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Diana Reynolds

Help I have a huge garden 3 hectares about 7 acres , we are trying to creat a garden on about a hectare and I need advice about what to put in that will give me structure to create a garden round. I have started a willow hedge and a  laurel hedge. We have two large beds into which I am putting all the shrubs I grow from cuttings as I see what likes my acid soil on a windswept site.  We are quite high 300 metres but we live in Brittany so are a bit further south than the UK  ..

Are there any books you could recomend , everthing I have concentrates on tiny gardens and how to make them seem bigger.  


Hi we use to have 3 acres and I found it quite daunting and expensive until I discovered plant auctions which we have in England.  Looking back in hindsight Design is the key I never really had one and I would certainly start from the drawing board if I ever did it again sorry this is not more informative

Gary Hobson

The best form of structure for large gardens is large trees. Obviously large trees take time to grow. Though these days it's possible to buy reasonably mature trees in containers, for a price. TV makeover shows often do that. Fruit trees - making an orchard - are a good way to add structure to a large garden.

The first step in designing a garden is to think about what style of garden you want. What is the most important thing you want from your garden - growing vegetables and self-sufficiency; or do you want a romantic-looking cottage garden; or something tidy and formal to impress other people; or a garden to attract wildlife; or a playground for children and pets, etc, etc. These types of garden will all have their own different requirements.

So if, for example, you wanted a wildlife garden, which offers possibly the widest range of design posibilities, then there are many books devoted to that subject. Or there are books about Romantic Garden design. I don't know that much about formal gardens, but visiting some National Trust properties should give you plenty of ideas.

You also need to bear in mind maintenance, and how much time you're prepared to spend working on it, year after year. Some types of garden are more labour intensive than others.


A pond for a start while youve the room to get about and then use the soil for landscaping round it

Diana Reynolds

Thank you for the ideas I will have to sit down with paper and pencil , any ideas for reading?


Gary Hobson

There are plenty of books about specific types of gardening. IMO, specialist books are more useful than books that might attempt to describe design in general terms.

My own interest is wildlife, for which the best book is How to Make a Wildlife Garden by Chris Baines. It explains all the principles - you need a (big) pond, a wood, plenty of woodland edge, thickets, and a meadow, etc, etc. This book:

And any of the books by Piet Oudolf; they're not exactly about wildlife, but they tell you about the relaxed natural style. It's not to everyone's taste, but is relevant if you have a big garden.

But if you're interested in veggies, or anything else, there are specialist books.

I'd also mention a TV program on BBC4 tonight, 9pm, about Hidcote. It's the story of a man who created a fairly amazing garden, from scratch, on a plot of several acres.

Monty Don's DVD set (and book) Around the World in 80 Gardens has loads of inspiration and big ideas in it.


Monty Don also has a book called Gardening at Longmeadow, which tells the story of how he created his garden, which might be helpful - it's being advertised by The Book People for £9.99 at the moment - - a reduction of £15.




Just a thought, but think about breaking the space up into smaller spaces or 'rooms' which can be divided by hedges, walls or fences.  This will make the job less daunting as you're dealing with smaller gardens, the boundaries will help protect your plants from the wind and you can change the feeling of each room.  Also, if you make a mistake in planting or design, it won't be on a huge, glaring scale.  Good luck, I'm envious of the space you have to play with

Gary Hobson
Botticelliwoman wrote (see)

... think about breaking the space up into smaller spaces or 'rooms' which can be divided by hedges, walls or fences...

Breaking a big garden into 'rooms' was the single innovation introduced on a large scale by Hidcote. I don't personally like Hidcote. It seems to me that Hidcote is really no more than a large number of little gardens, all different and with no consistent theme or idea.

But I do agree that some partitioning is useful in a large garden. You can partition off some private/secluded areas. A vegetable plot could be partitioned off, if one wants to grow vegetables (I don't ever recall seeing any vegetables at Hidcote).

Partitioning is also a good opportunity to introduce internal hedges, which are useful to wildlife.

