Visual Postcards from Our Garden – The Slow Progress of Landscaping a Garden on a Budget

July 31, 2017

Summer style in the garden, bohemian monochrome

Image: Design Soda

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Good morning and welcome to summer, I know, I know I am actually writing this at my desk wearing a jumper and the view of our garden from the window looks anything but sunny right now. However, it is August tomorrow, so let’s all close our eyes, think of a beach, the waves lapping at your feet, new adventures to be had and a balmy warm lilt on the breeze. That’s better, now isn’t it? Okay, I may be pushing it, but I’ve had this post in draft for ages and I’m sure the sun is going to return soon (pretty please British summertime). So in the spirit of natures greatest time of year, when everything is abundant and flourishing (usually), I thought I’d share some of our progress in the garden over the last year. 

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Fennel and Mimosa Garden

Image: Design Soda

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Gardens are strange things really, mans little concession to having built towns and colonised nature still needing a space in which the hum and buzz of modern life can be stilled. They serve so many purposes in modern family life from play spaces for little ones to quiet time for you (rare, I know!), a place to lounge, dine and entertain and of course the more mundane parts of life like hanging out the washing. I think gardens can be a real challenge to get right, especially if you have a tiny budget and not many green fingers, as in our case. But I’ve always wanted to have a nice garden and if you know me even partly well you’ll know that I’m not often someone to let lack of funds (or ability) get in the way of better design! 

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Garden white sleep style whte painted wooden planters

Summer style in the garden, bohemian monochrome

Images: Design Soda

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When we moved here the winter before last our garden was something of a prison yard, no plants at all, I mean none. It had grass yes (though in bad condition, still is) and decking (ditto), a young tree at the back and that was all. I say that was all, there was also of course the asbestos shed half way down blocking the view of the back of the garden which contained the mound of soil (maybe for the best) that ran across a third of the garden. But y’know, asides from its problems, it was pretty stark and bare. 

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Concrete encaustic bathroom tiles used on garden pot planters

Image: Design Soda

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But how do you approach such a barren space if you’re not a landscape gardener or at the very least a Gardeners World viewer? I started with Pinterest and branched out to looking at books from the library. With so many styles, I was a little overwhelmed at first and took points of inspiration from far and wide. One day it would be aspects of heavily manicured historic gardens, the next very wild Mediterranean ones, then very modern city gardens and a wealth of plants pinned along the way. I had to narrow down the aesthetic as my inspirations were becoming a little crazy, and more than slightly jarring alongside each other, but I wanted to take some of the elements I liked from each.

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Mirabelle Plum Tree

Image: Design Soda

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But before any of the fun of design, the graft, which involved firstly dismantling and disposing of cursed rotten shed and secondly levelling out the back. Levelling proved an interesting task as we discovered a series of concrete walls from air raid shelter days underneath the mounds and weeds. Husband of the Design Soda house was all for digging right down and creating a sunken garden, in fact I’ve rarely seen him so enthused (!), but a day of digging later and the gild of discovering the forgotten treasures of wartime London began to fade. Which is just as well as this did not fit my vision for the garden at all! I had dreamt of a bold summerhouse painted in graphic contrasts like this shot of a boat house by SFGirlByBay and this fabulous summerhouse , a space for Ted to play, and most of all a year round cutting garden that would look pretty, not a sunken death trap for a small toddler and a museum piece of curiosity!

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white and blue planted garden

Image: Design Soda

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From the modern gardens I was inspired by I took the need to paint the mismatched fences white (which btw is a very gruelling task, far more so than indoor painting and I really don’t recommend those spray options for paint, I found it completely hopeless) and I really wanted some low rendered walls to plant. But we didn’t have a budget for that so I looked at reclaimed sleepers, but they were pretty expensive too. I happened upon a company that sold planks which interlocked pretty cheaply and once we’d dug the ground and fixed them in all they needed were a few licks of white paint to begin to echo some of those crisp white mortar lines I’d seen in very expensive gardens. 

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Climbing hydrangea white Chive flowers white salvia Veronica in terracotta pot

Images: Design Soda

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Next up came the planting, which was by far the most fun of all the stages. Inspired by the very pretty white and green garden at Sissinghurst I saw years ago I decided to keep 95% of flowers within a limited scheme of white, green and blue. There are a few pops of yellow from the mimosa tree and the fennel but otherwise the foliage is incredibly muted. Then I added some of the texture I’d found in Mediterranean gardens adding herbs (which have really flourished in the full sun we get in the garden) lavender, yukkas and agaves. 

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Annie sloan chalk painted garden furnitire, Amsterdam Green & Graphite

Garden style, painted annie sloan chairs

Images: Design Soda

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On the decking we’ve added an area of pots, some of which I decorated with leftover tiles from the bathroom renovation, and this year we’ve added some cheap garden furniture which I’ve painted with some Annie Sloan paint I was kindly gifted in gorgeous shades Amsterdam Green & Graphite. They were so easy to apply and I was really pleased with the result. Our dull ubiquitous garden furniture now feels like it has personality now. We are nowhere near finished, the grass is still  a complete mess, and though we’ve put bark down on what we levelled at the back there’s still a whole section that currently holds Teds play things that I’m trying to decide between vegetable patch or summer house for. And there’s also still a section of fence to paint if we aren’t putting a summer house in front of it, and concrete to dispose of come to think of it! The decking which was green in places I stripped and re-sealed (though not with enough varnish) is going to be painted, I’m currently thinking this shade of Slate by Cuprinol which will add to the architectural feel.

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Blue Thistles Garden

Garden style wicker lantern

Images: Design Soda

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But whist we’re not finished, I’ve loved watching the garden evolve and take shape this year. There are so many things I’m pleased with and for a garden on a budget I think it’s quite successful. What do you think? Do you have any tips for budget garden makeovers?

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2 thoughts on “Visual Postcards from Our Garden – The Slow Progress of Landscaping a Garden on a Budget

  1. Tabitha

    Great pics, you’re right garden landscaping can be a long affair if you’re doing the work yourself, but it’s so rewarding knowing you are making tangible differences with each step. You’ve proven that a gorgeous garden doesn’t have to come with a price tag, though! Repurposing old materials and features into new, modern ideas is a great way to keep the garden fresh for a low cost and it adds a lovely personal touch to your outside area!

    Reply
    1. Design_Soda_Ruthie Post author

      Thank you so much, I agree I don’t think that you need to spend a fortune (lovely as those gardens are) to have a space with charm that you want to spend time in. I just need to hone down what I want to finish the space next spring 🙂 xx

      Reply

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