Starting to Plan Your Dream Garden by Primethorpe Paving

It’s many a homeowner’s dream to create the perfect garden space to go along with their dream home. A professionally landscaped garden can act as an extra room for the home and even add to the value of the property – but the scale of the project can often come as a surprise. Many internal design projects are straight forward in comparison. 

While it might be tricky to select the perfect wallpaper for your snug, it’s easy enough to get it applied once it is selected. Even for projects as large as a kitchen, once you have designed and chosen your dream kitchen, getting it installed by a reputable company is often only as painful as being without your kitchen for the duration. 

But landscaping your garden is an entirely different type of project affected by all sorts of variables that wouldn’t affect an internal project, such as weather or your local soil type. On top of this, the scale of the problems that can occur if the job is done to a poor standard can end up costing you thousands in the long run, so this is a project that you need to be ready to put a lot of effort into before committing to it.

Starting to Plan

It’s incredibly important that you know what you want your finished project to look like. Getting a garden rebuild isn’t like choosing what hairstyle you want at your next appointment. If you haven’t planned or designed your space properly, you are going to be disappointed and the mistakes are incredibly expensive to fix. The level of detail you want to go into doesn’t matter. You can get by with a rough drawing, or you can render a full 3D model with precise detail. Both approaches serve a purpose, but the important thing is you do something. 

If the first time you are planning your project is when you sit down with your professional landscaper, it’s going to be a confusing conversation for everyone involved and the chances are you are going to end up with something you are not sure you want. A good professional is worth their weight in gold, but they aren’t going to magic a design from your own mind onto the paper for you. Preparation is essential in order to give them something to work with. 

Quick Note: It’s important to remain flexible with your designs. You may have to compromise on a few things in order to make it work, but a clear idea of your ultimate goal is a great place to work from.

Design Goals

The first decision you need to make is to set the direction for the rest of the design. What kind of space to you want to create? 

  • Do you want to create a private space to get lost in?
  • Do you want to design a space perfect for entertaining?
  • Do you need a manageable space that’s easy to maintain? 
  • What about a child friendly garden? 

The answers to all these questions are really important and will help you to plan the rest of the space effectively. Gardens for entertaining need more open spaces and flat surfaces; private gardens need tall plants and narrow pathways. If you know you want to entertain guests, but you design a garden with no patio space, you are going to be very disappointed in the result no matter the quality of craftsmanship. 

Make sure you decide early the main function and purpose of your dream garden, so the remainder of the design stage is focused on those key points. Once you’ve decided on the purpose of the new space, you can move onto the physical design and make-up of the space.

Marking the Perimeter

Once you’ve decided on the purpose and function of your dream space, it’s time to begin planning how it is going to look. The easiest way to do this is to create a flat drawing outlining how you want to divide the space up. You should use a scale drawing of your space as a reference. You can simply get this from google maps – by using their new ‘measure distance’ feature you can easily mark out your garden on google and get all the accurate measurements before transferring these onto paper. We recommend using gridded paper such as graph paper, or even squared paper designed for maths workbooks! 

This helps you keep your drawing to scale and allow you to really visualize the result much more accurately than a rough drawing. Mark out the perimeter using the squared paper to help keep it to scale. Remember to also include the position of your house, as well as ensuring any doors/windows are marked on the drawing also. These will come in handy later and allow you properly place paths and divide up your garden. Once the perimeter is drawn up accurately, you can begin to mark out the contents of your space.

Planning the Contents of Your Garden

This is finally where you can flex your creative muscles. Once you’ve accurately outlined the perimeter, it’s time to decide on the layout of your space and what it’s going to contain. This will completely depend on the desired purpose of your garden. As a rule, remember: Wide, open spaces are better for entertaining & lots of smaller nooks are better for a private, mindful space. 

  • Entertaining spaces are going to need larger spaces for patio areas and garden furniture. Maybe space for a day bed? 
  • More quaint spaces for you to enjoy on your own are going to need narrow paths, plenty of plants and high fences.

