Before you get started
Hedges are an inexpensive way of making boundaries to protect the garden, give privacy and divide the garden into compartments linked by paths or a patio. Choose formal yew, beech and box, or rustic hawthorn, privet or holly. Good soil preparation is essential as hedging plants are planted unnaturally close, so need special care.
Trees planted at regular intervals on either side of a path are appealing. Stake trees in windy places – a rigid plastic tie makes a buffer between stake and stem and can be expanded over time.
Garden focal points are often man-made – a statue, urn, seat or container of plants – or trees and shrubs clipped into shape.
Shrubs and small trees look good in pots too. Plants unsuitable for your garden soil type can be given special compost when in a pot.
Flower borders of hardy perennial plants look best in midsummer. Small shrubs and trees can be planted for volume, and roses, bulbs, tender perennials and annuals will extend the flowering season.
Shrubs are normally planted singly and perennials in clumps. Borders should look pleasing close up as well as from a distance.
Fragrant shrub roses can be planted in mixed borders or in beds of their own, and underplanted with hostas, foxgloves, or alliums, with edgings of lavender, catmint or box.
There are many elements that you can introduce to your garden. Consider what you use your garden for most: relaxing, playing, growing plants or veg? Also, how much time do you want to spend maintaining your garden – would a patio with a few pots be better than a lawn and border overflowing with plants?
Fences can define different parts of the garden, support and protect climbing plants, provide a secluded, sheltered backdrop to a patio, or make a simple arbour.
A pergola on a terrace, or linking areas of the garden, makes a shady open-air retreat, and will support cascading plants.
Garden buildings should be carefully placed. You may need water and electricity, so a site near to the house is useful. Sheds and summerhouses can be softened with trellis and provide shelter.
A patio is easy to build, but it is a permanent feature, so carefully consider where it should go. South-facing areas get most sun.
A deck is quick and easy to build. It will be long lasting and durable if you use pressure-treated timber and screws designed for the job.
Paths need to be made of hard-wearing materials. Gravel is simple, good looking and easy to lay and maintain. Raking a gravel path refreshes the whole garden.
Tool quality is normally reflected in the price. Choose the best you can afford and, initially, buy essential tools only.
Mixed plantings of small trees, shrubs, bulbs, annuals and herbaceous plants that have a long flowering season will combine and interplay with each other for a display that looks good throughout the year.
A lawn is a focal point in the garden and it is easier than you think to get the lawn looking good and the garden even better.
Home-grown vegetables are convenient. Grow your favourites, or ones you can’t buy in shops.
Fruit can be grown in the smallest gardens. Modern root stocks make the training and pruning of dwarf trees easy.
Put pots and hanging baskets in lifeless parts of the garden where continuous colour is needed. Change and renew them several times a year.
Fit a trellis arch and gate
Many wooden garden structures can be bought as kits. A trellis arch makes an attractive feature in a garden and can be made more practical by adding a gate. Be sure to check for any underground pipes and cables, before digging the holes for the posts.
Assemble the kit as directed by the manufacturer. You will need plenty of space and someone to help you lift and move the arch.
Dig four 50cm deep and 30cm square holes. Position the arch and fill around posts with Postcrete, following manufacturer’s instructions.
When the arch is set securely in its holes, prop a gate in position and fix hinges in place with screws.
On the opening edge line up and fix the latch and latch plate, ensuring that the top of the gate is level.
Plant a hedge
Hedges may be used as boundaries in the garden, or as decorative borders. Box hedges, as shown here, are easy to plant and maintain.
Plant five box plants per metre in a single row. The best soil is chalky, but box will grow anywhere well drained.
Box is a hedge that responds very well to shaping and trimming and is excellent potted to trim as topiary.
Lay stepping stones
Stepping stones can be made from simple slabs as shown here, or you may wish to use purpose-made decorative varieties.
Arrange the slabs on the grass and cut around them. Remove slabs, then turf and soil to allow for 50mm of 10mm gravel and the slab depth, plus 15mm.
Compact the 10mm gravel. Replace slabs and check that each is level and sits around 15mm below the grass, to make mowing easy