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Posted by on in Garden Design

I was involved in a design project recently where I worked with another designer on a series of conceptual designs for a developer. We discussed ideas and sketched on a plan around a table initially which gave us the opportunity to regularly change seat positions to view the garden from different perspectives.

Likewise, it is good to view your garden from different rooms as well as a variety of viewpoints in the garden. Give consideration as to whether the best use of space or view is being made to sell the house or gardens potential. I remember when I moved into my previous house a few years ago, my first task was to remove four conifers in my small back garden. One was in front of my kitchen window and another against one of the porch windows. The difference in light level was amazing and instantly transformed the internal rooms into bright spaces. I could see the benefits of removing these plants, but other potential buyers may not and therefore be put off by the lack of light.

There may be an opportunity to easily create the feeling of a private, intimate space from one particular room. For example, a bedroom with French doors could have a space designed for breakfasting by constructing a trellis or placing large pots for division. Selling a lifestyle is as important outdoors as it is indoors. Of course it is difficult. when selling a house in the winter, to promote the idea of how a garden can be used, but the emphasis can be placed on having it tidy and looking cared for.

noseat Before - plants overgrown path, view up garden restricted

seat After - planting pruned, seat partially in view to entice user to walk up the garden path

I would usually leave much of the dead foliage of perennials that have interesting colour or texture but as these can break or look unkempt in windy weather, so I would cut them back or remove altogether for selling purposes. Clean all paved surfaces, particularly decking and smooth stone to prevent anyone from slipping when viewing the property. Good lighting at the entrance is always beneficial particularly if it is subtle and welcoming. Harsh security lighting doesn't create a friendly invitation to visit. Less is more is always a good policy where garden lighting is concerned. So although it is more of a challenge in winter to show the potential your garden has, it shouldn't be neglected and a little effort to keep it looking at its best for the time of year, should reap rewards.




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Posted by on in Garden Design

kirkfield front2      kirkfield front3     kirkfield front4

Improving the look of a front garden can have a significant impact on a potential buyer’s perception of the property. First impressions count in this instance and set the tone for a viewing. Often the external finishes and attention to detail are overlooked and the scene isn’t set until the first step over the threshold. Edging the lawn defines a line and is one of the simplest, yet most effective ways of making a garden look cared for. I had a resident spider in my door bell and we had a regular disagreement as to who owned it, but I was extra vigil when my house was on the market!

As autumn will soon be upon us, keeping the front entrance area free of fallen leaves could be a daily task. My main door was at the side of the house, halfway up a long drive and this was mirrored by my neighbour’s property so it created a wind tunnel effect where plants in pots dried out very quickly. Some herbs coped well in this condition but other plants suffered if they weren’t watered daily. If time for maintenance is restricted, then consider a group of pots with tall stems of contorted willow or sculptural steel to add a focal point. This is a great opportunity to give a flavour of the style that lies within the house. Often I see a home with a modern interior of lovely clean cut lines and the garden looking dated and out of character with the owner’s personalities.

There are lots of good ideas online to suit all budgets, such as Pinterest, that can inspire solutions to dress up an entrance. Winter is a more difficult time to use a garden to sell the potential the property has to offer if the structure of the garden is not already in place. Gardens with a high percentage of evergreens will retain more interest and colour than a beautiful perennial filled border. Having photographs of the garden on display showing it throughout the year would help potential buyers to imagine themselves sitting out in the summer.

          kirkfield back4           kirkfield back3

I sent a video clip of my garden on a lovely summers evening to the new owner as I was concerned that summer would be over before they took possession of the house and they would therefore have to wait 6 or 7 months to enjoy that experience. Thankfully September is expected to be warm so they may have a few days to relax in the back garden where there are a significant number of evergreens and good autumn colour to enjoy.

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Posted by on in Garden Design

Gardens creating a welcoming ‘feel good’ factor convey the impression that the property has been well cared for. A poorly designed or maintained garden can have a detrimental effect on prospective buyers’ offers. Simple changes or additions can change the whole mood of the space and prepare a garden for a properties sale.