Spend lots of time thinking about exactly what you want from your space. Tweak and tweak and tweak! You want the overall layout to be perfect before moving onto any next stages. If you have this part nailed, it’s going to make working with your professional landscaper frictionless. Your professional will be able to advise on how realistic your vision is and give you an estimate on how much it is likely to cost. 

Remember to be flexible – your perfect design may not always be possible so keep an open mind to avoid disappointment.

In Conclusion – You should have a clear picture now

This isn’t designed to be an exhaustive guide of how to get your garden renovated – but it should give a very clear idea of how to begin to visualise what you want your new garden to look like. By following all these steps, you should be ready to seek out a professional to help you complete your project.

Going to a pro without a clear idea is like going to a hairdresser without knowing what you want. You could end up with something you are disappointed with, with no way to rectify it. But this is simply a much more expensive mistake to make than a haircut. So follow these steps and you should be good to go!

Written by Kelsey Brace at Primethorpe Paving

This Weeks Guest Blogger is Guy Watts, the Co-owner and Managing Director of Architectural Plants

Architectural Plants refers to plants with shape and form. This comes naturally to some plants and some need it thrust upon them and that’s where we come in.

Natural Form: 

Sequoidendron giganteum (Giant redwood) has a naturally architectural form and we love them. They require little to no work to keep their statuesque form – clear their lower branches when they’re 15 years or older and that’s it. We all know redwoods for their spongy red bark and massive scale but the foliage is also incredibly tactile. The very Mediterranean Pinus pinea  holds its shape in a similar way.

Thrusting Form: 

We like adding drama to a garden with Trachycarpus wagnerianus . Use the common bread knife to cut the hairy bark away, layer by layer, and reveal the shiny, coppery striped bark beneath. It’s a labour of love but well worth the effort. For the more maverick gardener we recommend burning the stem with a blow torch and rubbing with a wire brush to remove all of the fibrous growth left. Keep the hose handy and prepare for fireworks, it’s horticulture at its wildest.

We are especially good at transforming the common shrub into something particularly beautiful. Remove the lower foliage with secateurs to uncover the hidden structure below. With shears shape the top and level off the bottom. If well-proportioned it should look like an open parachute. Getting the right proportions is essential.

To find out more on the subject visit our website and / or our nursery. We also offer tours and courses or if you want to leave it to the experts we can come and do any of the above for you as part of our Creative Maintenance Service.

Stane Street, Pulborough, West Sussex, RH20 1DJ

01798 879213

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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alison Hepworth

I am the regional manager covering Kent Surrey and London for the WFGA. There are 18 regional managers covering the length and breadth of the UK.

The WFGA is a registered charity, founded by women in 1899 concerned by the lack of education and employment opportunities for woman working on the land.

These days, the scheme is open to men and women looking to change careers or develop their horticultural knowledge. Alongside workshops and skill days, it operates a trainee scheme called WRAGs which has propelled many trainees to successful careers in horticulture. Currently we work with around 170 gardens across the United Kingdom. The majority have a WRAGs trainee, and there are many more hoping for a placement.

It is a brilliant scheme and I should know: it changed my life. This is my story:

I joined the police in 1986. This photo shows me sitting on a World War II Hermann Bomb weighing 2,200lb in 1987, which was unearthed by construction workers in Bermondsey, London. It was one of the largest types of bombs the Germans dropped on Britain during the Blitz. I was 21 years old.

I spent 30 happy years in the police, spending the last 11 years as a Detective inspector on a murder squad in South London before retiring in 2017. It was definitely time for a change.

I had always loved gardening and decided to do an RHS level 2 gardening course at Hever Castle. There I heard about the amazing, life-changing, WRAG scheme. I learnt that trainees are placed in a garden and trained by the head gardener or owner for two days week for 12 months and paid the national living wage.

I signed up and was very lucky to get a place within six months in a garden originally designed by the renowned horticulturalist Sir Harold Hillier. Significant features of the Hillier garden remain including box parterres, yew hedges, terracing and signature plants including Scots pine and camellias.

