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Garden Goals {How to Add Character and Privacy to a New Build Garden}

Author: Lisa Soeno

You may remember Lauren’s ‘What was your compromise?’ post, and mammoth set of comments that followed, earlier this year. Well the compromise when we moved into our house was the garden.

It’s not a huge space, roughly 8 x 10m, just big enough to swing our cat Millie. (I’m joking). In an ideal world we would have moved to a place with a big, beautiful and established garden. In the real world, I don’t think such a thing exists in the world of new properties. And we took the view that the benefits of living in a new build house outweighed the disadvantage of having a modest garden.

Like Charlotte, neither Rich nor I have been blessed with green fingers. As such, sprucing up the garden was our last priority when it came to making the house a home. But as Lyra gets older we’ve been spending more and more time out there, and I’m thoroughly disheartened by the blandness of it all. So we’ve bitten the bullet and got some experts in. I’m a bit concerned about the end result because although they are landscape gardeners, they’re not garden designers. Plus we were probably the clients from hell. Our initial meeting went a bit like this:

Rich: “We want loads of bright colours”.
Me: “No we don’t…I was thinking more a green and white colour scheme”.
Lyra: (Waggling her new slinky toy around) “Slinky winky, slinky winky!”

Me: “We’d like some raised planters made out of railway sleepers.”
Rich: “Oh…I had my heart set on concrete planters”.
Jenson: “WAAA”.

However, we can’t have been that bad as they start work this weekend. I have bombarded them with the below inspiration pics courtesy of Pinterest.

As you can hopefully make out from the ‘before’ photo in the slider, the garden is rectangular in shape. There’s a shed to the rear left hand side and our kitchen/lounge opens out onto a small patio area. The patio that was here when we moved in was absolutely titchy so Rich added a couple more rows and assures me that, with time, the colour of the new slabs will fade to match the old ones (please tell me he’s right?!). Last summer we painted the fences a silvery shade and the shed a dark grey hue to make any greenery ‘pop’. I gave our old Ikea outdoor table and chairs a facelift using the leftover paint, bought a parasol from Wilko and an L-shaped modular sofa from

We’ve asked for raised planters along the right and left hand fences in order to establish a bit of structure and provide extra seating. The gardeners suggested using feathery trees such as prunus shidare yoshino and hoheria sexstylosa snow white along the back fence to provide a bit of much needed privacy from the houses that overlook our garden. (When my mum first visited she commented that the view out of the back bedrooms resembled Coronation Street).

Ideally, the garden will reflect the era and style of the house, i.e. modern with clean lines, so the gardeners have recommended planting grasses such as pennisetum sky rocket and cordyline.

I would love to incorporate a contemporary feature wall made up of slatted panels behind the sofa instead of the cheap-as-chips fencing. However as our budget won’t stretch that far I will have to make do with festoon lighting (aka ‘The Love Island lights’). I’m also hoping that some concrete planters, lanterns and maybe an outdoor rug will add a bit more character. If you’ve managed to add charm and character to a new build garden, or any garden for that matter, I would love to hear all about it.

And similarly, if you have any tips for me to bear in mind and maybe relay to the gardeners before they work their magic please pop them into the comments box below.

  • Next Planter
  • Wilko Parasol
  • Sofa
  • The White Company Lantern
  • Cuprinol Paint
  • Waitrose Garden Cordyline
  • Tesco Festoon Lights
  • Cuprinol Paint

Header image from Stylizimo

For all gallery sources please head to my Garden moodboard

Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
Follow Lisa on instagram @lisa.soeno
This post may include affiliate links.

19 thoughts on “Garden Goals {How to Add Character and Privacy to a New Build Garden}

  1. Hiya Lisa!

    Fellow new build gardener here 😊 we had our 10 by 5m mud pit professionally landscaped last year and I can honestly say it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. We went for a south East Asian theme (with a banana tree, bamboo and even Barry the Buddha 🙏) with no grass. No grass! People thought we were mad but no grass = no cutting of the grass = no lawnmower = no shed 😂 idea for a smaller plot.

    The garden actually won an award last year 😳 which I’m overly chuffed about!

  2. I find garden design ever so tough so it’s great if you can get se help in. Even if they’re not garden designers they’ve probably built a lot of gardens and seen what works and what doesn’t. I’d agree with Jo on the no grass front with a small garden. When I was attempting to plan ours I spent ages reading Lisa Cox’s garden design blog I don’t think she’d be that impressed with my effort but some tips like not designing the garden around the boundaries but rather from the inside out made a lot of sense. Good luck with your project, can’t wait to see it finished.

