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Get Up and Grow

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Chris Beardshaw Chris Beardshaw | 13:59 UK time, Monday, 6 June 2011

Left to right: Colin Donaldson and Chris Beardshaw

Left to right: Colin Donaldson and Chris Beardshaw

Transforming a back yard into a garden of beauty is high on many peoples list of desirables but as we found in this series turning up on site armed with a chain saw, skip, mini digger and a plethora of power tools seemed to be received with worried looks from our families of potential gardeners.

Bill and Anna from Port Muck featured in episode three of Get Up and Grow are perfect examples of a couple who were overwhelmed by the plot outside their new conversion. A combination of rising land, rampant hedgerows, badly pruned trees and builder’s rubble left the site looking more like a compound than paradise garden.

As with all the gardens we covered in the six-part series, the initial phases were all about getting the owners to appreciate the true value of the plot. Clearing debris, demolishing buildings, grubbing up hedges and felling trees were all par for the course. Only then could we start to formulate a plan.

Colin Donaldson, developer, horticulturalist and my presenting partner in crime was always happy to jump on a machine to expertly sculpt, excavate and move tonnes of soil in the name of taming the site. Meanwhile I tried to reassure our 'would be' gardeners that any transformation requires a little initial devastation.

Left to right: Colin Donaldson and Chris Beardshaw

Left to right: Colin Donaldson and Chris Beardshaw

Without exception, once the site was cleared and a plan hatched, confidence grew, even if occasionally our gardeners couldn't quite see the big picture. There is a truth in the old line that designing your own garden is the most challenging, we are all too close to the reality to spot the opportunities. A fresh pair of eyes, or in this case two fresh pairs, identifying immediately the simple beauty on offer. In the case of Bill and Anna it was a jaw dropping view of a rock stack off the coast, and in the distance the island of Ailsa Craig off the Scottish coast.

Employing trees; topiary and structural shrub planting, in the fore and back ground, to frame views, sculpture and seating brought some order to the gardens. Paths provided desire lines, linking the house and essential viewing lines from windows and doors, used correctly these tempt and tease us to explore the emerging garden.

Concurrently the lawns and borders create divisions and delineate spaces, something we are all nervous of attempting especially when initial space is apparently limited but believe me dividing a space can increase our perception of its size while also contributing to the complexity and aesthetic rewards.

Floral beauty came in many guises across the series from old fashioned rose gardens to tropically inspired verdant foliage and good old herbaceous borders. The palette of plants was guided by our new gardeners love. Bill and Anna opted for flower to harvest fragrant blooms and a bevy of edibles dotted amongst.

What we set out to achieve wasn't an instant makeover but an adventure where the novice and nervous were; over the period of a growing season, transformed into gardeners who fell in love with the plots and plants outside their backdoor. For some this was a life long ambition fulfilled, for others it was an epiphany, for all it was a magical transformation.

Get Up and Grow is a six-part series where landscape gardening experts Chris Beardshaw and Colin Donaldson inspire families to make more of their outside space.

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