Creating a low-maintenance garden

'I wanted a low-maintenance garden suitable for entertaining': Wanting a garden to entertain in all year round, Kara McGann employed a design team to transform her compact plot; the sloping plot was levelled out using shallow terracing and raised plant beds to create a perfect summer seating area.

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Wanting a garden to entertain in all year round, Kara McGann employed a design team to transform her compact plot.

Kara McGannFact file

The owner: Kara McGann (right), an HR manager
The property: A new-build three-bedroom, semi-detached house. Kara has lived here since 2004
The location: Dublin, the Irish Republic
What she spent: It cost £12,630 to transform the space with professional help

The problem

‘I knew from the start that I would have to change my back garden completely to make it work for me. I love garden parties and barbecues but, when I moved in, it really wasn’t suitable.

‘On my first viewing of the house, the small, manageable garden was one of the things I loved. The ground wasn’t level, though – it sloped up from the house to a high back wall, so there was nowhere to place a table and chairs. It was all lawn with a large tree stump in the middle and lots of roots, too. There was also a shed dominating the space.’

What we did

‘I lived in the house for a few years before I decided to redesign my garden. It was always such a pity not to be able to use it, so I started to look around for a designer to implement a major makeover.

‘My Mum told me that one of her friends had recently had her garden transformed by the team from Greenstone Landscapes – and she couldn’t praise them enough. So, I got in touch and asked Ross Farrell from the company to come and have a look at my back garden.

‘I asked Ross for a low-maintenance design with a sizeable space set aside for a barbecue area. I explained that I am not what you’d call green-fingered, but I liked the idea of having grasses – I think they are quite hardy – so Ross took that on board.

‘The tree stump was really dominant, but I quite liked the fact that it is obviously very old. I asked Ross if it was possible to make a feature of it, as I didn’t want it dug up.’

‘When the plans came back, I was simply stunned – the design looked fantastic and I wanted it all immediately. I hadn’t really realised that the garden shed was such an eyesore, but Ross had suggested building a screening wall. I was dubious about painting it purple, though, so he produced some books to show me what it would look like and I went along with the idea. He had also planned an outdoor lighting scheme and to have the whole area paved, so I knew it would be easy to maintain. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect in the finished project from looking at the plans and books, but I was wrong – it surpassed all my expectations.

‘The work was done in the depths of winter and, when the whole place had been dug up and resembled a mud pit, I thought: “What have I done?” It was a horrible winter, too; it never stopped raining, so the work went slowly. It took around ten weeks in total and I was starting to wonder if it would ever be finished, but Ross was unfazed and just kept saying that it would all be fine and not to worry.

‘When it was finally done, I couldn’t believe the result – it was stunning. Ross had designed a stone water feature, which is fantastic, and the timber edging and fences have smartened up the whole space. I love the purple walls now, too; when the lavender is out, it picks up the colour and looks amazing. Even when there is nothing in flower, the colour just brightens up the garden.

‘The minute it was finished, it was party time. It might have been winter, but I turned on the lights, fired up the patio-heaters, told everyone to put on hats and gloves, and got the mulled wine going for a winter garden party.

‘I’ve been barbecuing outside all summer long, too,. When I’m not out there, I enjoy just looking at it through the windows. It’s a source of endless pleasure, especially at night with the lights picking out all the features.’

Costs

Labour£5,844
Building materials and paint£1,608
Stone£2,167
Timber£692
Plants£1,600
Lighting£719
 
TOTAL£12,360