Archives for August 2016

Garden fencing lowdown – Part 1

Garden fences – I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. I love them because you can quickly and easily screen off the garden and make it secure. I hate them because they invariably tend to be quite ugly and also unbelievably pricey. Also, if it’s your fence, you usually end up looking at the ugly side, and your neighbours get the nice looking side!


Putting up a good fence can cost thousands, and actually, so can putting up a ‘cheap’ one, fencing just isn’t cheap to do. This of course then reduces the amount you can spend on the rest of the garden. Fences are often an annoying but necessary expense.

Why is garden fencing so expensive?

Even though you can get fencing panels for under £20 each, which seems quite reasonable, it’s amazing how it all soon adds up. If you have a 6 foot high fence, then you will need posts that are eight-foot high. You will also need to have a decent amount of concrete to hold the posts in place.

Many years ago I was employed to run a landscaping company (a job I really didn’t enjoy). Part of my job was doing all the quotes. I had to know how long it took to dig a hole, concrete the posts and put up a fence and exactly how much sand and cement would be used for each and every post footing. You can probably now see why I hated the job so much, quotes are not fun.

I can still remember that we used to allow an hour for each fence post. Now that might sound a ridiculous amount of time, but you’d be amazed just how many soils, especially on new building sites, have more compacted rubble, than soil.

What is involved with putting up a fence properly?

Digging two foot down probably doesn’t sound like much, but it can be quite hard and therefore time-consuming. Sometimes we would even have to hire a breaker which is like a mini-road drill just to get down that far. A cubic metre of sand ballast (which is sand that has 20mm stone in it for added strength) would do approximately 20 posts with about 8 bags of cement.

So, with the cost of the panel, the sand, cement, and concrete or timber posts and the gravel boards, fixings plus the labour and of course let’s not forget the VAT, before you know it each panel is costing approximately £100 or more to put up. And of course a garden with 10 panels or more really does add up.

Even though I completely understand the costs involved, it still doesn’t mean to say I like them, and I suspect you don’t either. Though, if you compare it to the cost of putting a brick wall up, fences suddenly look a lot better value for money for a quick garden screening and security solution.

What is the best fence type to have?

The quick answer, is probably the best one you can afford. Yes, you can get cheaper panels but they never last long. The labour involved is more or less the same to put up a cheap panel as it is an expensive one.

Probably the best type of fence is the one that is made in situ as they tend to be stronger, i.e. it’s not panels as such, it’s a morticed post fence. This is the one that has a notch taken out of the posts and then three rails slot in, and then the feather edged boards are attached (a feather edge is a timber board that has one side thicker than the other so that you can overlap them more easily). From the neighbour’s side it just looks like a continuous stretch of fence.


If you’re wondering why on earth your neighbours always end up with the nice side, I think it comes down to security more than anything, as the crossbars can be used to very easily climb over the fence as you can see on the first part of the image above.

If you go for this type of fence though, it really does have to be built properly. The post must be put in deep enough or the first strong wind and the entire fence will blow down rather than just a panel coming loose.

What is the best type of fence post, concrete or wood?

Concrete-fence-postConcrete will definitely last longer, but is incredibly ugly, although that can be got around by painting it. Hardwood timber, like oak do last about 10 years in the ground, sometimes longer.

Softwood timber will need to be pressure treated and should last between 10 to 20 years. Do be aware that pressure treating does not go right the way through the timber. It only goes down to between one and 3 mm, if memory serves me correctly. So that means if you cut the post, you absolutely must put a preservative on the cut end, especially if that’s the end you’re concreting into the soil.

If the landscaper who is building the fence for you cuts any of the timber, you must make sure that they re-treat it, as it’s surprising the number that don’t know that the pressure treatment doesn’t go that deeply into the wood.

On a side note, NEVER burn the offcuts of pressure treated timber, as there can be all sorts of nasties in it like arsenic – though that might been banned by now, as it has been quite a few years since I last was involved with the more technical aspects of landscape construction.

In Part 2 of this garden fence lowdown we will look at more examples of different types of fencing.

BUT of course, a nice fence alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Award-Winning Rooftop Garden Design?

I’m excited to bring you another SGD student design – this time for a stunning rooftop garden for the English Garden Future Fund competition.

