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brand new empty garden - free garden design software anyone?

(22 Posts)
SarfEasticated Sat 30-Jul-11 16:10:39

We are moving to a house with a 45ft square garden with no plants in it whatsoever. <rubs hands together>.The owner had dogs so laid membrane over the lawn and put gravel down. He tells me there was a nice lawn there before, so am not worried about weeds.
We probably won't move in for a few months yet but I am dying to start designing the garden now <stamps foot>
BBC used to have a really nice garden design tool on their site but it doesn't work on a mac and they have stopped working on it anyway.
Do you know of anything I could use?

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 30-Jul-11 16:40:13

I looked for some software for ages and, unless you want to go for something uber-professional and ££££s, there really isn't anything about. Thinks... gap in market... Dragon's Den here I come! I ended up with good old graph paper, plant catalogues and pencils


SarfEasticated Sat 30-Jul-11 17:02:47

booo. Thanks though CES
I can draft something out fag packet stylee, but I don't have a very reliable sense of scale – pack far too much in and plants get swamped by each other.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 30-Jul-11 17:54:27

Hence the graph paper suggestion. If you scale it one little square 10cm or whatever, you can make circles the size your plants will get to and give them enough room on your plan. But I never get it right either...

KatyMac Sat 30-Jul-11 17:56:36

You can make excel into small squares then use the lines to make out areas

SarfEasticated Sat 30-Jul-11 18:07:12

But how do you know how wide your plants are going to grow to? I also likes the BBC tool 3D transformation when you clicked a button and your gorgeous garden was revealed. <sigh>

KatyMac Sat 30-Jul-11 19:40:20

The label on the plant says how high & wide it will be

EssieW Sat 30-Jul-11 19:45:13

Try Shoot - online and there is a design thing. Not free but £20 a year and you can have free trial. The software is basic but does the job.

SarfEasticated Sun 31-Jul-11 21:13:29

I have had a look at the software Essie, and it's a bit of a faff tbh <lazy> I have been looking at garden designers websites for some inspiration but they all seem to to for circular lawns and decking. I'm after more of a plant-led cottage garden design. The more plants the merrier, lots of insects, lots of birds. I guess I just need to be able to get an idea of how much the plants will all fill out, or which plants look best together. I was a keen gardener in my pre-mummy days, and started our current from scratch 8 year ago - It's lovely but far too crowded to be honest. I have missed Hampton Court flower show this year, but would like to get my gardening mojo back.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 01-Aug-11 10:07:30

My cottage garden planting scheme is mostly perennials. Delphiniums, lupins, japanese anemones and foxgloves at the back, drifts of other perennials along the border, Dahlias, Oriental Poppies & Paeonies for splashes of colour, self-seeding things like Aquilegia and Antirrhinums that should give it a random feel eventually, a few tall shrubs and fruit trees for a little structure and fill the gaps with colourful annuals like Cosmos and Cornflowers until the perennials flesh out.

If you want inspiration, now would be a good time to seek out some open gardens in your area.

SarfEasticated Mon 01-Aug-11 21:20:35

CES your garden sounds exactly what I'm after! I'm not sure what shaped lawn to go for or maybe not have a lawn at all - knot garden style - I'd love that! maybe the little box hedges would be too much work.
What shapes did you use for your garden's floorplan?

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 02-Aug-11 09:40:39

The garden is long rectangle about 30m x 15m and one 30m side is the classic 'full sun' south-facing border, backed by a fence which is where my cottage garden attempts happen. The rest I fondly refer to as 'mature woodland effect' (read 'big messy trees') There is a big lawn with an island feature tree/rose-bed/water garden and I've softened the bigger edges with some gentle curves. The front garden is much smaller and removing the embarassing patch of grass lawn from there was the best thing I ever did. If I was creating a smaller cottage garden I would probably try something informal with paving, using planting and containers to provide the interest and probably dwarf lavender rather than box hedges which do sound like a lot of work.

whatatip Fri 05-Aug-11 07:25:39

I have a smaller garden than cogito, but very similar plants and style. This year it has been beautiful in an informal chaotic way, lots of insects and bees, but mine sounds much smaller than hers. I am not sure, maybe 40 or a bit more feet long? I have paving stones running up the middle that widen to a curved-y diamond in the middle, go smaller to a bit more path then widen again at a bit of decking at the end, with climbers up the back. This makes it effectively 4 deep beds that are kind of curved triangles. The deep beds look good, but are difficult to manage as the stepping stones are obscured by the plants. I am very glad I don't have a lawn by the way, as it is enough to maintain the rest of it without having to do all the grass maintenance.