My first day of training was in February 2018. It was freezing cold and, by the end of the day, I was exhausted and barely able to move! Gradually my body got used to the physical work as I learnt about the garden throughout the seasons. The scheme ensures that trainees cover a variety of topics including pruning, pest disease and weed control, soil cultivation, propagation, and management of herbaceous borders. I was taught by two gardeners Helen McCready and Serena Crighton-Stuart. Both were very patient with me, guiding carefully at all times, even letting me loose on box balls which I tried very hard not to turn into a cube. Here is a picture of me pruning Jasminum. Probably just as risky as sitting on the bomb!

The year flew by and I was lucky enough to be taken on by the garden owners. I now work there two days a week. In addition, I was also employed by the WFGA as a regional manager. The garden has also taken on a new WRAGS trainee and plan to take more in future years.

The moral of my story is never be afraid to take a leap of faith. I left the police not knowing what I was going to do next, afraid of all the spare time I would have. Now I am occupied pretty much all of the time and have met some fantastic and interesting people along the way.

If you would like to join the WFGA and the WRAGS then the following link will give you all the information. We are also always on the lookout for extra gardens to place our growing list of hard-working and enthusiastic trainees.

A potted history of the WFGA

Originally, membership was open to anyone connected in any way with the land, in farming, gardening and allied industries, or those with a keen interest in these matters. Many of the founder members were professional women working in education, gardening, farming and small holdings.

At the outbreak of the First World War, a founder member Louisa Wilkins realised that there would be a shortage of labour on the land and the Women’s National Land Service Corps was launched offering work placements to women, both rural and urban. This movement was so successful that it soon outgrew a small voluntary organisation and was taken up by the Government and the first Women’s Land Army was born.

Between the wars there were difficult years of recession and the Association worked hard to improve the working conditions and status of women in land work and to open up employment opportunities to qualified trainees. The first training scheme in practical skills was set up during the Second World War giving valuable service to those seeking to work on the land. A Garden Apprentice Scheme for school leavers was set – this led to the development of Government Youth Training Schemes.

In 1993 the Association, established the ‘Women Returners to Amenity Gardening Scheme’. Designed to offer ‘returners’ who were considering a career in horticulture, training in practical gardening skills, within private and public gardens throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2014 the name was changed to reflect the change in the type of applicants applying – Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme.’

This Weeks Guest Blogger is Connor Smith, a Horticulturist at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Seeds are phenomenal structures which have adapted incredible ways to disperse. One of the of the most eye catching seed pods in the garden at this time of year are the long, drooping blue fingers of Decaisnea insignis. The common name “Dead Man’s Fingers” originates from the supposed similarity of the fruit or ‘fruitlet’ feeling like a cold human finger.

These exotic fruits are in the Lardizabalaceae family, a rather small family of mostly climbers. Decaisnea insignis is native to China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar with a small population in India. It grows at a range of altitudes and has a respectable hardiness of around -15C. It is a popular ornamental plant. Specimens can be seen in the Chinese Hillside and the west of the Rock Garden.

Now the exciting bit. The unusual seeds intrigued me when peeled open they reveal an odd translucent pulp which is surrounding the small flat black seeds. It reminded me of a jelly snake sweets you would purchase as a child. The pulp is edible although I did not find it particularly inviting to try i did, tasting of melon/ cucumber. The inner seed of the seed pod was also covered in a fascinating mosaic patterning.

Inside the seed

The small flat black seeds

A rather incredible pattern in the inners of the seed pod

Now the question, why did this plant evolve to have these incredible blue fruits and what animal dispersed it? The lure of edible pulp meant it must be an animal of some sort. A bird would be a valid option but red is the normal colour of attraction and plants know this. Many of the birds i looked at (Birds of China; Birds of the Himalaya) were very small and the 7-12 cm long fruit would present a big problem.

Why blue? Blue is rather scare in the plant kingdom, we have some familiar examples in the garden of Mahonia species, Vaccinium, Viburnum and Clerodendron trichotomum var. fargesii with its large red sepals. But it is still a relatively unusual trait to adopt, even more so in tropical parts of the world.

