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Fabulous flowers, luscious lawns, veggie plots and backyards.
What does your garden say about you?
If it's crying out for an overhaul,
or you simply need help to get started, then we're here to inspire you.
-We have got to get started.
-We're having a chat.
-Is that a good shot for you?
I'm Chris Beardshaw, passionate horticulturalist, landscape architect and mad, keen cyclist.
I propagated my first seeds when I was four
and haven't looked back since.
Is that broad appreciation?
And I'm Colin Donaldson, builder, landscape gardener
and mad, keen biker. For me, it's always been about the property
and the landscape working together.
If there's heavy machinery involved, then all the better!
Are you trying to get a tune out of that?!
We're on a mission to help six families transform their gardens,
so let's get up and grow.
David and Karen Fitzsimons, and son, Ben, live in busy Bangor.
When we first met the Fitzsimons,
they had a typical 1970s concrete flag front garden.
Which we really enjoyed destroying.
But in fairness,
we also enjoyed putting a new knot garden back,
that's much more in keeping with the arts and crafts style of the house.
It's also full of flowers.
Guys, something good has happened here.
Yes, it certainly has. And all come out in bloom.
It's really brought a bit of life back into the front.
Yes, I think that's the word, it's alive.
She's described it as genius, I think, by the way.
I described it as genius, or you said it was genius?
I very often refer to my own projects.
I wait for compliments and they very rarely arrive.
I think, also, it's worth just highlighting
the fact that this is a very polite response to
the challenges of the front garden. And that is, in a way, why it works.
But I think you can do something entirely different in the back.
You can do something which is dramatic, which is really bold,
so if this has got you looked, then I think we can really push the boat out.
The front garden is busy and noisy,
but the back has a totally different feel.
I think one of the interesting things about this space is
just how a secluded it feels.
And the difference between the front and the back, the back,
-it's just, it is quite nice here, I quite like it.
-It's tranquil, it's quiet.
-That was one of the things that lead us to buy it.
Talk to me about the orientation. Where does the sun rise?
-And where does the sun set?
-The sun rises in the morning, over here.
And then from about one in the afternoon,
this starts to heat up, the wall in front of us here.
The detail that you've gone into shows that you have
followed the sun around, used the space.
What about style?
What do you want this space to look like?
I think, clean, modern lines.
Really, that is the style of what we want.
Minimalistic, but with texture and interest.
What about flowers? Because all the plants that you have in here,
they're quite masculine plants.
-The beer garden, it's a beer garden.
-You're not hankering after your bachelor days, are you?
Just get the Tiki Ball out, and it would be perfect!
Clear all that away and what we're left with is the big, open space.
Clean sheet and start from scratch and work out the best design.
OK, that's great. I've said too much!
It may be a courtyard garden,
but there's plenty of horticultural clutter to clear.
That's not the most comfortable church pew, I don't think!
Just how many pots can one small family amass?
You're going to take somebody's eye out with that.
See, this is a nice garden. We should aim for something like this, don't you think?
-A couple of cowboys did that!
-You need a bit of paving in here, David.
-And then put those pots on top of it?
-Are you sure these have to go?
Oh, yes. David's courgettes, Carole's vines, it's all going.
-Now is not a good point to say you liked it where it was.
You should have done that first, maybe.
I'll carry your wedding train. Always the bridesmaid.
You said it, Chris!
You don't want to watch me do this. It might take some time.
That's it, David, show it who's the boss!
It's much easier to see what we have to play with now that it's all cleared. What are you thinking?
If we can encourage them to adopt that twist so that you're using that
diagonal across the courtyard, I think that could be quite exciting.
The design process here is quite straightforward.
It's about linking the view from the house with the garage wall.
Without making a lot of the garage wall.
And get the eye to turn the corner and maximise
the space. It's a very tight courtyard, just a few square metres.
So what did you get?
I'm getting sort of wild and contemporary and formal and stylish.
Any paving materials, any furniture,
has got to be very contemporary and very minimal.
That would be the way I would go, to just clean up the lines.
The plant is an explosion of everything on the perimeter.
So I've chucked a couple of spanners into the works just to see,
did they really want this simple, minimalist, structured look.
I think it's got to have a very exotic feel,
and almost, it's got to have too much foliage in it.
What we're ending up with is radically different
to what we were told was required.