When I moved in to our garden it was a mess, didn't know where to start.  I went to my local charity book shop and found several.  One which I keep going back is called The Garden Sourcebook by Caroline Boisset.


but Gary why do gardens have to have a consistent idea or theme?

Gary Hobson
Botticelliwoman wrote (see)

Gary why do gardens have to have a consistent idea or theme? 

Gardens don't have to have to have anything. Everyone has complete liberty to do  whatever they want in their garden.

But I do think that everyone has a dominant idea about what they want from their garden - whether it's wildlife, or romanticism, or practicality. That depends on the individual person. The dominant idea behind Hidcote - what drove it's creator - was the desire for social approval.

The type of gardens that impress me are typically those in Monty's 80 Gardens. Those gardens were all very different, but all of them had a unique individual theme. This is what I mean when I say that gardens 'ought' to have a theme. Most Chelsea show gardens are based around some theme or other. I think many of the Chelsea themes are contrived, and you wouldn't want to live with them.

In Monty's program, many of the gardens he featured, particularly from the East, were spiritual in conception. He only visited two gardens in England. One was Rousham, which is in the style known as Virgilian; that was a thoughtful theme.

Laura Corin

We have three acres but there was a bit to work with when we moved in.  There was some lawn and some borders near the house.  Then there was a small field with a neighbour's pony in it.  Beyond that, there was an L-shaped windbreak (not on the side of the prevailing wind!) made up of sycamore and larch.

We started by making a list of what was important to us.  I wanted a rabbit-proof area, so that turned into a fenced part encircling the house.  We wanted to make the field part of the garden, so it made sense to let the grass grow, encourage wild flowers and plant a small orchard.  Husband wanted autumn colour and winter stems, so acers, cornus and coppiced willows went on the list.  We wanted to encourage birds, so we cut down a proportion of the larches and sycamores to replant with native trees and shrubs.

So anyway: I'd start by thinking about what elements are important to you.  Make a list and then work out how they might fit together.  I made a rough plan of the basic garden shape, then photocopied it so that I could scribble on the copies in lots of different ways.

Gary Hobson

Laura's plan is an ideal, and very practical strategy. Personally I can't understand how anyone could buy a significant amount of land if they were not intending to make it into a wildlife friendly area.

A meadow works best if the grass can be cut or strimmed once a year and the dead grass removed.

All large gardens evolve, so you'll certainly make changes to your plan as the years pass. But you won't be able to move any grown trees. One decision you do have to make early is whether the major framework will be rectilinear, or winding. If you decide to plant an orchard (a really good idea), or hedges, will those be in straight lines, or not.

Laura Corin

Just another note.  Be very aware of how much land you are 'bringing into' the garden and the amount of work that this implies.  Large areas, even relatively unmanaged ones, involve a lot of work.  I have a friend who has a three acre very managed woodland-style garden.  She spends 40 hours a week tending it.

I don't have that kind of time to work in the garden (I have children and a job).  I have to restrain myself from cutting more beds that need weeding: it's great to think big, but big can mean lots of weeds.  Tasks I have to do every year that maybe wouldn't happen in smaller gardens:

Nettle control in the windbreak/woods; dock control in the orchard; hogweed control everywhere.

Once a year hiring a heavy-duty brush cutter to cut the orchard grass, then a week later raking it and putting it as mulch around the fruit trees and new trees in the woods.

Strimming between growing shrubs.

Keeping areas around hundreds of newly-planted trees grass/weed free so that they can flourish.

Dealing with large numbers of trees.  A lot of ours are mature and they do fall over/lose branches.  One time my husband had to cut a path out of the gate with a chainsaw so that I could get the children from school.

Trying to find time to mow a large area of lawn between weather and schedule.  If left too long/mowed too wet it can look dreadful (as at the moment).

Machinery to obtain/maintain: chainsaw, strimmer, ride-one mower (expensive to buy and incovenient to service), buy or hire chipper, hire or buy log splitter, hire brush cutter, hedge clippers?  The machinery has to be better quality/more robust than you would use in a small garden.  A cheap chainsaw will die in no time.  Ditto strimmer, etc.

