Renovating a garden on a budget

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Julia Manning and Paul Stubbs have used recycled pieces and inventive artworks to transform an uninspiring space into a bright, vibrant garden.

Fact file

The owners: Julia Manning, who is an artist and printmaker, lives here with her partner Paul Stubbs, a potterThe property: A three-bedroom cottage built in 1911The location: Keinton Mandeville, SomersetWhat they spent: The garden project cost £1,100

‘The garden was almost non-existent when we moved here 11 years ago – it was just an empty space,’ says Julia.

As a former quarryman’s dwelling, the cottage had been constructed on stone from a quarry nearby. There was a small paved area outside the house, as well as an uninspiring patch of lawn.

‘It was a very dull space so we wanted to transform it, but we didn’t have a great deal of money to spend,’ says Julia.

Luckily for the couple, they could draw on keen gardener Julia’s experience and make creative use of recycled furniture and salvaged pottery from Paul’s kiln to incorporate into their new design. They also planned to tackle the heavy work themselves to save money.

They started the project by applying for planning permission to create a drive at the end of the garden as the cottage didn’t have a parking space.

‘The planning office gave consent on condition that the drive was big enough to turn in, so we wouldn’t have to reverse out to the road,’ Julia explains.

The couple hired a digger and began excavating the garden, piling all the soil in a heap until they were ready to put it back during the planting stage.

‘It was hard work, but we had taken our first major step in establishing the new garden,’ says Julia.

Julia and Paul then started planning the main garden space from all angles, carefully considering what would suit each area.

A raised vegetable patch at the far end of the garden was their first defined feature. Julia then focussed on the central space, where she built a pond.

‘I dug out the hole for the pond by hand, filling a trailer with the rubble and making several journeys to dispose of it at the quarry,’ she remembers.

The couple used their artistic expertise to create different features in the garden. Julia turned a stone wall into a focal point by adding an eye-catching mosaic.

‘I wanted to create an illusion of space in this compact area,’ she explains. ‘The idea came to me when I visited a friend who was going to throw away some mirror tiles that she had removed from her bathroom wall. I thought I’d re-use them as a feature.’

Julia placed old watering cans next to the mosaic feature wall to make an unusual waterfall, emptying into an old galvanised tank that the couple had found in a skip.

‘Paul wasn’t really interested in the gardening aspect,’ says Julia. ‘He preferred working on the architectural elements instead – he made the mosaic’s borders from old pottery.’

A glazed veranda was the last structural addition to the new space.

‘When a local double glazing factory closed down, Paul acquired several sheets of toughened glass,’ says Julia. ‘He’s an expert welder and carved up the metal poles supporting the glass to the correct length for the veranda. He then made clay pipes in blue and white shades to fit over the poles, creating a fairground effect.’

The stony soil in the garden was very poor, so the couple had to augment it with recycled soil to create the borders and raised bed areas. They managed to salvage quite a lot from builders’ yards, plus they dug in plenty of manure from local stables.

‘Manure provides essential nutrients for all our plants and saves us the expense of buying potting compost,’ Julia explains.

She is especially keen on recycling for all her gardening needs.

‘I sow seeds, which I gather every autumn from spent plants, or take cuttings from friends’ gardens,’ she explains. ‘I don’t often buy plants from garden centres – I tend to get them at charity open garden days or local fêtes, unless I invest in something special like the acer in our courtyard.’

Julia and Paul are thrilled with their new garden. ‘We’re always making changes to it, so it’s a joy to see it evolving,’ says Julia.


Planting and miscellaneous items£230
Chairs (including powder coating for patio set)£125
Digger hire£60
Throne chair£50
Pond lining£20