I am in the process of preparing my house for sale and have been browsing the list of properties I may be interested in buying. I’m amazed by the lack of effort made to present the garden as an asset. In many cases, a great deal of effort is placed on tidying the home, placing flowers in rooms, using items to convey a lifestyle that can be enjoyed…..even fluffing up cushions in readiness for the photographs, but no thought is given to presenting the garden. And yet, this is our potential buyer’s first connection with the property when they come to view.


First impressions are so important and creating a welcoming feel to your home can set the tone before the viewer steps over the threshold. I saw a photo of a lovely house, immaculately presented inside and the exterior freshly painted but the block paving drive beside the house was dirty and covered in moss which completely detracted from the house.


It can be difficult to make the garden look impressive in the winter or early spring as there little foliage or flowers on display, but we can make it look cared for. Although many people are not interested in gardening, the effort is usually made to maintain what they have inherited, or make simple changes to suit their needs. It is worth making a list of the tasks that are carried out and their frequency and then analyse if changes can reduce maintenance time. I spend around 5 days per year on maintaining my front and back garden as I removed the grass from these spaces and this can be conveyed to potential buyers.

Check to see if you have any photographs of the garden in summer that could either be used for the brochure or shown at the viewing. Preparing a mood board that displays the garden throughout the year, perhaps showing children playing or an evening BBQ, would illustrate a lifestyle that can be enjoyed and conveys the mood of the space that may not be apparent when the house in viewed on a cold, windy day.



A general tidy up outside is as important as inside, so cut the grass if needed and a very important tip, edge it, as clean cut lines catch the eye. Fork over any bare soil and remove weeds. Clean paving and remove moss or algae. Seek advice, if you don’t have the knowledge, about pruning as this could have a detrimental effect on plants if carried out at the wrong time of year. At the moment, a house can be on the market for some time and the opportunity to enjoy flowering shrubs throughout the year, could be lost if pruned badly. I have been very selective with plants when carrying out a tidy up for clients in preparation for selling, as it’s important to make the garden look at its best for viewing. The approach can be different to a more general maintenance visit for the given season as the priority is the immediate appearance. Finally, clean structures, furniture and if weather permits, add a splash of colour with placement of flowering or colourful foliage plants in pots around the entrance or to frame a view into the garden.


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Posted by on in Garden Design

We visited a garden in Edinburgh recently where the client is renovating a house prior to putting it on the market. He wanted the garden tidied up in readiness for the sale. He has gardeners that cut the grass and generally keep it tidy, but wanted our expertise to prune, thin out and make the most of the potential of the borders. Ironically, this is a garden I visited 10yrs ago but the client didn’t go ahead with any improvements and had never done anything more to it in that time. It is a lovely garden but it lacks cohesion. The house is a fabulous arts and crafts design with strong design features and the garden never quite matched this.

We spent a day removing dead branches from Rhododendrons, reshaping and pruning shrubs and exposing shrubs that were hidden at the back of a deep border. The skip was filled with cuttings and the builder wasn’t too happy that we had ‘stolen’ the space but forgave us when I pointed out that we had decorated his skip! By the end of the day the garden looked much fresher but there wasn’t a significant visual change. The difference is that a new owner would have healthy plants, be able to see the gardens potential and enjoy walking around without plants hanging over the paths or blocking views. Dead or decaying branches were removed so the whole garden looked cared for.

I’m looking after a couple of new gardens that will hopefully lead to regular visits. I love to get involved in a new project whether it be design or maintenance based. The highlight for me is when my clients speak fondly of their garden when initially they were despondent. Gardens shouldn’t be a chore but it is important to be realistic about what time you can commit to its upkeep. Alterations may need to be made to adjust a layout or material change to create a space that is manageable for you. I anticipate that the couple who bought my house will make changes to suit their lifestyle. They liked the fact that there is no grass to cut despite having a 3yr old, but there are a significant number of plants to manage and I’ll be happy to advice wherever I can. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to having a break from having a garden until I feel like the challenge of embarking on improvements to a communal space.

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Posted by on in Design Classes

After many years teaching garden design courses in Edinburgh I have added two new short courses to the programme. A 2 day garden design course is aimed at those who wish to acquire skills to design their own garden, or who are considering a career in garden design and wish to take those first tentative steps. No particular previous knowledge or drawing skills are required, just come along and enjoy learning how to do it. This short course coves subjects such as assessing the requirements of your garden and deciding what you need it to achieve for you, both functionally and emotionally. Is it to be a relaxing retreat to escape the rigours of modern living or a lively playground of family activity? If it is to be both, then discover how to achieve the balance. There are practical design exercises for you to solve and a little project to complete between day 1 and 2.


