Knowing What You’re Working With: First Steps in Redesign

It pays to think carefully before embarking on a garden redesign. What’s your budget? What plantings are possible, given your soil, sun and rainfall? What seasonal surprises or favorite features do you want to keep?

If your plot isn’t a blank canvas, take the time to look carefully at what is already in place before beginning a redesign. If you have just moved into a property try to wait a year before thinking about an update, to see what plants emerge and how the garden looks during the different seasons. Cost will likely factor into this makeover, too; a good way to save is to retain and incorporate favorite features.

Get to know your garden soil, and notice how much sunshine and rainfall the plot receives. This will tell you what plants will thrive in your particular growing conditions and help you to avoid the mistakes that come with installing poorly chosen plants, which cost you both money and time. Improving drainage by digging in grit, or adding plenty of compost to poor soil, may also broaden your choice of suitable plants.

Once you’ve got a handle on these basics, think about how you’d like to use your garden, what new plantings and materials you’d like to bring in and how you’ll bring new life to features retained from the previous design: Do you want to play to the strengths of a slope by installing steps or terraces? How about using a damp area to your advantage with a bog garden that will attract wildlife? Or are you overdue for a cozy little paved nook, where a friend and you can catch up over coffee from within a screen of lush greenery? If this is the case, don’t forget to consider your neighbors’ needs before making any major changes to a boundary; would you appreciate it if their tall conifer hedge cast a long shadow over your patio for most of the day?

Perhaps the most important piece of advice is to take your time before launching into a garden redesign and new landscaping. And if bare or ugly patches are inevitable while work is carried out, remember that strategically placed containers make a quick and effective screen.