Garden makeover and top tips from landscape architect Natalie Coquand
Garden anxiety – is it a real thing? Who knows! Yet it is one that I have had for years now. When we moved into the house the gardens (yes plural gardenS – one at the front and two at the back) were OK, nothing special, fine, but, you know, JUST an outside space to sit in IF the sun was out. My first thought was that OK just buy more plants. So the “dotting” process started. I bought some plants everytime I went to the garden centre. A pot here, a flower there … And after a year I just had loads of random pots and flowers dotted around in the garden.
Don’t get me wrong, more plants made the garden feel more alive, but everytime I stepped out to have my morning coffee I just felt MEEEHHH, and went inside. And then came the day when something had to change! I’m fortunate enough to have a best friend who is a landscape architect, so I called Natalie for some expert help.
Natalie lives in a beautiful house just outside of Malmö, Sweden with her three children and partner Tyler. Natalie is a landscape architect and has a passion for potager gardens and sustainable urban design. At one point I tried to coerce her into starting an interior/exterior design duo with me (still working on it!). When we were young Natalie and I lived in the South of France together and when starting to plan my garden we said that it would be amazing to be able to bring the southern french feeling into my Scottish garden. So the idea was to make it feel like a little Mediterranean haven in Scotland and I think we really succeeded with the brief!
Natalie drew up a complete garden plan for us and gave me some general tips on what to think about when designing a garden, that I thought I’d share with ya’ll.
Natalie: When planning a garden, apply the same thought process and steps as you would when you are planning the interior for your house. For example, you don’t start by buying a sofa when you plan for your home, you start with the layout: deciding on where to sleep and where to eat. You paint and put down new flooring. You start with the structure. Apply the same approach when you’re planning your garden layout.
Patricia: So do not buy random pots and flowers (like I’ve done), thinking it’ll sort the layout?
Natalie: Exactly! Less dotting! Instead, be brave and start with the structural changes. Each area of your garden should serve a function – much like the interior of your home. Start with making a rough drawing of the gardens different “rooms” and ask yourself where should we eat, play and chill out? Where is most shadow and where is most light? And plan according to that.
Patricia: Should one tackle the garden makeover themselves or bring in a professional?
Natalie: Would you wallpaper a room if you did not know how to wallpaper or would you bring in someone who knew what they’re doing? If you don’t have the time then bring in someone who is knowledgeable. First a good landscape architect or garden designer and then a good gardener.
Patricia: Say that you’re up for the garden challenge – what should one think about when heading to the garden centre?
Natalie: I know I bang on about making a plan – but here it goes again; make a plan! Decide how much you need, what type of plants and where the plants are going to be put. Ask yourself, what type of plants/flowers work for the spot you are intending it for – is it sunny, shady, part shade? It’ll make life so much easier, trust me. There’s no point in putting lavender in a shaded wet soiled area – it just won’t grow.
Patricia: And lastly, as a novice gardener, any tips on how to place flowers and plants when planting?
Personally, I love fields with the same type of flowers and plants. So for a less messy impression put perennials together, in groups of three. Plan according to the seasons and don’t forget to plan for winter. For winter I suggest buxbom/Buxus sempervirens or Helleborus (julros) which is from the ranunculaceae family.
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