    1. This is what I’m hoping about the gardeners Kat! Interesting point about planning from the inside out, will check out Lisa Cox. Thank you! X

  3. Can I ask which company you are using for the landscaping and did they come up with all of the plans (or do you need a garden designer for that)? Myself and my husband are clueless when it comes to gardening, would love to get professionals in but concerned about the cost! Any advice greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Louise, they’re called Nita Gardening but they didn’t provide any plans, just suggestions of plants to use x

  4. Hi Lisa, love your ideas! We moved into a fairly newish house (only 30 years old) & we are just at the back end of a major excavation, it was a bland overgrown jungle when we moved in. I’m not particularly green fingered too but once it’s all prettied up you will be surprised at how much of a pleasure it is to look after, I truly love gardening now but still learning… If your interested I have a #rachaeltaylorgarden tag on Instagram. I’m a colourful surface pattern designer so as you can imagine it’s a bit of Rainbow garden. Good luck! It will be so worth it x

    1. Your garden is gorgeous! Also, slatted panel envy.

      Really hoping having our garden sorted will give me the gardening bug x

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Gardening in a new space that’s a clean slate is so tricky isn’t it? In some ways its almost easier if you have an established garden where you might have some elements you want to keep to sort of ‘hang’ things off. Without knowing the exact dimensions of what you are planning, I would suggest thinking about how you want the final space to appear. You want to give the garden a sense of space even though its not very big. One of the ways you can do this is by planting things that have a ‘layering’ effect – taller things at the back/sides moving down to lower growing things at the front, with perhaps some taller, slimmer things in between to give a bit of structure. You’re great with interiors so think of it as an outdoor room that you are trying to give balance and structure to. I like Prunus shidare yoshino and Hoheria sextylosa, they are lovely flowering trees but be careful in their positioning that they aren’t going to get too big for where you want to put them or shade out the space. I’m sure the garden installers have given you some advice on that. Cordyline is actually a tree, not a grass, so it will end up growing a trunk and looking like this:

    Though it would take a very long time for it to do that in a pot! Growing things in pots like that can be quite tricky, they need to be fertilised and watered properly (and its the remembering to do it!) Other ideas for pots might be one of your fountain grasses or Phormium. My top tip for choosing plants is things on the Royal Horticultural Society website that have an RHS merit award are usually pretty reliable! They have a helpful plant finder tool that could help you out:

    Here’s some ‘layered’ pinspo for you:

    This one caught my eye as they obviously have the same back neighbouring overlooking issue and they’ve painted their fencing a similar colour (climbers are a way to break up the mass of the fence too:

    I’ve gone on way too long here! Good luck and I cant wait for the update 🙂

    1. Emma thank you so much for taking the time to give all this ace advice! WOW did not know that about cordyline. Now off to check out your pins and probably bombard the gardeners with more x

      1. Lisa, I’ve never seen one that’s really got to proper tree height in a pot which suggests to me they die before they get there! But something to be aware of if you want more of a ‘grass in a pot’ look it might not stay like that! I’ve probably confused you more now with all my ideas!

  6. Ooh perfect timing as I have been in my brand new build for six weeks. My patch is even smaller, 4m x 7m. Primarily I just want somewhere to open my patio doors out onto, a shed for our bikes, a rotary drier and a couple of chairs for enjoying a glass of fizz on a nice evening! I’ve just had the turf ripped up and artificial lawn laid. It looks really good, yes it’s not a total dupe for real grass but it looks so smart and neat. All the time! It also feels really nice underfoot. We build the bike shed last week and I’ve got a border left to plant up. I love the idea of tall grasses and some lots of pretty variagated foliage and evergreens for year round colour. Don’t really know where to start on it though and need to buy the plants on a budget so nervous about just going to a garden centre.

    1. The Rock My crew were talking about artificial grass yesterday Bunny! Our neighbours have it and it looks great.

      My auntie (the owner of an absolutely beautiful garden) always tells me to go to nurseries rather than garden centres as apparently they are better value for money x

  7. Ok, potentially a silly question here, but are we still on to be planting new stuff? I though you had to do everything spring/early summer? I just bought a couple of new planters and thought I’d have to wait till spring to use them!

  8. Hi Lisa
    Just catching up on RMS after being on holiday for a week. Excellent post! We moved into our new build 2 years ago. We wanted a small, easy to manage garden as we know nothing about gardening AT ALL. We started by adding a few rows to the patio like you have (the new patio slabs are really starting to blend in now by the way) and we put some big planters in each corner of the garden with ‘easy to manage’ plants that would sort themselves out all year round with little maintenance.

    A year on and the garden is still feeling really bland so we gave it another make over this summer. Much as I would LOVE to hire a garden designer, we can’t afford that so we have done everything ourselves and have been completely ‘winging it’ with our flower decisions and spending ages in B&Q studying plant instructions.

    We bought some bright yellow flower filled buckets that were £5 from B&Q to hang on the fence which gave it an instant lift. We also bought some bright pink Fuscia filled buckets from B&M for the back fence. Next up was a raised planter with railway sleepers which we have filled with Evergreen shrubs and some Lavendar as we want a ‘wild’ feel to the garden. Along the back we have a basic border with 2 Japanese Asa’s, a fusica and then I just filled the rest with whatever we fancied and we’ll see how it goes (Marigolds, Begonia’s, Lillies etc) and we planted an apple tree and a cherry tree in each corner (small ones!).

    I also have a little herb garden on the patio in some cute containers. It felt great the other day when I added some home grown chives to my caserol #winning
    Looking forward to seeing your progress!

    1. Thanks Katie x And yey that your slabs are blending in!

      Your garden sounds like it’s really coming together. There’s a lot of similarities with our garden – we too have gone for railway sleeper planters, asas and evergreen shrubs. I am determined to get green fingered!

      Hope you had a fab holiday x

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