The soothing south-facing plot that's fit for all seasons

What once was an unruly south-facing plot has been transformed into an award-winning garden - here's how they did it

A large garden with long green manicured turf, garden bench, gravel decor on either side, and navy cabin at rear of scheme
(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

This south-facing plot looked scruffy at first sight. However, the owners saw past its unkempt appearance in favour of the large space and potential it had. 

By introducing a verdant lawn, growing grasses for height and texture, and paving the way with decking and gravel paths, the owners created a structured garden scheme that could be enjoyed all year round.

And, with a budget of £60,000, they were even able to stretch to a smart-looking cabin, and some sophisticated dining table set for alfresco eating.


External shot of five-bedroom house with light-coloured brick and back garden filled with overgrown bushes, shrubbery and foliage

(Image credit: James French)

The owner grew up with a keen gardener for a mother, who passed her passion down to her. But it has taken more than passion to get the couple's garden to the tranquil beauty it is today.

‘When we first viewed the house, the garden was all lawn and very overgrown, but it was so peaceful,’ she recalls.


An alfresco dining area with outdoor dining set furniture, cream-coloured parasol on decked floor, and bunting decor hung around perimenter of deck

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

Their desire for a larger garden was one of the reasons the owners wanted to move and so they found this plot irresistible.

'We got to work straight away, and within a month had found a fantastic tree surgeon to remove large conifers that were blocking out too much light.’ The couple also enlisted the help of Colchester-based landscapers Oak View Landscapes who initially – and over the years – have helped them transform their garden, adding a garden decking design, flower beds, and even a cosy cabin retreat.

An outdoor space with assortment of gravel, shubbery and decorative decking arrangement

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

Since then, they have taken a considered approach to their plot: ‘Flowers and plants have been chosen to fit the style of the garden and to have something on show all year round.'

'Some of the roses were bought for what their names mean to us: ‘Alnwick Castle’, as this is where my husband proposed to me, ‘Winchester Cathedral’ as we love the Christmas market there, and ‘Mum In A Million’ in memory of his mum,’ she says. 

A large garden with long green manicured turf, garden bench, gravel decor on either side, and navy cabin at rear of scheme

(Image credit: Future / James French)

‘My favourite time of year is spring – I love the newness and freshness and the fact that the days are getting longer. Ours is a garden for all seasons and all events; there’s something to see every day of the year, but at the same time it’s a garden for having fun and creating happy memories in.'

When it comes to how to plan a garden, she has one piece of advice: ‘Trust your instinct – if you like a plant, give it a go! But be prepared to lose them, or for them to not flourish if they’re in the wrong spot. “Right plant, right place”, as the late, great garden designer Beth Chatto said.’ 

Now, all of the couple's hard work has been rewarded. ‘I was so pleased and surprised when we won Best Garden 2021 in the Ideal Home Reader Awards – our family and friends are delighted as they know how much we love our garden.’

'Visit gardens for inspiration – you’ll always come away with something, whether it’s an idea or a plant to take home with you.'

A shaded seating area with grey outdoor furniture set and cream coloured parasol umbrella

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

The final design was composed of a decking flowing into gravel creates an attractive, practical pathway through Mediterranean-style grasses and shrubs. Meanwhile, a manicured lawn leads to the cabin tucked away at the back, while the ‘aisle’ effect of the borders, softened by an abundance of greenery and colour, zones this area.

Introduce a garden seating area somewhere shady so you’ll always have a spot to sit comfortably.

A Lillevilla garden cabin next to dining table set with cream-coloured parasol. Tall plants, such as Stipa gigantea and Verbena bonariensis planted throughout

(Image credit: Future PLC / James French)

The decking, with its rustic, informal feel and lovely view of the garden, was built over the old patio next to the house.

‘Our family and friends love coming over – on a sunny day, it’s like being on holiday!’ the homeowner tells us.

They also added an outbuilding towards the back of the garden.  ‘We wanted to make much better use of the space at the back of the garden, with a cabin by Lillevilla and seating,’ says the owner.

Tall plants, such as Stipa gigantea and Verbena bonariensis, create a soft screen.

Focus on working with a tree surgeon 

Having a bit of tree trouble? Leave it to the experts

  • What they do: Arborists and tree surgeons assess a tree’s health, pinpoint any issues posed by the location, climb and prune branches, remove trees and/or tree stumps. They can identify whether a tree needs to be thinned, reduced, shaped or lifted to improve its look and growth, pollarding when it needs to be tamed, even felling if it is diseased.
  • What to expect: A reputable company should always offer a no-obligation quote. They do a site visit beforehand or ask you for photos for guidance. Ensure they’re fully insured and let them know if you don’t have side or rear access to your garden. Expect to pay from around £150 for pruning a large tree, and from £300 to fell a tree, depending on where you live.
  • When they arrive: Once you have hired a tree surgeon they will visit – often in a team – armed with all the gear required. Unless you specify otherwise, they’ll clear away any debris created from the works, leaving nothing but a tidy garden behind them.
Millie Hurst
Senior Content Editor

Millie Hurst was Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home from 2020-2022, and is now Section Editor at Homes & Gardens. Before stepping into the world of interiors, she worked as a Senior SEO Editor for News UK in both London and New York. You can usually find her looking up trending terms and finding real-life budget makeovers our readers love. Millie came up with the website's daily dupes article which gives readers ways to curate a stylish home for less. 

With contributions from