Suburban garden makeover part 1: from lawn to lush

In this 5 part series, I’ll show you the process of transforming a good sized suburban garden from boring lawnscape to this riot of colour and texture:


I’ve called it a garden makeover because it wasn’t a complete rebuild. There was very little hard landscaping involved and what little there was didn’t involve specialist skills, just hard work.

If nothing else, I think this shows the power that plants have to fundamentally change an outdoor space.

The garden

This garden was in the southern suburbs of London. It still is I suppose, it’s just that I’m not there any more. Hence the past tense.

When I acquired it, it was really the garden I was buying – a house happened to come with it. That wasn’t quite how I put it to my wife when I suggested we might buy the place, but she knew full well what my motives were.

This garden was exactly what I was looking for at that stage of my gardening life – a fairly large, blank canvas.

The pictures on this page show how the garden was.

As you can see it was almost entirely laid to lawn, with lots of mature shrubs and trees around the boundaries providing excellent privacy.

About two thirds of the way between the house and the rear boundary a pond, a yew and a couple of mature conifers divided the garden into two. This was ideal as it gave me a ready made opportunity to create separate ornamental and productive gardens.

Overall, the garden was about 750 square metres in area and rectangular in shape.

The soil was a mostly a pretty good loam, but the bedrock in this area is chalk, so it had a tendency towards alkalinity.

The street was on a slope and the garden on one side was about a half a metre lower. Even so, my garden was pretty flat. It soon became clear, once I started digging, that the levels had been changed at some stage relative to the lower garden next door, because on that side of the garden the top soil was pretty thin. In places the chalk wasn’t much more than 20 to 30 cms down.

I was lucky enough to have a 6 month period off work and during that time I worked pretty much constantly on the garden.

What you’ll see on the following pages was all accomplished within a period of about a year.

The blank garden canvas

For part two of this suburban garden makeover – the transformation in progress – click here.

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