My budget is limited: Design tips to make the most of your garden on a shoestring.
You may perceive that 'designer' gardens are expensive, or that there is no real point in 'designing' your garden because your budget is so limited. However good design is not about creating flashy gardens with expensive features. It is fundamentally about putting thought and effort into how you can initially lay out your space so that it will transform into a beautiful garden in the long term.
A well balanced and appropriate design for your space consisting of simple materials will look far better than a range of uncoordinated expensive features and poorly proportioned spaces. The most common mistake made in developing a garden is to start without a plan. Before investing in plants, paving materials and garden features it is vital that a well thought out plan is drafted to ensure that your money is spent wisely. Here are some design tips for ensuring that you make the most of your budget.
Plan for the long term
By planning for the long term it allows you to carefully consider your priorities and wish-list. Short term high impact gardens for instant effect often do not mature into the best gardens for your specific needs, tastes and preferences. Emphasis is on the here and now. In reality family circumstances change, materials go out of date, dense planting needs to be thinned etc.. By carefully considering the effect you would like tin 2, 5, 10 years time it allows you to prioritize and eliminate unnecessary items which are only for short term effect.
Get the proportions right
The best designs have pleasant proportions, a balance between enclosure and openness, between tall and small, between large format and small scale, whether it be lawn areas, paving units, planting or features. By carefully considering this, you are essentially investing in the most important 'free' design element in your garden. By not fully considering proportions and a proper balance of open space, unnecessary expense can be added as people tend to over-fill the blank areas.
Use temporary placeholders
To do a good garden properly it needs to evolve over time. As one element is completed it takes time to live in the garden and assess how its working and what else is actually required. Rushing out and putting in everything at once can often be a waste. I recommend placing certain items into the garden on a temporary basis. For example a standing stone as a focal point place-holder where you may eventually want an elaborate water feature, an ornamental pebble area which will eventually be paved with stone. The shapes and features will be there, just ready to be upgraded as your budget permits.
Be clever with your plant sizes and spacings
This is where real initial savings can be made without sacrificing the end result. Two identical plant varieties can vary widely in price depending their initial maturity. For example by reducing from a 10 litre to 3 litre can result in huge savings, but the eventual size, colour and growth habit of the plant will be the same. Similarly when spacing plants, be careful not to plant too densely, The effect might be great in two years time but you will have to thin and remove plants to maintain that effect in 5-10 years.
Limit your features
Garden features such as built in barbeques, permanent lighting, covered structures, water features etc.. can add to the initial garden makeover, but they are seldom part of the core fabric of the garden. Most likely they will need to be replaced over time, and in my experience a higher value is placed on these element than needs to be. Limit these features initially, create the best garden layout and then slot appropriate features in gradually.
Minimise hardscape elements
Hardscape elements (construction of patios, retaining walls, steps etc..) are a once off cost and must be completed fully up-front. Considerable cost savings can be made by cleverly designing your garden to minimise the hardscape elements. Planting on the other hand is not so expensive. With plants, there are various options on plant types, varieties, sizes and spacings, and there is always a combination that will suit every budget. The plants will grow, fill the required space and flourish
Use durable long term materials
Often there is very little cost difference between materials that are durable and those that just simply look good initially. When visiting paving showrooms pay particular attention to the durability of materials. If you carefully select a low key but appropriate durable material it can save costs compared to a short term high impact trendy element which will need to be replaced in the medium term.
The maintenance costs of a garden are quite substantial. Whether you do it yourself or hire specialists, the ongoing maintenance of a garden is a cost that should be considered from the start. This can range from grass and hedge cutting, Replacement of annuals, cutting back and removal of over-vigorous shrubbery or climbers, inappropriate trees etc..
Have a look at the photos bellow. This was a garden where all of the materials were sourced in Woodie's.