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While the building itself always has a style of its own, new homes offer something of a blank canvas. There will typically be a lawn and a path or small patio, with fences and possibly a soil border – although the lawn often fills the whole area.
This is exactly what homeowners want. It gives you the opportunity to keep it basic if you just want a space for playing with kids and lounging in the sun, but if you’re green-fingered or want to grow food, the option is open – and you won’t have to adapt to previous occupants’ tastes and designs.
Here are some ideas to get you going.
The most important thing to work out at first is which direction is South. A South-facing garden will get the most sun, but if the house itself or large plants or fences are on the southernmost edge, you’ll have to make sure any sun-loving plants are at the opposite end of the garden. The shadow will also influence where you put outdoor furniture, greenhouses, ponds and patios, so it’s very important.
Observe where the sun actually moves in the sky on a sunny day, and remember that it will peak higher in the summer and lower in the winter, so you’ll have more shadow as well as the temperature dropping from October to February.
Borders are always in fashion, and when they’re in full bloom, do a great job of hiding fences, bringing colour and offering privacy and shade – as well as attracting bees and butterflies.
The golden rule with borders is to be generous. A border of 30–40cm might look adequate when it’s open soil, but that will quickly get filled when you start planting flowers and shrubs. On a wide garden, borders can be a metre wide, but 60–80cm will be adequate for most.
Bulbs and seeds are cheaper than pot-grown plants, but it can take several years to get established, especially if you want shrubs. Your choice of grown plants or seeds will be down to budget.
Decking peaked in popularity in the 1990s and 2000s, but there are signs it’s making a strong comeback. New composite decking requires hardly any maintenance, so it’s great if you just want to forget about it – and it looks just like solid wood.
A patio is a perfect option if you plan to use your garden for barbecues or just chilling with a cold drink in the summer. Remember that it doesn’t have to be rectangular – you can make beautiful patios with organic outlines and a mixture of slab shapes and colours to add interest.
You might want to make your garden functional by growing fruit and veg. A good idea is to have raised beds – essentially frames of timber, brick or concrete filled with soil. They’re perfect for carrots, potatoes, sweetcorn, peas, lettuces and brassicas. You’ll need something to keep the birds and slugs away though – netting is a good idea.
If you like your fruit, you can buy cultivated apple, pear, and plum trees, or blueberry, raspberry or blackberry bushes – and don’t forget the gardener’s favourite: delicious, fresh strawberries. Just remember that trees will keep growing for decades, so bear in mind what they will do to light and shade when you’re deciding where to put them.
Your blank canvas garden is just one of the reasons you want to buy a new-build house, but we hope we’ve given you a few ideas about getting started. The most important thing is that you grow a garden that reflects your personality, your tastes and your needs. And make sure you tune into Gardeners’ World every week for more inspiration!