For most people, moving to a new home involves taking on a garden shaped by at least one previous owner. If you are a new gardener, adopting a richly-planted garden can be exciting as well as daunting. To avoid mistakes, learn as much as you can before taking action.
Assess the Site
An established garden will probably contain mature trees and shrubs, substantial hard landscaping, and a variety of structures and buildings. Carrying out a thorough site review will highlight problem areas as well as plants and features to retain or enhance. Look for shrubs and trees in need of pruning, regeneration or removal, or that are mismatched.
Allow Time for Proper Planning
If possible, leave the major reconstruction of a mature, well-stocked
garden for up to a year. There may be plants that aren’t visible at the
time you move in, and it’s easy to dismiss a dull shrub in the fall only
to find it transformed with blossoms and taking center stage in early spring. Delaying not only allows you to experience the seasons, but also
to view color schemes, to see where the light falls, and to assess the
amount of privacy the planting creates. It also allows you to review the
health and productivity of mature plants and decide whether any need
restoration or removal.
Mark the position of bulbs or herbaceous plants that you want to keep before they die back. It is a good idea to make a planting plan of existing material in advance of digging and restructuring borders. Local horticultural colleges, garden centers and nurseries can help identify mystery specimens as well as problems with pests and diseases. You might also consider taking photographs throughout the year to document the seasonal changes of plants and flowers.
Get Started on Quick Fixes
While you’re working out the details of a major overhaul, consider
giving your garden an interim mini-makeover; this will refresh
tired-looking hard landscaping and rejuvenate beds and borders. There
are plenty of improvements that can be made with immediate benefits,
which won’t cost a great deal. Tackle eyesores such as dilapidated sheds
or badly pruned trees first, and if summer is approaching, make upgrading terraces, patios and decks a priority.
- Reshape Beds and Lawns: You can turn a lawn into a feature simply by giving it a crisp, well-defined shape. For a modern touch, go for geometric shapes, such as intersecting rectangles, squares or circles. Replace meandering border edges with strong, sweeping curves that lead the eye to a focal point. Adding a brick or paver mowing edge makes upkeep easier and gives the lawn some designer flair. Reshaping this established lawn and adding edging has given the whole garden a new, fresh look, improving the appearance of flower borders too.
- Freshen Up: Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to existing features. On old walls, clean off loose flakes, and scrub away any algae before repainting. Wobbly fences can sometimes be rescued rather than replaced; hide mismatched or missing panels with willow screens or trellis. Replace torn roofing on sheds and garden buildings, restore broken panes and replace any cracked paving slabs. Old fences can also be revitalized with a simple coat of fresh paint.
- Clean Up: Pulling unwanted plants, removing debris and generally decluttering provides an instant uplift. Weed paths and patios, and rent a pressure washer to restore grimy paving. Remove unused plant supports, cut back dead stems and weed beds. Mow and edge lawn, and repair worn patches. Finish by sweeping and washing surfaces, including power washing patio areas to remove stains.
- Cut Back: Left untouched for a few years, some shrubs can outgrow their allotted
space. Fast-growing types can also become clogged with unproductive
wood, spoiling their shape and flowering ability. Cutting back sprawling
plants can restore balance in a border and will free up space for new
plantings. Neglected climbers might also need some attention.