Making a garden Part 5

Welcome to Part 5 of our garden makeover!

I hope you enjoyed my last post where I told you all about how my husband Darren and I started our first planting.  We made a start with the Ceanothus hedge and we decided to edge the beds with wooden railway sleepers next. If you remember, I told you about how uneven the garden was and how it sloped from one side to the other. It would have been impossible to even it all out without hiring some heavy machinery.

Rather than levelling the whole garden at great expense, we decided we could work with the garden rather than against it. Different levels can add interest to a garden and it’s just a matter of finding a way to work this into the design.

The best way to contain the uneven ground was to use edging in the form of wooden sleepers. We had already measured the garden (several times!) and worked out what we needed to start with.

As usual, our bargain hunting instinct kicked in and we found a deal online from a local builder’s merchant. We were excited when they arrived, it was all finally happening!


Luckily we were able to have the materials delivered to our front garden, where they stayed until we carried each sleeper through the house to the back garden. That was heavy work!

Taking measurements

We used a lot of different tools during this makeover, but there were two particular tools that we couldn’t have done without: a measuring tape and a spirit level. Darren measured everything twice if not three or four times and it paid off.

Formal garden

Our dream was to have a formal garden, we liked a mix between an English country garden and a mediterranean or Italian style garden. The design on this part of the garden had to be symmetrical, so getting the measurements right was important. We wanted 4 rectangular beds with a gravel path dividing them, forming a cross.


The idea was to plant a row of lavender either side and fill the beds with a blue/white/purple colour scheme. We thought this would go well with the Ceanothus hedge. We managed to find some lovely and affordable lavender plants from one of our local nurseries, Crossways Nursery in Purley. Their prices are so affordable and we have bought a lot of our plants from there. They have a fantastic selection of mediterranean trees such as bay or olive and a huge range of terracotta pots.

car loaded with plants

We filled our car with lavender and a selection of other plants and I must say that the drive back home smelled very nice! The Lavender was an English variety, Lavandula Angustifolia Hidcote, because I find it is a bit tougher and hardier than the French varieties. And it forms a nice round shape, which is what we were looking for to edge the paths.


We planted the lavender against the wooden sleepers lining the path and filled out the beds with Lambs Ears, a purple Heuchera, blue Allium, a Peony, white, blue and purple Lupins and an Artemisia Powys Castle.

The reason we chose these particular plants was their interesting foliage as well as their colour. The lavender loves good drainage so we made sure we mixed in sand and grit into the soil before planting them. Our garden is heavy clay and can get quite wet in winter, so it was important to avoid any water logging.

It’s important to choose the right plants for your garden, so that they can grow happily and stay healthy. I wrote a post about choosing the right plants which you may find helpful and should give you some guidance and ideas.


Tips and advice

What did we learn during this stage of our garden makeover? Here is a little list that might help:

# 1. Measure everything at least once. At times I felt like hiding the measuring tape and spirit level from Darren because I felt dizzy from all the fetching and checking and re-checking but I have to admit he was right. When you’re working with geometrical shapes in a garden, you really need to be accurate.

# 2. Look for bargains! Check for prices online before you go to your nearest store. It really pays to look for any offers or sales. We found our wooden sleepers were a lot cheaper online and if you are doing a big project, you can save quite a lot of money.

# 3. Decide on a colour scheme. This really helps when buying your plants and it will give your garden a coordinated look. We chose a white, blue and purple theme for this part of the garden. You can have different colour schemes in different places of the garden or just have an overall scheme for the whole site.

# 4. Choose the right plants for your garden. Our garden soil is heavy clay and we have little shade and lots of sun, so we had to choose our plants to match these conditions. Read our post on how to choose the right plants for more advice, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. It can be quite fun going with a list of plants to buy and makes the shopping a lot easier.

# 5. Work with what you already have. If your garden is very uneven, there may be ways to disguise this or making it a feature, rather than levelling the whole plot.

Hopefully our experience can help you with your own garden transformation and I hope you will read part 6 of our gardening adventure! If you have any questions or comments, let me know and I will be happy to help!


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