Planning for change

This summer in the garden may be drawing to a close but there’s still the autumn to look forward to with all its rich colour and harvest of fruit and berries.  I’m already thinking further forward though and I’ve been wandering round making notes of plants I think I’ll move during the winter and changes I’d like to make to my garden next year.

Planning for changes can mean something as simple as deciding to plant a few bulbs for a quick lift and burst of spring colour or as radical as a complete revamp, reorganisation and redesign. Whatever the result you want to achieve in the garden, as everywhere else, the more it’s thought through and planned with care the more successful that result will be.

With new clients I always start with how they use their garden, what about it gives them pleasure and suits their way of life and what does not. What style of garden would enhance the house and often just as important, the surrounding landscape too.

Are they the type of people who are more comfortable with order, neatness and  a manicured look, or do they feel more able to relax with a laid back informal approach, something a little bit rough around the edges. Whatever style they favour, all the individual elements need to work together, there should be a sense of harmony, a flow and natural movement  around the garden with  each element or feature in the most suitable place, so that they look and feel as if they belong together and to their surroundings.

This difference between clients, as well as garden sites, is what keeps my job varied and interesting. Gardens are very personal spaces and the plans I might draw up for any individual garden will depend almost as much on its current owner and their tastes and preferences, as they will on its particular position, aspect and soil type. One of the challenges for me as a designer is how much can the site be manipulated, hopefully within the budget, to give the owners what they want and give the garden its own sense of place, some essence of its natural identity. The thing I’m most often asked for and the most difficult to achieve, is that the garden mustn’t look designed, it should look as if it‘s always been there, that it belongs.

Until only a very few years ago, there’s been the view that gardens are places where we can introduce whatever plants we take a shine to and keep them in unsuitable soil and positions by dictating to nature, controlling it by the use of pesticides, herbicides and constant vigilance.

Thank goodness that’s all a thing of the past at last and we’ve learned that the natural world isn’t the enemy but the friend that with understanding how it works, holds the key to planning and achieving a beautiful garden.