Stump Grinding

I’m going to do a whole post about stump grinding and stump removal because it’s such an important part of how we treat a garden. That and the fact that I’ve spent the whole day doing just that so it’s really fresh in my mind.

We’ve seen some wonderful creations made from tree stumps – from the beautiful birds carved into tree trunks at Nymans Gardens in West Sussex, to a huge bear in a friend’s garden. It’s truly amazing what some people can do with what appears to be an unwieldy chain saw. How do they perform such intricate carving with such a large implement?

So that’s one option – turn your tree trunk into a work of art.

But that’s not for everyone because it can be difficult to find the right artist, expensive or simply overpowering for a small garden.

Another way of dealing with the leftovers of felled trees is to have the stump completely removed. This sounds ideal in theory but in practice can leave you with a very large hole – plus a lot of mess made by the machine that was needed to pull out the roots!  It’s simply not practical for every type of tree in a small garden.  It might work well for a small fruit tree, for example, but if you have a mighty oak removed (sadly) then you’re just not going to want the massive disruption it leaves behind. And that’s only if you can get the machinery into your garden!

So the best option is often to have the stump ground out.  You can either hire a stump grinding machine and do it yourself – which isn’t quite as easy as it sounds – or hire a professional.  I’d go for the latter any day because stump grinding is a horrible chore. The wood flies everywhere so you need protective clothing and frankly in my books it’s not worth the bother.

Hire the professionals and get a job done well in a fraction of the time. They’ll bring in the right sort of grinder to do the job in the space allocated and be out of your hair in no time.  Job done and the stump will be ground down to ground level or below so you can turf over it.

So that’s how we deal with all the stumps left when we’ve removed trees. It’s not the only way because you could turn large stumps into seats or plant holders, but it’s a neat way to remove obstacles to your overall plan if you’re unable to incorporate such a feature.

Happy grinding!

You can see more about how to plan your garden here

Caring for the Garden

When it comes to planting the garden, the first thing to do is make a plan!  I’m all for lists so I draw up a shortlist of suppliers and tradesmen who can make my life much easier.  We live near Birmingham now so our favourite tree specialist is Solihull Tree Surgeons and they always top the list because trees are such a major feature in any garden.

We start by assessing trees and hedges on the property because we like to retain these whenever possible. However, hedges have often been neglected and sometimes we need to replace with suitable fencing. Some of our properties have had quite large gardens with feature trees and we always try to plan around these and incorporate them into the landscape in a sympathetic way.

Once the boundaries are sorted and trees placed on the plan, hard landscaping is next.  It’s important to use pathways in a subtle way to bring interest to the garden and if possible reveal hidden areas as the walker wanders.

Next comes the planting of larger shrubs and bushes to build an infrastructure and give shape to the garden, then infilling with smaller plants.  Using this procedure we’ve been able to design any number of different gardens without resorting to expensive garden designers. I have nothing against them and they often produce stunning results, but our budget never stretches that far!

Once you have the outline of your plan, the next thing is to fill in the details. Decide what stone you want for the pathways and whether the patio is to be natural or an artificial surface or maybe wooden decking. There are a myriad of options and each one will produce an entirely different look to the garden.

So eventually it all comes together and you can instruct the companies you’ve chosen. I’d always go with recommendations for suppliers whenever possible – which is where Facebook can come in handy if you post in your local group and ask.

The real fun comes when you go to the garden centre to choose your plants and the colours you want. Using different shades will make a huge difference to the overall look so take that into account and decide beforehand whether you want a subtle look or something more bright and “in your face”.  If you’re doing up a property to sell, then I’d advise choosing something fairly mainstream and not too extreme because people can be funny when they buy a property and the look of the garden can have a big effect on their decision.

If you’re doing your own garden, of course, you can go for it! Choose what you like and feel you can live with. Go for bright and vibrant plants if that’s what you like or maybe something even more funky. The world’s your oyster so choose well and enjoy your garden.

Garden and Fencing

We like to start by looking at the outside of the property and working out what can be done, even before we begin planning what to do with the interior.

Fencing and borders are an important part of the plan. Take a look at this fencing supplies and installation website to see some great photos of the difference nice fencing can make to the look of your property. I particularly like the little square picture that features a shed and a panel fence with a trellis along the top. It makes the garden look so neat and characterful.

There are so many types of fences that it’s crucial to choose something that will fit in with the use of your house and the neighbourhood. You wouldn’t want a panel fence to keep sheep in your field, for example, nor stock fencing around your front garden.  So pick something that suits the purpose of your property and the look.

For a town, we particularly like closeboard fencing to give privacy and a very neat finish. If you want it to be long-lasting without any maintenance problems, consider concrete posts and gravel boards. They work out a little more expensive but they won’t rot like wood. For a cheaper alternative that looks similar, you can go for panel fencing, with either wooden or concrete posts and boards. Some of these fit simply by just slotting into the posts, meaning you can replace one panel if it gets damaged.

A town front garden can look neat and pretty with a simple picket fence, which can be natural stained wood or painted to match or contrast with the house. A small matching gate will add the finishing touch.

A rural property may suit a panel fence or perhaps go for post-and-rail, which gives a more open look whilst still keeping out many stray animals. However, if you want to keep deer either in or out of your garden, you may have to consider bespoke deer fencing, since they are very good a jumping and squeezing through small spaces. Although they can be very pretty to watch, deer are pretty destructive if you have flower gardens or young trees.

Once you’ve chosen your fences, your boundaries will be secure and you can concentrate on planning your garden. It’s a great idea to call in a professional landscape gardener, even if it’s only to do a plan for you. It can be very difficult to picture how a garden will turn out when you’re looking at a bare patch of stones and weeds!

But some people do have that vision and we’ve seen some beautiful designs done by first-time amateurs, so by all means have a go yourself.

Of course the majority of the planting will have to wait until any interior gutting has been done, otherwise you’ll have workmen trampling your new plants and dumping rubble and sanitaryware all over your grass.

But once you get to that stage, you’ll be amazed at how transformational it is to see all the finishing outdoor touches in place. Don’t forget to add a corner where you can sit and contemplate the world and perhaps a beautiful patio or decking to bring the house and garden together. These days your garden can be seen as a natural extension of the house and be used on a daily basis, perhaps even incorporating an outdoor kitchen in milder areas.

Remember that your garden is there to be enjoyed just as much as the interior of your property, so it deserves just as much care and planning.