For those wishing to follow on from the garden design course and study plants and planting design in more detail, a 2 day planting design course is offered at the same venue in Edinburgh. This short course is also structured for those who are interested only in planting design and therefore it doesn’t have to follow on from the garden design course. It would aid anyone wishing to redesign or create new borders and an overview of garden design principles is discussed to allow assessment of your own space.

The courses are run at the Edinburgh Conference Centre in the mature grounds of Heriot Watt University. It offers the opportunity to view Victorian and modern planting together in this extensive campus. It is an ideal location for access from the west of Scotland, Fife and the Lothians as it is situated on the outskirts of Edinburgh and close to motorway, bus and rail links. Best of all they offer a fabulous buffet lunch! So if you want to enjoy a relaxing 2 days in the company of like minded people, learning about the principles of garden design or planting design then please come and join us.

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Posted by on in Garden Design

Moving into your new home can create an extensive list of things to do and a garden usually features bottom of the list unless you are a keen gardener. However in my most recent project, my client had the foresight to consider the garden first before renovating her basement flat.


Restricted access to the garden was one of the main reasons for completing the garden first, as all materials had to be carried through the flat. Putting your own identity on your garden is very rewarding and this garden was taken to the limit, being cleared of everything except a lovely birch tree. There was an extensive dig out of soil around the existing protruding building, which involved the contractor bagging soil and rubble to carry through the property and upstairs to a skip. As you can imagine, this was a soul destroying task undertaken over a few weeks.

All the work is nearing completion including the planting, so finally my client can begin to enjoy using the space over the summer months. This has been an expensive and challenging project to create a space specifically designed for my client’s needs. There was to be no grass and maintenance kept to a minimum.


All gardens require a degree of upkeep and removing grass from the equation greatly reduces time spent on maintenance. Of course this is not always possible or indeed desired. Deep borders will eventually cut down maintenance time but until plants fill the border, weeding is inevitable. Lack of light to soil in large, mature borders prevent weed growth and work is only required along the front of the border.

The time required to maintain your new garden can be overlooked when considering a purchase. Ponds, herbaceous borders and grass create high maintenance as does narrow borders between paving and grass, as heat from the paving dries out the soil and grass cuttings germinate in the space. It’s worth asking the seller how much time they spend on the garden each week and then consider if you can commit the same time or what can be done to reduce maintenance. The other point to think about is the tasks that you find a chore as everyone has a preferred task. I dislike cutting grass and as I have a small garden, I decided to remove all the grass and now my maintenance is reduced to 5 days/year. The most daunting task for many is pruning shrubs or maintaining herbaceous borders, but you can always call on the experts to teach you how to look after your garden or employ us to take it in hand!

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Posted by on in Garden Design

When people are very busy in their lives, priorities have to be given to how their time is spent and when that also involves running a business, the garden can become bottom of the list.

I have had the pleasure of rejuvenating two gardens recently where my clients are extremely busy running and expanding new businesses. The first garden hadn’t been maintained in over a year and although I liked the bluebell/dandelion combination. It was perhaps not the first choice for the route to the front door. I suggested removing a conifer that didn’t fit in with the formal design and created a significant amount of shade to one room. It is still work in progress but a seat will be placed between the lovely window boxes that can now be seen and then some subtle finishes added to provide a personal touch that reflects the personality of the owner.

The next is a garden originally designed by one of my students and works well but is being over used by three young boys. After an initial tidy up, discussions centred round changing materials to accommodate activities and play equipment. Although I’m not a fan of artificial turf, it may be a short term solution to allow a trampoline to be moved onto it from a sunny corner, to provide the opportunity for seating for the family in daytime sun. It also reduces maintenance in the borders where cutting the existing grass creates an increased weeding task. I still have to consider the flexibility to return the garden to its original layout once the children have grown out their current pastimes. Growing out of playing on a trampoline could take them to adulthood though!

