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.
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
Martin Cole has been an avid gardener for more than 20 years and loves to talk and write about gardening. In 2006 he was a finalist in the BBC Gardener of the Year competition. He is a member of the National dahlia Society.
He previously lived in London and Sydney, Australia, where he took a diploma course in Horticultural studies and is now based in North Berwick in Scotland. He founded GardeningStepbyStep.com in 2012. The website is aimed at everybody who has been bitten by the gardening bug and wants to know more.
Gardening Step by Step has been cited by Thompson and Morgan, the UK’s largest mail order plant retailer, as a website that publishes expert gardening content.
Check out my comprehensive step by step guide, with plain language explanations and ultra-useful images and illustrations. This is for you if you love dahlias and want to the best out of the dahlias you grow.