Making Garden Projects Happen

Roses as cut flowers

If you have a daunting Big Garden Project, this is how to make it happen. Like anything that seems overwhelming – study assignment, special project at work, a garage clean-out – the trick is to break it down. It then looks very ordinary and do-able, and before you know it, a few weekend have passed and it’s done.

My Big Garden Project – a rose garden – started with these (see above) absolutely gorgeous roses. We’d driven out to the country to have lunch with a friend on her farm. Picture a table under the trees, looking out over a picket fence across rolling pastures. And on the table was a vase filled with roses that she’d picked from her rose garden for us to enjoy through that wonderful afternoon, and for me to take home at the end of the day. No surprises that on the drive home, I spent the hour and a half making plans for my own rose garden, one day…



Start scribbling: Dreaming and talking about something is always good, but there comes a moment where you need to pull out the paper and pencils. This is my base plan – a simple square garden, fenced in rough-sawn pickets, with enough of a gap between them to encourage roses to climb through. A single gate gives access, and across the rose filled beds you can glimpse a bench seat. The paths are gravel with several large paving stones set in front of the gate and the bench to give them each an anchor-point.


Adding the detail: I’ve now added another layer of tracing paper so I can rough in more detail. You can see that I’ve positioned climbing roses around the fenceline, tree roses on supports at the centre of the two front beds, and I’ve jotted a note to myself that I might want an arbour over the bench seat so that we can eventually sit under the roses as well as look across them.


Making more decisions: A final layer of trace has gone over the top and on it I’ve made notes about the colour scheme: the front right bed will be filled with white and blush pink roses; the front left bed with creams and yellows; and I’ll use the back rectangular bed to pop in anything I fancy, a bit like a bright Persian carpet.


Time to choose: This is the fun bit, picking the roses that will populate my garden. I made good use of both online sources and old-style ones like Dr Hessayon’s The Rose Expert, and my well loved Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers (Reader’s Digest). I find it really helpful to make hard copy lists (see below) to pull together what I think works.


Now I’ll have to admit that at this point in my life, my rose garden project has been set aside until a dream comes true – the sort that will provide the sunny spot to build it on. But if and when that happens, this is what I’ll do…

  1. Construction: I’d speak with Tom (husband and landscape partner). Looking over my sketches we’d fine-tune the hard landscaping details (the fence, edging for the beds, the paving, gate, bench and arbour).
  2. Book it in: He’d then give me an idea of the necessary stages and I’d book them into my desktop calendar. This is a critical step – in my experience, if you don’t set aside blocks of time for a project, it won’t happen.
  3. Preparation: When the construction is finished it’s time for me to prepare the beds by digging them over, taking out any rubbish (rocks, large roots, weeds etc) and laying a think layer of mulch over the top. Many people wait until they’ve planted before mulching, but sometimes a few weeks can slip by and in that time, the weeds will come back and take over.
  4. The plants: With my list in hand I’d go to my usual places and place my rose orders. Again, I’d note in my calendar when the plants were due and I’d set aside a chunk of time to set them out using my plan as a guide. And here’s another hint, if you slip your plan in a plastic sleeve, it will be easier to handle when you’re outside wearing muddy gloves.

And that’s it. Whatever your project is, just break it down, and book each stage in so that it can take place alongside the normal stuff in our lives.






One Response to Making Garden Projects Happen

  1. Greenwich January 27, 2015 at 9:59 am #

    Before you perform any garden project, you really have to do much planning first. Having a layout – a detailed one, even – is a great major step, so that when you are to really start, you will have guidelines to follow.

Leave a Reply