In designing a relatively small garden, you need to know what to leave out. If you have a boundless area, you can have the wild flower meadow, the pond and waterfall, the adventure playground, the mini-golf course, the swimming pool, the revolving summer house. For most of us, however, space is limited and it is a matter of deciding on sensible prioritization. Sensible doesn't mean dull â it simply means not making expensive mistakes which you later regret.
The home garden design incorporates a small orchard and areas for soft fruit, vegetables and flowers, but this is done without ignoring the need for a children's play area and places for everyone to sit and have a drink.
The first priority in creating a home garden is to make sure of the boundaries. If there is already a boundary wall, fence or hedge, that's good. If there isn't or it is missing in some places and decrepit in others, the boundary needs to be measured out, markers put in place and some form of boundary division put up. This is partly on the principle that "good fences make good neighbors" but it is also to keep unwanted animals out of the garden. Peter Rabbit may be very cute, but in a garden, he's vermin! The same applies to Bambi. If the design does not include a wall, it must include a fence, at least initially, even if the final design is to have a hedge. Hedges take time to grow and need shelter and support while they are doing it.
The home garden design is for a rectangular garden behind the house, but can easily be adapted to any shape of garden. It is probably better not to have the potatoes and cabbages in the front, on the street, but the orchard could certainly be in the front garden if it had to be.
The standard design is to have the orchard at the end of the garden furthest from the house. The garden is divided in half across the middle. Half of the garden is laid under tough grass with fruit trees planted in a quincunx formation â that is, they are planted in alternate rows so that the sun can reach each tree equally. This is the orchard but it also doubles up as a play area. There is no reason at all that you cannot bowl a cricket ball up an orchard â it may not be conventional, but generations of children have done it, to their great enjoyment. They can have the perfect level playing fields at school â this is actually more fun. There is a bonus, of course, if any of the apple trees are mature and climbable. Children will not do much damage to a mature fruit tree. Where the trees have been newly planted, the ground for about a yard immediately around them is kept bare of grass, to give the trees a chance to establish a strong root system. With older trees the grass can grow right up to the trees. Where the area is large enough, half of it can be left unmown for much of the summer â again, this is for imaginative play purposes.
The orchard is the most natural area of the whole garden and has, in amongst the trees, a couple of good sturdy wooden benches, on which one can sit and listen to the bird song.
The lower half of the garden is divided into three, possibly of equal size or not, depending on preference. Immediately below the orchard is the soft fruit area, kept free of grass and heavily manured every year. The fruit bushes are mainly free standing, with a good two yards square being given to each bush, but there are also cordons of red and white currants. Below the soft fruit on one side is a vegetable garden, which should follow the rules of vegetable garden design by having four beds so that there can be an annual rotation of crops. On the other side of the garden is a large, cottage garden style flower area, with narrow gravel paths winding between rich plantings of mainly perennial flowers. Annual flowers grown for cutting for the house, on the other hand, are grown as individual rows in the vegetable garden.
The flower and vegetable gardens come up close to the house, with just a low stone wall and a narrow stone paved patio between them and the house wall. The patio has a couple of stone sinks for growing herbs for the kitchen and a wide enough area to be able to sit in those rare moments of relaxation.