Gillian’s design has been shortlisted for a chance to study garden design at the world-famous Inchbald School of Design with course fees paid!

I’ll now pass you over to Gillian, a passionate gardener, to tell you about her design…Rooftop-garden

Garden Over the Thames

“I have enjoyed my cottage garden for a number of years but decided I wanted to take it to the next level – design. Google was my friend in searching for the right online course and I discovered Rachel at Successful Garden Designs. I watched her videos and purchased the wide and square garden design formula package, which I thoroughly enjoyed and learnt a lot. It’s all about lawn shape!

Applying for The English Garden Future Fund Competition was a way to experiment with what I had learnt from Rachel and guess what, I was lucky enough to become a finalist!

The brief was to design a low maintenance rooftop garden overlooking the Thames (UK) for a professional couple. My lovely husband even pegged out the dimensions on the back lawn so I could see how big the space was, which was very helpful.

The design

My design is a relaxing low maintenance contemporary rooftop garden which has an underlying New Zealand (NZ) theme with a boardwalk intertwining with the stony stream, koru design shape, NZ flax and wood. It has a sand dune feel with the curves, mounded gardens, driftwood colours and grasses inspired by the NZ beach.

I wanted all senses to be used, the plants create interest with colours, textures and movement, the river stone stream helps drainage and recycles its own water and is lovely to listen too. A slatted wooden curved structure runs from the ground to roof over a table area creating a sheltered “nest”.

Plants are under filled by pea gravel and LED lighting under the boardwalk allows the space to be used at night. The splash of sedum flowers are not only beautiful, they attract wildlife. The design took approximately 2 months to complete and I really enjoyed working on it. 

I guess my take home message would be, believe in yourself, follow your dreams because you just never know, they maybe come reality…..just like mine did.”

I think Gillian is being far too modest – ‘luck’ had nothing to do with it – she studied what to do and then took action, she made this happen…

WELL DONE Gillian for creating a superb design and getting this far in the competition!

Vote for Gillian now!

Please help Gillian achieve her dream and vote for her (or any of the other finalists!) – click on the link below to cast your vote!

Votes close on 19th August 2016, so please vote right now (Gillian’s is the 3rd garden in the list)! Thank you.

Need help with your garden design?

If you’ve got a Wide, Square or Awkward Shape Garden and you’d like to do the same course Gillian did, then check out:

Garden Transformation – GGF Design Student – Sam Cowen

I love it when our SDG design students come back and tell us how they’ve got on, this time in particular because I think we could all do with a bit of positivity with all the global events of the past few weeks…

Sam is in the UK and had no prior experience of gardens or designing before she embarked on our Great Garden Formula course…

I’ll leave it to Sam to tell you about her garden in her own words…


“I wanted to post about the transformation of my garden but first a huge thank you to Rachel for inspiring me and giving me the confidence and skills to do this. I’m so inspired, I’ve taken a huge step towards a new career and have signed up to a professional diploma course at the London College of Garden Design in the autumn, so watch this space!

About the garden: We moved two years ago and wanted to do something to brighten it up as it was pretty dull. I did the Great Garden Formula over the winter and drew up plans. My partner agreed to removing the hedge and replacing it with a fence. We thought that would be the easy part…

The fence guys had to come back and it took them 10 weeks to complete the job. Meanwhile spring was turning into summer and I was desperate to get planting! So unfortunately it’s not as full as it should be by now, and the lawn is still recovering from the works, but I’m delighted with the results and it’s only going to get better!


View of the whole plot from above, where you can see the impact of starting with the shape of the lawn. I love curves, my partner likes straight lines so we came to a compromise! Actually this straight edged oval is perfect as it means we can get wider side beds than we otherwise would if we used an oval, and more lawn space than if we used a circle. Meanwhile his favourite complaint is that he’s only been left with a lawn the size of a handkerchief to mow (he loves his mowing) – you can see here that’s just not true!”GardenAFTER2

A GREAT JOB SAM! Well done!

To add to the achievement, Sam has been accepted as a design student in the prestigious London College of Garden Design on the strength of her work, enabling her not to have to go through dreaded interview process! So congratulations on all fronts and we look forward to seeing lots more wonderful gardens from you.

If you’d like to take the same course Sam has which teaches design to a professional level, then do check out the Great Garden Formula 3.0 course



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