Grow into your Garden

PUBLISHED: 13:35 26 April 2011 | UPDATED: 19:15 20 February 2013

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Award-winning garden designer Chris Beardshaw offers advice on making the most of your outside space

What are the most important factors to consider before embarking on a complete garden redesign?
Get to know your site and find out all the basic information in terms of direction of the sun, the microclimate and the soil type, but also create mood or inspiration boards from gardens that you have visited or seen in magazines.

Unless your garden is very straightforward and reasonably level, invest in a topographical and levels survey of your entire plot, which details the footprint of your house and its access and viewpoints (doorways and windows). This takes the headache out of accurately measuring your plot and will form the basis of your new design. From there, if you have the confidence, you can design your garden yourself, considering how you want the garden to perform and how you use it. As a designer, I will design the full plan encompassing the entire garden even if only part of the garden can be implemented at any time, as you can then be sure you have a cohesive garden.

Dont be afraid to approach garden designers for quotations as they are often able to do the overall plan (the masterplan), which makes the job of the detailing a much easier and manageable task that you could take on yourself.

What would you recommend for those of us who just want to revamp our gardens in time for a summer party?
If you act promptly it is not too late to sow annuals that make an instant and very cost-effective impact and will give you a riot of flowers later this summer. Scatter seeds of Nigella (love-in-a-mist), Calendula, Eschscholzia californica (Californian poppy), Cosmos, Nasturtium and Scabious. Also, look out for bedding and annuals available now in garden centres and nurseries that you can pot up into containers, baskets and window boxes.

How can readers with smaller gardens go about maximising limited space?
Utilise walls, fences and trees as supports for climbing plants such as vigorous roses, clematis and honeysuckle, and let them clothe your boundaries and wind up trees for a long and successive season of flowers and interest. Try also using pots and containers not just for ornamentals but for crops of salads and herbs.

What are the best scented plants for fragrant evenings?
Some of my favourite evening-scented plants include the aptly named and intensely sweet night-scented stock, night-scented phlox, jasmine and honeysuckle. Position the plants in sheltered areas and add seats so you can really appreciate the lingering fragrance. Train them up around windows and door frames to allow the scent to drift through the house.

How do we create a family-oriented, child-friendly garden?
Get your children involved in what you are doing and allow them to sow seeds that they can appreciate, plant fruits, vegetables and salads that they can harvest and enjoy eating.

Spaces for playing can be provided according to the size of your garden and the age of your child, but weve found with our family that they often find their own adventures and fun within the garden.

What about people who love to entertain in the garden?
Ensure you have enough seating for relaxed and informal drinks and barbecues outside or invest in an outdoor dining table. Make it attractive by decorating with candles, flowers and displays of herbs, and position your barbecue outside permanently as you can still cook on it in the winter months. A brazier or chimenea are great additions to the garden as the warmth of their radiating heat will encourage you to linger on into the evening or venture out in colder months.

What are the best shade-loving plants?
I particularly like ferns and creating ferneries, so shady areas are just an opportunity to create another planting environment in the garden. Hosta, Rheum and Ranunculus work well with ferns in a shady border.

What is your favourite garden to visit in Dorset?
Boveridge House and Garden (the Philip Green Memorial School) is a gem of a garden hidden away in deepest Dorset.
It has been lovingly restored over recent years. Check for open days or contact for by appointment only visits.

Chris Beardshaw
Catch Chris in his new programme for BBC4, Apples: British to the Core, which airs in June. Chris will also be part of the BBC team broadcasting at the Chelsea Flower Show. For details see and follow @chrisbeardshaw on twitter.

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