PLANNING THE GARDEN
Let us start first of all with the assumption that we have a plot of land on which a house has just been built, or is about to be I built, and that from this land we are hoping to make a garden.
Obviously, the first thing to do is to go and look at the plot. If it is an ordinary rectangular-shaped plot—such as is found by the thousand behind, and in front of, small houses—there is no need at this stage to draw an elaborate sketch; but if the plot is at all odd-shaped, it will be well, first of all, to make a rough sketch of the boundary lines to scale, so that a plan can be made on paper to which the gardener can work.
The next thing to do is to examine theitself, and to notice whether the surface is flat or sloping. Small mounds of soil that have been dumped by builders can, for the moment, be disregarded, but the general lie of the land should be considered. If the garden slopes down towards the house, the best pictures will be seen from the house windows, but if it slopes away from the house, the best views will be those seen from the end, looking back towards the house, or those spread carpet fashion below a balcony or terrace. Any abrupt slope should therefore be noted, and it may be advisable to draw a rough sketch showing this slope as a sectional diagram.
Other points can now be noted for the guidance of the garden maker. For instance, any large trees, either on the plot itself or in the immediate neighbourhood, can be indicated on the rough sketch. Any particularly fine view, if it is likely to be a view that will remain, should be noted also, and the existence of other houses or ugly out-buildings, factories, etc., should also be considered. To make a perfect garden, these will need to be screened from view.
Next, examine the soil itself and consider its condition as regards moisture. Most plots do not have a natural stream running through them. If they do, this will of course be carefully noted on the rough plan, and the gardener may consider himself fortunate, as the presence of water on the plot will make it possible for him to get far more variety into his layout than is usually possible. Even where there is no stream, it is quite possible that the garden will appear to be rather over-moist, and if there is very much water standing on the surface it may be necessary to improve the drainage. However, before any drainage operations are undertaken, the reason for the stagnant water should be ascertained. If it is merely that the top soil is of sticky clay, through which the water drains but slowly, thorough digging and liming will remedy the condition.
If the garden is on a slope and receives the surplus moisture of other gardens that are higher up on the same slope, the problem may be more difficult. It happens at times that gardens on a slope are more or less terraced, that is to say, the border by the side of the fence in one garden may be built up above the level of the soil in the neighbouring plot. This state of affairs almost invariably means that the lower border will be excessively damp. In the case of any very serious water problem it is advisable to call in an expert. Any local nurseryman or landscape gardener would probably be willing to oblige in this matter for a small fee (or even without a fee if you are a likely customer), and such an outlay would be very advisable, as it might mean all the difference between success and failure in the subsequent cultivation of the garden.
Generally speaking, however, ais well enough drained by the existing main drains such as are always laid on housing estates, and there is no need to do more than drain the lawn and borders by good cultivation.
CHOICE OF DESIGN
Having collected, as far as possible, all the information regarding your particular plot of ground, you can retire to your study with a pencil and paper, and proceed to plan your new garden. Here, of course, your own personal taste and artistic ability will show themselves. No two gardens can ever be exactly similar, and it would be undesirable if they could. For one tiling, no two persons have the same ideal regarding gardens; and for another, no two garden plots can ever be exactly alike. However, there are certain points which must be considered in the planning of every plot. The first is the use to which the garden will be put. The tiny “pocket-handkerchief garden” in front of a small house is obviously suitable for decorative purposes only: that is to say, you can plant it as a lawn with a ribbon border of flowers round it, or you can fill it with ornamental flowering shrubs, or you can possibly make a smallor sunk formal garden in such a position, but it will generally be quite unsuitable for the cultivation of fruits or vegetables.
A similar small plot at the back of the house can, however, be used for any purpose. If it is of a medium size, it may be possible to have a fair-sized lawn on which games could be played—clock-golf, croquet or tennis, according to the size—together with flower borders and possibly even a small vegetable plot, or fruit garden.
The needs of the household largely determine the type of garden to be made in the rear of the house. Very small children demand a playground, and it may be that in addition to a lawn a small plot entirely for the use of children could be arranged. In this could be a sand-pit for the toddlers, swings for the older children, or even a cricket-pitch, according to the size of the ground available. Older sons and daughters will doubtless prefer a tennis-court.
Those who are not interested in games will still like to have a good-sized lawn on which open-air meals can be taken; or, as a substitute for this, some sort of garden house whereand sunshine can be enjoyed in full view of a picturesque scene across the garden.
There is also the domestic side of the garden: that is to say, the need to hang out washing and perform other domestic duties outdoors must be considered.
The keen gardener who has reached the stage of wanting to specialize on one form of garden, may like to set aside a portion for aor a rock garden, or some other special garden.
The initial work of layout is therefore to decide what types of garden are wanted, and to find a suitable place for each of these within the boundaries of the plot.
As a general rule it is advisable to put the more formal types of garden near to the house and the informal types at a greater distance, but this rule can occasionally be reversed; in fact, there is no hard and fast rule about garden design on this point.
When the position of the various sections has been roughly indicated on a sketch plan, the next thing to do is to link these sections by suitable paths, and to divide them from one another by suitable screens.