Composting on a large scale.  At the beginning of the summer I make sure that I have three large cube compost bins empty because the grass clippings (plus scrunched newspaper/cardboard) from the lawn will fill them in no time.

A full weekend (at least) each year for the whole family of splitting wood for the woodstove.  This is on top of Husband's work with the chain saw to cut manageable lengths.

Tips to help deal with the garden.  Use mulch fabric as much as possible to reduce weeding.  Buy a chipper or hire one once a year so that any stray branches can be chipped to make mulch to cover the fabric.  Get a woodstove once you have trees big enough to burn - if you decide to plant enough trees that this will make sense.  

That being said: we love our garden and wouldn't swap it.  It's just turned out to be more work than we expected, and we've had to adjust our expectations about the amount of work and just how pristine it can be.



I think it sounds like my ideal situation , I love a challenge and at the moment am a gardener with big ideas but only a small(ish) garden.

I like the prarie garden or new perennial garden style which as Gary above says needs lots of space ( which you have ) to work effectively and may not be to your taste.

You say you site is windswept, why not take advantage of that with swaying perennials and grasses rather than fighting against the wind.

If you don't have many established plants at the moment ( you don't say what is in the garden at the moment ) the perennial garden would be ideal as it can be quick to establish using perennial seed mixes ( like have been used at the Olympic park) or by cuttings or division of exisiting plants.

If the soon to be garden is just down to grass before laying paths etc cut paths into the grass to determine where the paths are to go , if you decide you don't want a path in that place just let the grass grow taller again and cut a new path.

Two books i would reccomend are Designing with Plants by Piet Oudolf and The New Perennial Garden by Noel Kingsbury. 

Once the perennials are established they will reduce the weeding by forming a weed suppressing layer over the soil, and as for pruning what pruning just cut the whole thing down to the ground in late winter, you can even go as far as Kingsbury suggests and use a flame gun to kill off any weeds that have survived !

You could implement this idea while waiting for other plants and trees to establish or ff you decide that after a few years you don't like the garden you can rip out the perennials ( or sell or give them away) and start again.

Laura Corin

I love the idea of prairie gardens, but on a large scale one has to think about rabbits and possibly deer if (as I assume the questioner is) the garden is in the country.  It is certainly possible to securely rabbit-fence a hectare of ground, but fencing becomes pricy (and only works if the gates are kept shut - Laura glares at younger son).  I am working on prairie-style planting within my rabbit fence, but outside of it am concentrating on plants that are less likely to become rabbit food.

Hi Diane,

I too am in a similar situation to you. Where are you in Britanny? perhaps we could get together and swap ideas and cuttings if not too far away. We have had a few failures over the years however, we seem to be on track now, if only the blessed bunnies would leave us alone!

Gary Hobson
In Brittany wrote (see)

Diane..Where are you in Britanny? perhaps we could get together and swap ideas and cuttings if not too far away...

If you want to, you could easily send Diana a private message, and have a chat. You just hover over her avatar (the little picture icon), and then click message.


Friends of mine here in Belgium have created a garden from one sloping hectare of wild conifers, birches, brambles and bracken.  They saved one or two of the healthier trees and planted many new ones and then created a water feature with ponds on the different levels .

They did not create 'rooms' as they have a horror of hedge trimming so created island beds with spring, summer and winter themes plus a grasses bed, a roses bed, a rockery and then a pastel border and a hot border.   There's a potager with a greenhouse where many plants are raised from cuttings or seed.  Above the house where the slope is steepest they created terraces to have flat beds of plants that like good drainage.

There is colour all year from blooms, bark and foliage, quite a lot of perfume and the place is humming with insects and birds.

They are in the Open Gardens scheme here and also appear on Belgium's version of Gardeners' World so you shoud get some ideas.

Here are photos of their garden this April - 

and again in June -