Budget Minimalist Garden Makeover

June 23, 2022

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We live on the outskirts of London, a London-borough-but-only-just, and as a result I’ve always felt our garden should be pretty natural and wild. Not in a country garden style, but the idea of Astro turf or concrete slabs in the main part of our garden felt a step too far, and not great for ecology. However, the main section of our garden has always presented us with two big problems.

 

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The Problems with our garden

Firstly the unevenly laid grass on shallow chalky soil has never really thrived, despite numerous attempts to encourage it with seed and feed. Secondly, and as a result of the patchy grass, we have visitors in their thousands each September in the form of miner bees. These bees don’t cause a problem, they are rarely known to sting, they also don’t contribute much to the environment as pollinators, however when you get the number we do they are very loud. I liken it to living on an air strip for a month each year and they fly around in a complete haze there are so many of them hatching out. I don’t want to unhome them, though at this level they feel pretty intrusive, so I decided that although the grass was coming up, we would leave the section that most of these bees live in, and hopefully contain their throng to one area.

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The garden as we inherited it when we moved in.

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Slow Progress – tackling the garden in stages over the years

I’m my experience, Gardens are either very expensive or a lot of hard work! We have lived here for six years and when we first moved in we had a garden that consisted of the already badly laid lawn, with an asbestos shed half way down and a mountain of earth for the back third. That was it, no borders, no foliage. We levelled out the garden, created low beds on one side and raised beds on the other with scaffold planks, put bark down at the back and planted a couple of trees. The next summer I painted the fences and the one after we had a shed laid at the back which acts as a home office for me in the summer months, you can see details of this makeover here. A few years have elapsed while I wondered what to do with the space which wouldn’t cost a fortune, whilst performing the yearly strip and re-sealing of the rotting decking and swearing we wouldn’t have the decking for another season.

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Planting Choices

This year I came to a decision pretty instinctively and we started to dig up the worst of the grass in two sections to increasing the size of our the flower beds. I was really happy with the change, it felt more organic, and with the mature planting behind, the new plants take the eye on a winding journey that was lacking before. I have spent very little on plants, a few seeds and seedlings plus a couple of plants propagated or stolen from elsewhere in the garden. I have added a couple of white annuals (ammi majus and alyssum) to bring some impact this year whilst the other plants mature. The new perennial plants I have added are a Japanese anenome, a eucalyptus, some alliums and Nigella.

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The landscaping shape

Once the new bedding was in, a blueprint for how the rest of the garden should look started to emerge. I knew that I wanted gravel chippings to cover a lot of what was now grass, that we wanted to leave some of the grass to the bees, and that the path which leads to nowhere (why do people do this?!) needed to come up. After we had laid the beds I kept thinking how much I loved the curved sweep of them mirroring the fact that nature doesn’t make straight lines. So we decided that the gravel would be laid in the pattern of a winding path with an expanse at the front and end of the old lawn which would be wider than the rest. With an unusual amount of help from my usually diy averse husband we started on the task of digging up the old turf over a couple of weeks.

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Laying gravel

I used an online calculator and ordered a tonne of Cotswold gravel chippings from Gravel Master who were a well priced company I found via google search. That tonne wasn’t nearly enough (you live and learn!), so after a second order of the same quantity our new garden space was starting to take shape.

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Key furniture pieces

I wanted a couple timeless pieces to compliment the space and underline the modern scandinavian style, and I was delighted to be offered a choice of pieces from the new collection by Scandinavian minimalists ByCrea. I chose the beautiful black framed Kent armchair made with vegan leather, and the beautiful Dekton Leo lounge table. I also wanted a hanging egg chair to live under the shade of the tree at the back. After a long search (the prices vary massively from £150-1,500), I decided on the simple slim hanging chair  from Cox and Cox taking advantage of a 20% bank holiday discount.

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The Ammi Majus solar lights at night.

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Lighting

Finally, I bought something to provide light in the evening whilst looking a little pretty, and purchased some Ammi Majus shaped solar lights from Sarah Raven which I had been looking at for years with a discount in the spring sales.

We haven’t tackled the decking yet, that is firmly on next years list, and I’m wondering if we have the skills to do it ourselves. But, I am absolutely thrilled with the changes we’ve made in the garden this year, it finally feels like a space I want to spend all my time during the warmer months. Have you ever tackled a garden makeover on a budget? I’d love to hear your tips in the comments below.

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