Re-planning an Old Garden
Creating a new garden from an old one can be more of a headache than starting from scratch. It is likely that the plot will be cluttered and untidy and possibly badly neglected. Once proud trees and fine shrubs will be overgrown and out of shape and condition.will be overcrowding one another so that they cannot be seen. Rose beds will be a tangled mass . . . but somewhere under that dank, matted undergrowth lies a garden.
And somehow or other you have got to discover which parts of it you want to keep and which parts to discard. You may be tempted to clear the lot and start afresh. But that would not be a wise move. The gardener who was there before you — despite his possibly ugly thinking on design-probably lived with that garden for a number of years. So don’t cast away the lessons he may have learned from it. A tree here or there may have been planted as a vital windbreak. He may have discovered acid pockets in the, or waterlogged, boggy ground, and these factors may have had some bearing on the plants.
So before you even contemplate a mass razing operation, take a good look around and try to discover the garden that existed before and the reasons your predecessor had for his various planting schemes. Clear the ground of, taking care not to injure too many plants in the process; walk round and cover it inch by inch and see if you can establish the original plan — it may soon become apparent once you have cleared some of the debris.
It is only then that you will be able to decide on the sections you wish to retain and those you want to revamp. Then, you will be able to incorporate established features into the new plan.
The order of priorities in which you tackle the neglected garden is entirely different from that of a new garden. Never begin by embarking on any major constructional work, such as re-shaping rockeries, re-establishing a water garden or building a patio. These are all jobs for later . . . much later. For while you are engaged on these time-consuming jobs, the already neglected living parts of the garden will become even more difficult to reclaim.
The first task, then, is to bring the growing sections back to life. This may well take a whole season and, while you are engaged on this reclamation, the overall plan you wish to adhere to will begin to take shape. The trees and shrubs you decide to keep can be pruned back into shape so that you can get an idea of your backgrounds and colour schemes. Beware of over-pruning, however, in the first year. Too drastic cutting may be more than these already neglected plants can stand and they will die.
If you have to take any trees out, never cut them off at the stump — unless, of course, they are forest trees in which case you will be advised to call in a specialist. With manageable trees, lop off the high branches and those that are in your way; then dig around the roots and sever the main roots with an axe. This will enable you to rock the tree backwards and forwards and with more root cutting you will eventually be able to push it over.