I get a great deal of pleasure from restoring a garden to the point where my clients feel confident enough to take on the maintenance again. Gardens can reach that point, sometimes quickly, where the tasks are too daunting and therefore they give up and don’t do anything. That, of course, creates gardens that fall into a state of neglect and need a kick start to bring them to life. This is the challenge that I love and sometimes it can take a full season of around ten visits to achieve and others take one or two visits. The greatest pleasure though is seeing my clients heading off into their garden full of enthusiasm to maintain their plot!

Diane Pyper Tel. 07703 175334

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Posted by on in Garden Design

Well, after an amazingly short period on the market my house is sold, thanks to Turpie & Co. and I’m busy tidying up the garden for the new owner to take control in May. With a little understanding of plants, the garden is fairly easy to maintain, 5 days per year isn’t too much of a chore!

There is no grass to cut and therefore no problem with it encroaching into the borders, therefore maintenance is greatly reduced.

So now I have to turn my attentions to living in a flat with a communal garden that no-one seems interested in…….until I start to work on it no doubt! 14 flats share a medium sized plot, so this is going to be a challenge to get so many to agree to any improvements. It was interesting that the estate agent didn’t take me to the garden but only made reference to it from the lounge window after I enquired. Garden maintenance comes at a price, although in this case none, but unless somebody, or everybody takes responsibility for the upkeep, there can be an expensive bill due for the inevitable tidy up once surrounding neighbours start to complain. I think there is at least one tree in the garden and that can be costly to maintain if any tree surgery is required. Boundary fences may require upgrading or repairing, shrubs pruned etc. so it’s always worthwhile checking to see if any short term expense is likely in any garden whether it be private or communal.

A neglected communal garden is a sign that neighbours can’t agree on who does, or pays for its upkeep and when the majority aren’t interested then you have to consider if it’s worth the effort to take on this task. I’m hoping that I get left to potter around and create simple spaces to sit and enjoy the sun. I don’t want to spend too much time or money so I’ll have to work with second hand, or simply constructed furniture and plants that are surplus to requirements in my clients’ gardens. In time, the garden will be an asset to me and also my neighbours and I can only hope that they will come and join in the fun.

When viewing a house, it is always a good idea to ask homeowners how much time they spend maintaining their garden to give an idea of the commitment you’ll have to make to its upkeep. All too often, I meet clients who want to reduce their maintenance time because they find themselves taking on too big a challenge. Gardens should be a pleasure not a chore and in many cases, simple changes that can be made to ease the burden and make your garden enjoyable.

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Posted by on in Garden Design


I seem to have switched roles last month from designer to gardener. We were preparing one garden for planting and had to remove some shrubs and trees as well as pruning shrubs and climbers. So often I despair when I see plants pruned badly, either to within an inch of their life or the classic ball shape created by trimming the outside of the plant. As well as being a skill, there is a design element to pruning and creating the right shape can be a rewarding asset to any garden. Once the client understood what we were trying to achieve and saw the difference we made to the space, he joined in the debate and suggested we remove a birch tree to extend the view into a woodland. As we had made some drastic decisions with other plants, we had decided to leave the birch as it was such a good specimen. However, he was correct as his approach was pragmatic and it opened up the view. For once the tables were turned as our client adopted objective thinking….lesson learned!


On another project I had £1000 budget for ground preparation and planting, once some conifers and planters were removed, so I reshaped the borders on the lawn and created new borders where the planters had been. Once planted there seemed to be little to show for my 3 day effort but I’m looking forward to the long term result for this sloping garden. The client now has a fresh start to maintaining the open space and appreciates the need for regular maintenance to achieve the best result for their investment.

Day of planting

Designer can have a role to play when considering maintenance of an existing mature garden and it is worth consulting with one that has gardening knowledge before embarking on a full scale clear out. In many cases a plant can be rejuvenated into a fine specimen that would otherwise be expensive to replace or take a number of years for a smaller substitute to mature. Also a designer will consider all aspects of the garden and in most cases cast a pragmatic eye over the overall solution. With the planters and conifers, I was originally asked to remove the conifers and repair the planters. This would have been very expensive so I suggested they were removed as they served little purpose and their budget spent on plants instead.

Diane Pyper Tel. 01506 414459
facebook – New Dimensions Garden Design
twitter - @DianePyper

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