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  • Writer's pictureMartin Steel-Brown

A Garden Designers Home Garden: Part 2

This is part two of a 3 part series. To read part 1, click here. PAINTING THE BOUNDARY & DECK

First things first. Paint the fence! Like most new builds, very little (if any!) effort goes into painting the fence once the builders have finished with the house. Usually, a single coat is applied to save time and money, which looks patchy and underdone. A fresh coat of paint will always improve the space and is well worth the effort. When painting exterior boundaries, it is a much easier process when there is nothing in your way, so we always recommend starting here. We decided to stick with the existing black colour as dark colour fences help the boundaries to recede and make space feel bigger.

A green feature wall was painted on one small section of the fence, where one of the main seating zones would be installed. This was chosen to provide a colour pop and contrast to the black fence and the red brick wall that ran along the same boundary.

The deck was an existing feature of the garden and while the quality of the wood and stain colour would not have been my preferred choice, I wanted to work with what I had rather than wastefully remove the deck and start again. So a bold choice to paint the deck instead was made. This covered up the existing colour while also masking the quality of the wood. A light colour was chosen to match the interior carpet of the house so that a visual continuation of indoor/outdoor flow was achieved.


With the painting out of the way, it was time to focus on the single most important aspect of any garden - the soil. Heavily compacted and clay-based, our first step was to loosen it up. Referring to our plans, we marked out the areas that would form our garden beds. Then we removed the top surface layer of soil which contained a mix of grass and weeds. Compost and gypsum were added along with fine pumice to assist with drainage and this was worked through the top 30cm of topsoil.

Preparing the garden beds and edging


With the garden beds prepared, we got to work installing the garden edging, which would also form the boundaries for our pathways. We used thin metal edging that connects together in 1m pieces, making it easy to install and very cost-effective when compared to paved pathway edging. It also allowed us to raise the level of the ground by 150mm but placing the edging on top of the existing soil, which would aid in improving the soil structure as we were then able to bring in more soil improvements such as compost/mulch, without having to dig out or remove the existing clay soil.

The thin nature of the material also means it takes up less space and visually disappears, a key design trick when landscaping in small spaces. As per the design plans, the edging was laid in a diagonal nature to lengthen the journey taking through the garden, while also providing interest with the geometric and triangular garden beds.

We used medium-sized river pebbles that we placed on top of plastic paving stabilisers to reduce the amount of movement of the stones when walking across them. Grey was the colour of choice, as we wanted to match this in with other elements, such as furniture.


One of the big focal features of the garden is the water feature, so setting this up early was important to ensure that all other elements worked in balance with its presence. This was constructed using a clay pot with an old stone finish and a round plastic reservoir to hold the filter and pump. A gentle spout was used to bring the element of sound into the garden with the soft and calming flow of water trickling.

Other key focal points included two deciduous trees, one planted in the main garden bed and the other planted in a large pot. I choose two plants for their spring blossom, a crabapple with soft pink double blooms (Malus ioensis "Plena") and a flowering cherry tree (Prunus "Kiku-Shidare-Zakura"). Cherry trees are renowned for their shallow root system, which can often lead to damaging surrounding hardscapes such as pathways, so this was the choice for the large pot, rather than the crab-apple. Each would flower at slightly different times in Spring, extending the blossom display. Stay tuned for part 3 of my personal garden journey...

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