The advantages of being ruthless in your garden

One of the principle things which prevents most people’s gardens from being a real pleasure to the eye is the tendency to treat plants like pets. People who would be quite happy to rip out old MDF wardrobes, or rid their houses of dust ridden bric a brac, do the reverse outside the house.

All plants are potentially disposable, and every plant in your garden should pull its weight. Think of them more as cut flowers rather than elderly and much loved, if now rather smelly dogs. It’s easy to buy plants as we buy cut flowers, responding to the freshness and beauty. Then we (hopefully) plant them, get used to them and stop noticing them – but unlike our faded cut flowers, we never throw them out. If you inherit someone else’s tired plants, shrubs or trees this is an even worse situation.

Be brave and go round your garden checking out every plant for its worth to you. Could you live without it? Would you even secretly be pleased to see the back of it? Does it give a long season of value or a quick flurry of interest followed by a rather painful decline? If you would be better off without it, dig it up and give it away. Or offer it to anyone you know who is opening their garden to the public and who sells plants on those occasions. Or even (heresy!) feed the compost heap with it.

If it’s a tree or shrub in a small garden that is not earning its keep there is a special reason to give them a severe grilling about their contribution to the gaiety of gardens. They will be taking up much space and light and they really must earn that, unless they have a tree preservation order giving them a free ride. They may be offering some privacy and thereby pulling their weight – but perhaps something else could play that role more elegantly?

If you can bring yourself to it there is nothing more exciting than an empty site. Do you dare have a mass clear out? It can be done – though you’d better move fast before there’s a law against it. Sometimes it takes that empty site for you to see the real possibilities for your garden – it is so easy to get caught in seeing what is as what has to be.

Afraid you wouldn’t know where to start with an empty plot? Well, that is what garden designers are for. But if you’d like to have a really active part in the creation of your new garden then ask a designer if they will consult with you for an afternoon to give you a starting off point.

There’s no reason that your garden shouldn’t give you a lift of pleasure every time you look at it. It just may take a little courage, ruthlessness and (sorry) cash to get you there.

Huge thanks to Anne Wareham, Editor of and Creator of the fabulous

© Anne Wareham 2010

Main Photo courtesy and ©Charles Hawes