Introducing an amazing couple – Rae & Geoff – who not only designed their own garden but built it too!

I’ll let them talk you through their garden project…


1) Why did we want to redo our garden?

Our existing garden was essentially a long path to the shed at the back of it: it was boring; long and narrow; quite hard and cold looking; and didn’t suit our lifestyle of having our friends around for a braai (South African version of a barbecue) where some people can hang out by the fire while others can sit and chat away from the smoke.

long-garden-design-plan2) What made us want to design it ourselves?

After receiving a few dud quotes where the work quoted was merely landscaping and not actually changing the shape of the garden, we starting wondering whether the design was something that we could do ourselves.
Geoff found Rachel’s website through a Google search and we watched all of her videos in one evening. What she said made so much sense to us, and she made it sound so easy(!) that we signed up for the course that night.

3) What made us want to do it all ourselves?

The expense! We initially planned to pay someone to do the hard labour but the cost of the labour alone was three times our entire budget. In hindsight, the landscaping was a much, much bigger project than we had anticipated but we do have a great sense of achievement in learning new skills, building new muscles!, and knowing that our blood, sweat and tears have gone into making a pretty space that we love being in.

4) Biggest lesson?

Whether it was due to our being novices or because we procrastinated over certain decisions, doing things took much longer than we thought it would. If you haven’t done a certain activity before – like building a small wall, I would suggest taking a very conservative estimate of the time that it will take to do it and then times that by three!
Also, having the right tools for a job makes things so much easier. We bought a few expensive items, e.g. a mitre saw, but they made things so much quicker and took out the frustration.

5) Hardest thing to do?

Building the deck. This was by far the longest and most complicated job. Each piece of decking board had to be individually measured, cut and angled.

6) Easiest thing to do?

The design!

7) What is the best thing about our new garden?

Being able to actually use our outside space and being able to share it with our family and friends.

8) What are our key takeaways?

– don’t underestimate the time that manual labour takes
– buy the right tools
– ask friends to help

GREAT JOB Rae & Geoff – thanks so much for sharing your garden with fellow SGD students and readers!

Learn how to design your garden

If you’d like to do a garden design course like Rae & Geoff check out the Fast-Track Garden Design Course



Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

    2 replies to "Long, Narrow & Odd Shape Garden – Rae & Geoff’s Design"

    • Yvette

      Absolutely great transformation of a difficult site! Enjoy many happy years eating wors and pap around your braai!


      All year around this garden and the design should look great – well done Rae and Geoff

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