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Last year I designed and delivered a major garden project which took two months to build. It wasn’t huge in size but it was big on levels. The project was to create a garden that would give the clients a dramatic increase in useable space in an awkward plot.

The garden was on the side of a very lovely cottage in a  small village in a hilly area in Gloucestershire. The original garden had a steep bank which had been planted with shrubs some 20  years ago and over time it had become increasingly challenging for the owners to look after.  It needed a radical solution. One which would remove the bank entirely and require installing some serious retaining walls – giving the owners a terraced garden which could be used more practically and would be much easier to maintain.

This necessitated some serious digging out.

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I always try to be sustainable and environmental when I do my garden projects, wherever possible reusing materials and not importing new concrete. But in this garden we really didn’t have much choice, a lot of the soil was clay which wasn’t useable.   In the end we took away 100 tonnes of soil and rubble.

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The finished result let in lots more light for the cottage and provided a much more usable space on three levels with a new terrace, lawn and upper garden with wonderful views.

Of course wherever you dig out on a slope you need to support the land behind with reinforcing walls. The severity of the slope dictates what type of materials you can use. If its a small slope then perhaps you can use railway sleepers or low cotswold or brick walls but if its a bigger job then you need some serious retention. These days a lot of landscapers use gabions, an idea imported from commercial landscaping projects that can be filled with a sympathetic material to match the surrounding area.

What this project made me realise was that it’s really important when surveying to get the levels right and in this case I was so glad we did because any inaccuracies would have made the terracing very tricky to fit together.

I remember my garden design tutor showing us how to use a level and drilling into us the importance of thinking things through. Any landscaper will tell you that as soon as you add in hard-landscaping to a scheme, such as a patio for example, you need to think about the area that surrounds it. Somewhere the boundaries between soft and hard need to meet and line up. You might need to put in a ramp or steps. You can’t build in fresh air funnily enough!

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The challenge of working through this complicated design was really fun but not for the feint hearted and I was very glad of Charlie and my capable landscaping guys who did a fabulous job.

Take a look at my Tip sheet No. 9 on Garden Levels

So I wonder what challenge the next garden project might bring?

If you need help coming up with an innovative design for your garden then do get in touch.

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