It will be expensive, so I would say that you should choose the shape, and get some backbone plants in there first in the form of the tall shrubs/fruit trees.

Geranium is completely doing it's own flowery thing in my garden, it softens all the edges, has self-seeded loads and seems to require nothing from me.

Good luck, it sounds very exciting. I think with such a blank canvas it must be so difficult to know where to start. I guess you have to play the long game and just take each year as it comes to see what plants do well in your garden.

SarfEasticated Fri 05-Aug-11 21:45:42

I wonder though, without a 'lawn' how my dd have a picnic with her dolls? I seriously considered a chamomile lawn for a few minutes then grin
I also like the idea of a wildflower meadow, but that may be a little adventurous for a small town garden too. Oh and I'd like a pond too.
I will probably just replicate what I have done in my garden now (and may take some plants with me too) just give them a bit more space and fill out with plants from seeds (annuals?). These are the plants I have now and love and would either take or buy again. Would you look at it for me and suggest similar alternatives?

May tree (never owned but meant to encourage insect/bird life)
Vic plum tree


large shrubs


flag irises

Japanese anemone

large scented ones!


whatatip Sun 07-Aug-11 07:29:50

Good god SarfEasticated! That's a lot! All absolutely gorgeous though.

Do you have much of spring/winter interest? So you could add some spring bulbs in there, or on the large shrub side my evergreen ceanothus is a wall of blue in springtime.
Also, I was thinking that although you hardly need encouraging to get anything else, but alliums are fab. I don't have any yet, but they are on my list for next year.
Ooh, yes, sweet peas too.

I see what you are saying re: the lawn. Mine don't sit down on the paving stones (although it isn't the sort of thing they would do), so if your little girl likes to do that it would be a shame not to have it. It's the maintenance of them that makes me so weary, because it is all I can do to get out and do anything in the beds let alone feeding/watering/mowing a lawn. I think if I had a partner who was into gardening it might be easier, but I don't.

Can I ask where you sow your seeds? Will you do it straight into the ground or do you have them in the house or a green house? (I may start a new thread on this.)

EssieW Sun 07-Aug-11 07:54:30

Primroses - good for spring flowers and a bit of evergreen colour.
Sweet peas - nice for picking
Calendula - bees etc seem to love ours
Narcissi for a bit if early interest

Sounds great though!

EssieW Sun 07-Aug-11 07:57:33

And also saw a great idea recently - sow wildflower seeds into a pot. Mini wildflower meadow. Our local garden centre is selling off seeds half price so am giving this a go next year.

Re lawn/patio - what about small decking area? Decking always seems a bit more comfy to play on

SarfEasticated Sun 07-Aug-11 08:20:16

I know whatatip and that's without the veg patch!

my DH isn't interested in gardening, but my parents are, and they come once a week to look after my daughter, so they can be relied on to mow the grass. I also think/hope that a cottage garden, full of native British plants should really be able to look after itself to some extent.

As for seeds, I remember Monty creating a whole garden out of seeds on one episode of Gardeners world, and he just sowed them straight into the ground, so I will just sprinkle mine on and hope for the best.

I think instead of the may tree (which will grow too big) I might go for a ceonothus.

EssieW I have never successfully managed to grow sweet peas. <ashamed>
small children manage it easily, but they never work for me.

HippyHippopotamus Sun 07-Aug-11 08:25:58

i'm just going to sit in the corner here and make notes

hope that's ok smile

SarfEasticated Sun 07-Aug-11 08:29:22

EssieW I have a bit of a fear of mice/rats and one Rentokill man told me that they love decking <shudder>

EssieW Sun 07-Aug-11 17:59:26

have to admit that I cheat a little with the sweet peas and get my mum to start them in the greenhouse for me...Also start in Feb so they have a head start. There are perennial sweet peas though that you buy as plants and then come up year after year. Not quite the same as they look a bit more wild and unruly but would fit well in a cottage garden.

We had decking in our last house and didn't seem to have a problem with mice but have heard of problems. Mind you, that was in London and there always seemed to be mice everywhere anyway so I wasn't that bothered.

SarfEasticated Sun 07-Aug-11 19:59:02

I'm in London too Essie and am happily deluded enough to believe that there are no mice near me.
Hello Hippo I didn't see you there. Yes feel free to take notes smile

Is there a plant version of Amazon where I can make a wishlist of plants for my loving family to buy me for my birthday? I used to use Crocus, but it is pretty pricey if I remember correctly.

I think I might like a lilac tree now...

You see this is why I need garden design software, I need to know how much stuff i can fit in!

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