Interestingly when opening the fruit it did split like a banana which had a similar type of reward inside. A deal of dexterity would be required to open the fruit which i had almost failed at when I attempted opening it the first time. Sure enough, after some research it is reported in ‘Dispersal of Plants’ (RBGE Library FCVV) that some tropical trees with blueish fruits – Elaeocarpus, Symplocos fasciculatus & Eugenia acuminatissima have drupes dispersed by bats and monkeys. I then later found a paper on the dietary profile of the Snub nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus spp.) which confirmed Decaisnea insignis in the diet.

However this still does not explain the need for the blue colour. Monkeys see just like us and don’t require an attractive blue colour to attract them in. Decaisnea insignis has previously been spilt into two distinct species with Decaisnea fargesii having yellow to green fruit.

We may have just not found the true missing link in this Decaisnea insignis partnership or I fear we may have lost this pair forever.

This Week’s Guest Blogger is Alexander Herbert

Our Blogger this week is Alexander Herbert from Archery Edge who is based in the USA so Tim Reeves who is in the UK has written the introduction for us just because our gardens in the UK tend to be smaller and crossbows may be unsuitable to use in them.

“Personally I would recommend people use a light (not powerful) traditional bow and arrows, bought from a reputable specialist shop after having taken a beginners course with a local club to learn the basics. A good shop won’t sell inappropriate gear to a customer. 
In a good sized garden or one neighbouring arable fields a crossbow could be used, but it’s easy to miss a target and lose bolts (arrows) safety is important when using any bow and arrows. 
At my various clubs, I have shot with various people with disabilities, so as mentioned archery is inclusive. For example one lady used a wheelchair and shot a compound bow, another chap had a prosthetic leg below the knee, another had PTSD, and others were old, struggled with arthritis, and one chap also took part in the transplant games. So give archery a go” 
Tim Reeves

Alexander Herbert writes If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, then you should make the most of it. There are many things you can do in a garden, from gardening to various different outdoor sports.

One sport that most gardens can accommodate is archery – the sport of using a bow to shoot arrows to hit a target. It’s a very inclusive sport that pretty much anybody can take part in – so keep reading for some tips on how you can play archery in your garden.


Archery can be an expensive sport, so it’s best to start out with the bare necessities. Luckily, there are some things you can do yourself to enhance the game.

The first step to having archery fun in your garden is getting the equipment. If you’re a beginner, there’s no point buying expensive equipment – you may not end up liking the sport (unlikely, but still a possibility), or you might want to build up your skills before splashing the cash.

Crossbow + Arrows

The main thing you need is a crossbow. A crossbow can set you back anything from $15 to $2000 – it all depends on the brand, quality, and the specs. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to get a crossbow that’s easy to operate – the lighter the better.

Some of the easiest crossbows to operate are pistol crossbows – they’re generally lightweight and they require a lot less effort to cock, but they tend to be less powerful.

Most crossbows tend to come with arrows, but if not, be sure the arrows you purchase are compatible with your choice of crossbow.

Crossbows are great for people who have disabilities because some of them have self-cocking devices and require less physical strength to use.


Targets tend to be cheaper than crossbows, but can still set you back a few dollars. If you have the time, it may be worth making your own target.

To make your own target, just fill a woven bag with plants or sawdust, tape it together, and paint a bullseye. This can be hung from your fence, or trees – and adjusted to match the height most convenient for you.

If you don’t fancy making your own, you can purchase one from your local archery supplies store, or online. If you’re purchasing one online, it’s best to get a durable target that can withstand the elements.

Getting Started

There are some things you should consider before you get shooting. At the end of the day, crossbows are weapons – and should be treated as such.

Make sure that the area around the target doesn’t have any valuables or animals nearby – you don’t want the target right next to the birdfeeder, as that won’t end well.

It’s probably best to make sure your next-door neighbors aren’t sunbathing in the garden next door too! Consider positioning your target at the end of your garden – especially if it backs up onto private land, woods, or fields.

Now you have the necessities, it’s time to start shooting some arrows!

Remember, stay safe and be aware of your surroundings.

Happy shooting!