So a new year, possibly a new garden……  In this blog I am writing about the development of a major garden project we designed and installed last year in north Leeds.  It is the first in a series I am writing showing how we design and implement our gardens.

I’m also going to give you some tips on how you can improve your own garden.

We were approached in March and asked if we could design the large front and rear garden surrounding a substantial house.

Our clients knew a bit about plants and had tried various planting schemes over the years, but the garden looked tired and uninspiring and the weeds had started to take over too. What they needed was a complete rethink.

Starting point

We always start with a brief developed by us based on the client’s requirements, a key line from it for this garden was “you would like a rear garden design which has strong, uncluttered lines, is visually appealing and brings some drama and excitement to the garden.”

After this there are certain practicalities everyone needs met in a new garden, so at an early stage in the development of the design we included all the practical elements everyone needs  – space for the rotary washing line, a barbecue area, a compost bin for the grass cuttings, and of course plenty of space for entertaining.

When thinking about your own garden, look at these issues before considering the lovely planting or the play area you’re going to have.  Otherwise you’ll find yourself with a garden which feels frustrating and impractical.

The layout was typical, an unenticing space with beds at the edges and grass in the middle, which had the potential to be an open but inviting space.  We needed to create interest and draw the user into the garden.

We accomplished this by increasing the space for plants and entertaining.  Our client now feels there is already so much more of interest in the garden that they walk out into it more, noticing how the borders change with the seasons.

Most of the planting was mature shrubs, with a few herbaceous perennials and a liberal dose of annual and perennial weeds.  We all agreed from the outset that the shrubs that were in good condition and well sited – or could be successfully relocated – should be retained.

Choosing some plants to be kept not only saves you money, but means that you have some plants which are a good size amongst all the new, smaller ones. This really helps give a new garden more of a settled-in feel.  If you’re not sure what can be kept and what has to be discarded, get in touch with us and we’ll advise you.

Patio problems

One of the main problems with the current layout was the small patio.  A conservatory has been added to the rear of the house, with a very large awkward step in front of it, which has really eaten into the paved area, leaving an out of proportion patio.  There was also an uninspiring view from the conservatory, showing a wide lawn with dull brown fencing at the rear and a few sparse plants,with nothing to draw the eye outside and around the garden.

We added a much more generous patio, choosing sandstone paving in lines to emphasise the width of the space.

We then installed a wrap-round bed with lots of plants for colour and scent.  The clients now feel they are sitting amidst the flowers, rather than viewing them from a distance.  This bed not only gives a feeling of enclosure to the patio but importantly a wonderful view from the conservatory.

The new patio area was open to the side garden and drive, so we improved privacy by extending the fencing across the end of the patio, with a gate for access.



Another key problem we tackled in the rear garden was privacy; although it is a large garden it is still overlooked by a house beyond the rear boundary.

In an attempt to shield this house from view our clients had planted two tall golden conifers in front of it near their boundary.

Unfortunately because there was little else of interest to catch the eye, they had only succeeded in drawing attention to the problem – it was like two big yellow exclamation marks highlighting the house behind.

The client was understandably not keen to take down these trees until our replacements had matured.  So instead we enlarged the bed at the corner of the garden and added into it a Robinia, which has lovely soft yellow leaves.

Our plan is that, in time, this will grow to make a single curving line of golden trees rather than the ‘exclamation marks’.

Strangely, one of the conifers blew down in the strong winds over Christmas so it seems Nature was on our side after all!

A new circular seating area

In the right corner of the rear garden, near the garage were two Scots pines which are mature and look good (they help to offset the aforementioned neighbouring house too). Here we designed a small circular patio with a simple metal gazebo surrounding it, just the right size for a bistro set or a pair of outdoor armchairs.

This is the more adult space that catches the sun at different times of the day, due to the trees overhead, so it’s good for both morning coffee and afternoon tea!

Around the patio is soft planting to enhance this relaxed space, with deciduous and evergreen climbers flowering on the pergola above.

Lighting is due to be installed here in the spring to enable the area to be used on summer evenings too.

We have envisaged up or down lighters in the Scots Pines and some further lighting spots amongst the planting.  Lighting needn’t be expensive and can really extend the enjoyment of the garden later into the evening all through the year.

The client is delighted with the design and thoroughly looking forward to using the garden for many years to come and seeing how the garden changes all year round.

At North Leeds Garden Design we do an annual review of the garden the first of which is free of charge so we will be reporting back on both how the garden looks and more importantly the thoughts of our clients .

Look out for our next blog on the planting in the rear garden.  We hope to help you with problem areas or just ideas for new plants in your outdoor space.


For further planting ideas you could go to our portfolio pages or review some previous blog articles.  Additionally we often put tips on our Facebook page and we have Pinterest boards showing plants and garden features we like and those we are suggesting to clients currently having their gardens designed.