The Modified Garden

The Modified Garden – For many people, a completely new design of their garden would be inappropriate. The existing garden may have evolved without any guiding plan, but often it incorporates features and elements that it would be a pity to lose. These article shows how an existing garden can be modified, by pulling together the best elements into a coherent and satisfactory whole.

The modified garden in its original form is typical of many; it also serves to illustrate the drawbacks of a dog-leg shape, where one area is set at right-angles to the main space.


The terrace of broken York stone is attractive but lacks definition; although it is the only sitting space in the garden, it does not catch a great deal of sun. The straight path and flanking flowerbed emphasize the length and flatness of the garden. A large but well grown conifer sits in the middle of the lawn and two wings of scruffy beech hedge project into the garden from either side. The second lawn area is stocked with young fruit trees. The area to the right is completely undeveloped.

In the new garden design, modifications to the existing garden have resulted in a different approach as to how the garden is used and enjoyed. The terrace near the house has been made smaller, with the addition of a curving raised bed to contain its edge. Stone from the terrace has been reused to construct both the brick-edged path and the new, much sunnier, sitting area, which centers on a generous tree seat. The path now sweeps away in a strong flowing curve, using the conifer as a pivot to the design.

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The beech hedge has been reclaimed, clipped to a good shape and linked together with two new short sections. These will grow together across the path into a low-cost arch. Its diagonal angle creates a feeling of greater space.

From here the path continues, sweeping away around the bottom part of the garden and better quality lawn, drawing both feet and eye into the dog-leg part of the garden. The fruit trees have been repositioned in an area of rougher grass naturalized with bulbs and wildflowers.

Throughout the garden, the main lawn and border shapes have been remodeled into a series of strong flowing curves, providing a far greater feeling of space and movement.

Most gardens include a few established trees and shrubs, if not climbers and herbaceous perennials, which it would be a pity to lose – the art lies in recognizing how they might play a role in a new, modified garden design.

The fruit trees have been resisted into the area of rough grass, and even the conifer has been made into an important part of the overall design. The new design shows how the separate parts of a garden can be ‘color-coded’. There is, for example, a white area near the summerhouse, with a pink one opposite it; an arch planted with roses and clematis straddles the two. This part of garden lies on heavy soil, so moisture-loving plants can be grown. Nearer the house, the drainage is sharper, and gets sufficient sun in the course of the day to suit sun-loving plants well enough.

Betula pendula

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