Geoff Stonebanks has been opening his garden to the public for fifteen years, raising thousands of pounds for charity. Every January he starts to plan and prepare his garden at Driftwood by sea for the season ahead. Here he explains how he makes a difference in his garden.
Fifteen years is a long time to enjoy and feel enthusiastic about the task of getting it ready. Many visitors ask the question, “how do I renew and refresh my gardening enthusiasm to start a new gardening year?”
Once my garden closes in the late summer, I’m always thinking about what small changes can be made to help create a slightly different feel to the plot for visitors the following year. Sometimes it’s small, cosmetic changes and other times bigger projects, depending on how my imagination runs riot. The same rule of thumb would be true for me, whether I opened the garden to others or not because it’s important, in my book, to have the garden looking the best it can possibly be it for friends and family or paying visitors.
In 2021/2022 I completely redesigned the back garden, on the left side, with a new sunken garden to display succulents and it looked amazing all summer but still looks good through the winter, as I have left some agaves out to brighten the area up.
In readiness for the 2023 season, I’ve slightly changed the beach garden, as the old wooden boat had rotted away over 10 years. I was very fortunate to be offered a slightly larger, fibreglass, boat by some local visitors for free, as they no longer needed it and decided to take them up on their very kind offer. Many said don’t have fibreglass it won’t look as good, but I knew, once installed and dressed with plants and marine objects, it would look fine, and it does.
So, New Year, new beginnings, what’s in store at Driftwood? It’s always good to try and renew your gardening enthusiasm each year and mine generally comes from ideas conceived wandering around the garden the previous summer. Some ideas are major, others on much smaller scale are less costly.
Regular readers of my articles will know 2023 is a landmark year for me, I’ll be 70 in April and I’m sure many readers will be only too aware that it does get harder to garden the older you get. Over the last couple of years, I’ve consciously been trying to make it a little easier to get things done, to help compensate for a pair of dodgy knees. Especially trying to reduce the number of containers across the plot.
The big change for 2023 will be a revamp of the pond area, the only part of the garden I’ve never really changed since we have been here, other than by small cosmetic changes. I’m having the pond filled in and a new patio laid, bounded by a beautiful corten steel curved wall. Sitting on the new Indian sandstone patio, including a lovely stone circle too, will be a large corten steel water feature with fountain. You can see the two pieces sitting in the beach garden, awaiting installation. I’ll be introducing a new small set of steps up to the centre of the garden too and putting in two gabions filled with stones on either side.
Many wonder how to make a big difference in the garden for a small outlay. This has been something I’ve tried to do every one of the past 15 years. My garden has always been made up of many small components, be they sculptural pieces to be relocated around the plot creating a different feel or new ideas or themes to change a corner or vista across the garden. Here’s a 3 quick tips for your own plot.
- Create room dividers
I have a number of old rusty gates and screens which I take down each winter and store in the dry. Each spring they come out and I place them in different parts of the garden which instantly creates a different look.
- Move Sculpture around
Over the years I have collected many pieces of garden art, large and small. In my experience, once you place them in the garden you become accustomed to them and tend not to notice them. By placing them in new spots each year, you can refresh the plot and not lose sight of your great acquisitions. The vintage horse (see main image) and head are two of my many pieces.
- Recycle Furniture
In addition to conventional garden furniture upon which to sit, why not try using reclaimed pieces of furniture to enhance your plot at a fraction of a cost. I’ve been using the old dining room chair, painted the same colour as the shed, for several years now and it is flexible, can go anywhere in the garden and looks great either planted up with summer annuals or used as I have in a display of succulents. The old wooden stand close by, made by a friend, is another great example too.
So, let’s hope you’ve made some garden resolutions and check out other ideas on my website. www.driftwoodbysea.co.uk