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Decision dilemma: Where do I begin sorting out the garden?

PUBLISHED: 11:11 10 October 2014

Decision advisor Roni Jay

Decision advisor Roni Jay


Do you want to get the garden looking good but have no idea where to start? Decision advisor Roni Jay helps you make a start

We’d all love to have a beautiful well-tended garden that we’ll enjoy being out in. But if that’s not what you have at the moment, how do you get from here to there? Often the problem of not knowing how to begin causes an inertia that leaves the garden languishing for years.

It’s a matter of thinking through the options, so that you know you’ll be happy with the garden you decide on. So before you decide what to do, you need to work out what you want from your garden. Here are a few possibilities (you might tick more than one, and you may have others):

• Somewhere to sit and enjoy

• Space for the kids to play

• Somewhere to entertain people

• A lovely view to look out on from the house

• A place to grow fruit and vegetables

• A wildlife haven

The next thing you have to decide before you start planning, is how much time you want to spend looking after your new-look garden. Be realistic about this. It’s easy to think you’d be happy to spend hours every weekend if the garden looked worth it, but be sure this really will be how you feel when it comes to it.

Now make a list of all the things you’d like in your garden. At this stage you can be as ambitious as you like – you may have to compromise later, but for now you can write down everything you’ve always dreamed of having. For example:


rose arbour

herb garden



climbing frame



seating area



raised beds

…and so on. I worked with a client who had almost no idea what she wanted from the garden, but she knew she wanted delphiniums. That’s great – it goes on the list.

Right, you’re ready to start planning. Let’s look at what’s there now. Make a list of everything that you don’t like about the garden as it is now – the things you definitely want to change or get rid of. For example:

• The shed looks a mess

• There’s never time to keep the grass cut

• The neighbours look straight into it

• There’s too much paving

• The flower beds are overgrown

Now you have an idea of where you’re heading, you can decide what to do about these things. Do you want to take up that paving, or cover it with pots, or seating? Can you paint the shed – or do you even need it? Can you plant or build something to screen you from the neighbours? You may not need to screen the whole garden, but just the part where you sit out, for example.

From here, it should be possible to draw up a plan of your new garden (in your head is fine if that works for you), finding space for all the things you want. If you can’t include everything, focus on what you really want from the garden – a space for the kids, a view from the house, or whatever – and give those features priority.

Finally, think through the practicalities of each feature before you decide where to put it. For example:

• Deliphiniums like to grow in the sun

• Kitchen herbs want to be in easy reach of the house

• You want to be able to keep an eye on the kids from the house

• A pond under a tree will fill up with leaves

• An entertaining area might want to catch the evening sun

With all this thinking and planning, you should now be able to go ahead with your new garden plans confident that you’re creating the garden you really want.

Roni Jay is a Devon-based decision consultant

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