When we built our home back in 2006, we did so on a green field site so our garden basically had to start from scratch.
Our first house had a large lawn with a couple of unimaginative beds that were never really going to look like much. However, despite our lack of gardening knowledge, we had ambitious plans for our second home and have, since the house was completed, created pretty close to our Dream Garden….
Our first priority was to get our boundary hedging in place and also to plant any large trees which would act both as a wind break due to the exposed nature of the site, and also in time to help the house blend into the landscape. In an effort to ensure we spent our money wisely, we decided that we would employ a Landscape Designer to do up a plan for the garden – A major advantage of having professional plans done is that you will know exactly what plant is to go where once you decide to start. I don’t know about you but when we built our first house back in 1997 we bought so many plants, that while small when purchased, ended up either totally outgrowing their location or dying due to being placed in the wrong position (too sunny or too shady). Plants are expensive, particularly when you have an entire garden to do so its best to know exactly what to put where!!
In the same way as I had put together a folder of ideas for the house style, I had also created a Garden Mood Board – mine were all cut outs from magazines but nowadays boards created on Pinterest are fantastic for compiling all of your ‘must haves’. The Landscape Designer we found; a lady called Angela Jupe called to meet me at the house. We had a walk around the site and I discussed with her what our vision for the garden was – Classic Garden Style to the Front comprising mainly hedging and trees, and more of an ‘English Country Garden’ feel to the sides and rear. I also gave Angela my mood board and she took this away to work on our plans.
A few weeks later she sent her design on to us along with a detailed Plant List and this has been our point of reference for the garden since then. I know that when you undertake the construction of your own home, the vast majority of the focus is on getting the house built and the interiors completed. However, I would recommend to anyone who is going down the self-build route or indeed renovating a property where the garden is not in your style, to employ a Landscape Designer to do up a set of plans. It doesn’t cost as much as you might think and it will definitely save you time and money in the long run.
We have done all of the work on the garden ourselves except for some of the hard landscaping and we have made our own adjustments to the original designs drawn up by Angela Jupe. Gardens will evolve over many years and with experience you will have the confidence to incorporate some of your own ideas. Just like the interiors of our homes, fashions change as does what we like and dislike.
Our entire site is surrounded by a traditional country hedge and we have a large number of trees planted around the perimeter. Our brief to the Designer was that we wanted plants which were native to the countryside we live in and I have to say she didn’t disappoint us with her selection. A decade on from planting, they are now coming into their own and we look forward to them continuing to enhance the overall scheme.
Another absolute must for us was box hedging. Anyone who has read my previous posts on the actual construction of our home will know that our aim was to build in a Victorian Farmhouse Style. We knew that box hedging was key to achieving this look. The box hedging around our house has been here since we moved in and is now at the stage where it just needs to be maintained. Yes, you do need to clip it like any hedge, but as it grows so slowly, particularly in comparison to the boundary hedges, it really is easy to maintain. In the past year, we have developed a bit of a ‘thing’ for Box topiary and have a large number of them around the house both front and back (17 so far and counting!). These we feel, are central to our style of garden.
The front of the house is covered now in a Virginia Creeper. This came as cuttings from Feargals’ Parents home in Newry so it has huge sentimental value to us. We absolutely love this creeper – in the Summer it covers the front of the house in large green leaves which then in Autumn turn red before falling off. Yes, its a pain having to clear the leaves (although Feargal’s new toy is a leaf blower so I don’t hear too many complaints anymore about the leaves!!!) but its advantages far outweigh this one small disadvantage.
In the past couple of years, I have planted 2 climbing roses against the front facade and these add some colour along with enhancing that ‘English Country Garden’ feel. Roses are so beautiful and while I sometimes struggle to keep on top of the black spot and greenfly, have to say they are probably one of my favourite plants throughout the garden.
Our pink doors have been a big hit since I first showed them on my Instagram Account. The colour choice was a joint decision made by Feargal and myself. It probably ended up a more vibrant pink than we thought from the colour card but we are so happy we didn’t chicken out when the painter started to put it on the house and garage doors. I love that every few years we can change the colour of our doors thereby giving the house a completely different look!
We visited Bloom in the Phoenix Park in Dublin again this year and were lucky enough to find two fabulous pink hydrangeas for either side of the front door. We did have standard box balls in pots here up to a few months ago but felt they were getting too big for this area and have now moved them to the side of the house. I was in the new Homesense Store in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre last week and found two perfect baskets to place the hydrangeas in. These look like traditional baskets but are in fact weaved using a plastic material so I think they will be totally weather proof. I regularly change the other little pots at the front door depending on the season and whatever mood takes me.
A gravel drive was absolutely essential in getting the look we wanted to achieve at the front of the house and we chose this warm gold colour. We would have loved to have had gravel running right down to the roadway but as we live on a hill, it would have been a complete waste of money as over time, the rain would have washed the gravel onto the road!! We are so happy with our compromise of gravel and tarmac and it is so easy to keep. The gravelled section will need to be topped up with additional stone from time to time but we can live with that!
Many years ago, we inherited a set of old antique gates from a gentleman Feargal did some work for. We’ve simply painted them and put them in as an entrance to the front paddock. They give a lovely vista across the field and again enhance the period look of the house. There are another set of timber gates to the side of the house which lead to the stable yard below.
We still have a few finishing touches to add to the Front Garden (Are you ever really finished I wonder!) but we are so pleased with what we have achieved so far. I am so proud of it and look forward to continuing to add to this space.