Imaginative planting and creative design touches helped Monique Knight to transform her lacklustre plot into an enchanting garden space with terraced area, garden bridge and a water feature.
The owners: Monique Knight and her partner Paul Campion, who run a bed and breakfast business from their homeThe property: A four-bedroom, post-war detached houseThe location: Beaconsfield, BuckinghamshireWhat they spent: The couple’s garden project cost around £5,000
My garden is more than 40 metres long – a third of which consists of garages – and it only measures eight metres at its widest point,’ explains Monique. ‘When I moved in, the space featured a fence and a border down each side and a lawn in the middle, with a few stepping stones leading nowhere.’
The long, narrow plot that Monique had inherited was uninteresting and lacked any special features. She had always dreamed of creating a beautiful garden packed full of colour and greenery, where she could relax in her spare time without feeling there were always chores to be done outside.
After living in the house for five years, Monique decided to treat her garden to a complete facelift with the help of garden designer Juliet Staddon and her team. Monique was eager to add some colour into the planting, and also liked the idea of creating a tropical feel with some more exotic-looking species.
‘Juliet suggested dividing the length of the garden into different sections, using plants to soften the hard lines. By drawing attention away from the fencing that lined either side of the garden, we would be able to make the space appear wider,’ Monique says. ‘The idea was to introduce plenty of variety and a really lush look, but to keep everything low-maintenance.’
With such a radical overhaul planned, the first step was to clear the entire site. The lawn, borders and the old patio at the back of the property were dug up, and the shed removed, while a large and awkwardly positioned conifer was felled.
Juliet’s design split the long plot into a series of distinct areas, and she also created a tiered effect by adding steps and raised beds. Among Monique’s must-have items was a bridge – an idea that had appealed to her for some time. From the new patio by the house, the bridge would lead to a decked area, from which another path would go to a seated, gravelled zone at the rear of the garden.
Although she was keen to include a water feature as part of the new design, Monique was concerned about having a stream running underneath the bridge. ‘My grandchildren often visit, so I felt it could be a hazard,’ she explains. ‘Juliet suggested laying pebbles beneath it instead of water to create the look of a dried-up stream bed, which proved to be a fantastic idea.’ A safer water feature was created for Monique by channelling a pipe through the centre of a large rock so that water flows through the channel and over the rock, creating a soothing sound.
Juliet’s suggestion of integrating raised beds along the length of the garden was well received by Monique, as they would be easy to maintain without the need to bend down excessively. As there is no access to the garden from the front of the house, it was impossible to bring large machinery onto the site, so much of the heavy work had to be done by hand. The raised beds were made from old railway sleepers, which give a natural, rustic look. As well as being low-maintenance, they add an extra level for planting, and their diagonal angles help to disguise the plot’s narrowing shape.
Beyond the bridge, Monique can sit and enjoy her space on the wooden decking. ‘The garden faces west, so there’s always sun in the afternoon,’ she smiles.
With the bones of the design in place, the planting could begin. Fortunately, as well as receiving plenty of sunlight, Monique’s garden has fertile soil. ‘We’ve heard that the whole garden was a vegetable patch at one time, and there’s obviously been plenty of goodness dug into the soil over the years,’ she says. ‘Anything seems to grow well here.’
Monique wanted her outdoor space to be abundant in lush greens throughout the year. Under Juliet’s guidance, she opted for substantial, leafy species, such as tree ferns, flaxes and bamboos, that would add height and cast strong, eye-catching shapes with interesting foliage. For continuity, Juliet recommended planting in groups down the length of the plot, and also advised Monique to use contrasting forms and tones for impact. ‘I have planted tall, spiky plants next to soft, feathery leaves,’ explains Monique. ‘I’ve also chosen different coloured foliage, including reds, yellows and greens. Many of the plants provide year-round interest, so there’s always something appealing to look at.’
Monique also enjoys more traditional cottage flowers, so the beds are dotted with seasonal colour provided by geraniums, daylilies, phlox and sedum, while roses climb the trellis at the far end of the plot.
The project took six months to complete, and Monique is delighted with the way the space has taken shape. ‘The changes have made a huge difference,’ she says. ‘The garden is now full of interest, without the worry of lots of maintenance. Relaxing on the decking in the sunshine, listening to the sound of water is truly heavenly.’