) across its long boundary and it became a well-proportioned space.
The ha-ha now provides slightly elevated panoramic views over grazing livestock in the adjacent meadow. A large tree with a seat in the foreground sharpens the focus and contrasts with the lazier, more distant view. In short, it’s got wow factor.
If this sounds too complicated, consider removing a section of boundary hedge on to a neighbouring field and put a sitting area in the gap. A friend of mine tried this and it works brilliantly.
Hedges and Trees
Many people inherit overgrown, mammoth coniferous hedges. Removing them can create new opportunities. A city garden I worked on had a boundary blocked in by a thick, greedy Leyland hedge.
We felled the screen and exposed the native belt of trees. False gates made the mini woodland come into the garden and has transformed this small property.If you’re worried about privacy or concealing eyesores, screening can usually be achieved in a charismatic way with pleached trees, allées and leaner hedges.
Shaping spaces can be done with a range of elements that don’t require extensive or difficult maintenance. Fences and walls can be wonderful but expensive. Alternatively try hedges, allées of trees, specimen trees arranged in strong configurations or changes of levels. They are not difficult to maintain.
Box hedging has soared in popularity, because it creates real definition and holds together blowsy planting that would look a mess without it in its off season. It is often a key player in these type of gardens.
Good gardens are all about interesting, well-defined spaces. Spaces that have good proportions are easier to live with. Ill-defined shapes with no strong character can make you feel in limbo, and are not pleasant spaces to linger.
Defining a space that relates well to a part of the house you use most, such as a kitchen or living room, is a great starting point. Small town gardens with strongly shaped paved areas (directly off the kitchen) broken up with oversized, but kempt greenery in oversized pots can give great usable space.
A Dramatic Feature
Other key players might be a fabulous, oversized urn taking centre stage, a clutch of mammoth topiary, an intriguing door or gates, some amazing water or furniture. A friend of mine has made some giant-sized table and chairs which sit at the end of a vista! Unforgettable.
Top tips for non-gardeners
1 – The late David Hicks banished views of flowers from the house because of their ”off” period. This might be too extreme for many, but structural planting is far easier for non-gardeners.
2 – Paving is almost maintenance free. Be bold with it, design the proportions carefully and incorporate structural planting within the paving.
3 – It is relatively easy to find people to help mow and clip hedges; proper gardeners are more difficult to hunt out.
4 – Any specimen plants in bottomless pots (rooting into soil below) from bay to quince trees, look architectural, grow bigger and better and won’t need watering after the first year or so.
5 – Water is wonderful for the wow factor. But the design is difficult to get right to ensure that it is low maintenance. If in doubt, call in the professionals.
6 – If you want flower beds, don’t have hundreds of different plants, but keep to bigger blocks of performers with a long season, Rosa ‘Mutabilis’, Hebe topiaria, Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’, Sedum telephium ‘Matrona’, Erigeron karvinskianus.
This is a repost the original article can be found here: Original Article