London - Property websites are full of the most incredible homes. Yet even a house that manages to tick all the boxes can be spoilt by its garden. This is often because it is scruffy, boring or lacking structure, but an attractive plot can also let the side down if the style is out of kilter with the architecture.
Over the years I have seen plenty of houses that sit so awkwardly within their surroundings that I’ll never forget them. A new-build property with a classical, formal garden dotted with Italianate statues, and a seaside-inspired plot behind a chocolate-box cottage in the countryside were pretty bad. But arguably the worst of the lot was an Arts and Crafts house that overlooked a 1990s landscape.
The gorgeous late-19th Century house, with tall chimneys, a low pitched roof and exposed beams, was at odds with an expanse of decking, gravelled areas and Japanese planting scheme.
Whether you’re planning on updating an existing scheme or giving your garden a complete overhaul, it pays to think carefully about how the house and garden work together. Select plants, features or a design that suits the age, architecture or location of your home, and they will complement each other perfectly.
A period house in a rural location is the perfect candidate for a traditional cottage garden with neat lawns, twisting stone paths and beds packed with an exuberant mixture of bulbs, perennials, shrubs, roses and fruit trees. Plants are generally arranged close together and hit their peak in high summer.
The key to a cottage garden is to keep the layout simple. Avoid anything too fussy or complex, as the outline will soon be lost once plants establish. Use arches, arbours and pergolas to provide structure and focal points, and to support clematis, honeysuckle, wisteria and other flowering climbers.
New-build plots are ideal for turning into a stylish, contemporary garden with a geometric layout. Water features, neat lawns, raised beds and architectural specimens are important elements. Transform the space into the ultimate outdoor room by adding a patio, cooking area, lights and heating.
Of course, picking a garden style is down to personal taste, and some are adaptable, allowing them to work in many settings.
However, certain looks will never pass muster these days, wherever they are located. These include 1960s-inspired rose gardens and lawns dotted with island beds filled with conifers and heathers.
For an authentic look, use plants that were available when your house was built.
Flowering climbers, shrubs and bedding plants were all the rage in the 19th Century, while hybrid tea roses and perennials ruled the post-war period. Grasses and architectural plants have been in demand since the late 20th Century.
Mail on Sunday