-Yeah, big waxy, heavy leaves.
Yeah, I think we have to encourage them
to use it as a living space.
I think that is a good idea.
However, it's a slow process and you just bring people along with you.
Yes, that's nice.
And as part of taking them along with us,
a visit to the garden centre to spark some ideas, good and bad.
-Is this on the shopping list?
Is that the sort of water feature you were thinking about?
It's...it is a feature!
-Wow! Look at this! I feel as if it should rock.
-Yes, it's a bit like a boat.
I imagine this is what it's like if you were inside a Bushmills whisky barrel.
Do you like the enclosed foliage feel of a space like this?
-Are your eyes allowed to drift through?
-Yes. There's bound to be something here.
It's been interesting to discuss the back garden and our ideas,
because I think whilst we have a feel for the function
and what we would like it to do,
there is a huge amount we have to learn.
I have no concept of planting
and what would work and what wouldn't work.
-Blue pots, these are nice.
-I like the green.
-Now, this is the definition of twee.
-Look, Colin, a mini-me.
This is like stepping into Sweden in your back garden.
It's got a fondue set and everything.
Yes, but it's bigger than your courtyard.
Oh, that's really comfortable.
This is working. Carol and David seem clear on what
they like and what they don't like.
-It's a jungle, but there's space.
-And just immediately, you go...
-So, we wanted to see how you felt about that.
We had a great day at the Gardening Ireland show.
It was a good opportunity to look around and see.
It gave us lots of ideas.
Back in the garden, time to take out the old raised bed.
Is the term sledgehammer to crack a nut relevant here?
What are you doing to my garden? I like those flagstones. Can you put them back up?
I'll move back.
-Is this your favourite bit, Colin, the destruction?
-Yes, it is.
If Colin can knock it down, he will.
What have you got that's draining out of the kitchen?
-Washing machine and the sink.
-That is not the washing machine.
-That's the tumble dryer.
-No. It's the old oil line.
Yes, that's the old oil line. No dead body. Not yet.
You trying to tell us something, David?
Originally, the longest view in the courtyard was that.
-To that wall.
-Yeah, whereas now...
Now, the longest view is actually a diagonal, through there.
Which means that it makes sense to, instead of going with
the geometry, which is that way, to hit it on the angles.
It's interesting to look into a space
where, instead of hitting a dead end, especially a close dead end,
the eyes are encouraged to venture around.
You want to go from one space to the other.
What?! We were happy!
-We were having a chat!
-This is design talk.
Is there a skip to fill out there?
Give me 300 off the corner of that wall.
That's the 300 between the 200 and the 400.
Do you want help with this or not?
This is a sunny part of the garden. I think we need to sit here.
It immediately shapes the way that you use the garden, to go in diagonals.
-I just said that.
-I didn't hear him. Just thinking about other things.
You can say it much more concisely than I do, that's the thing.
Without waving his arms around as well.
There's a pencil scribble on a bit of paper on a scale plan.
That's transferred onto the ground with a spray line.
And that gives us an opportunity to literally walk the space
and see whether that paper copy when transferred to reality, actually works.
-So, if you can cite it through.
-Yeah, it's a lot of pressure.
-It looks good. I think. You look lovely, Colin.
-That's March, now give us April.
-Maybe take the T-shirt off.
My garden gnome.
A square, back to that one.
-What do you think, Carol?
-I think it looks very complicated.
Do you know what would be worth doing? Just to get David to bring two benches back out
-and put one in here and put another one over there.
Just practise lifting.
I like what you've done with the place.
-This is it.
-Pink wall, breeze blocks, old seats - it looks well.
Nice and safe, I was going to say I'll take the one on the side.
You can shout at one another across.
What will happen is, you'll step out and there will be virtually no step between
floor level in there and floor level here. All of this is on one level
and then you step down under the stones surface there.
Everything here's raised bed with planting away up here.
Everything behind what we plant is irrelevant.
And you're enclosed in planting. I'm standing in the middle of a planting bed. That comes to here.
This line is a raised bed running straight through.
Herbs planted in here. Planting all the way behind.
And all the way in here.
And to break up this, so it doesn't look like a big ballroom, an area of lawn.
Close mowed, bowling green, quality grass
that you can sit out on and Ben can play out on in the centre,
all flushed through with the paving.
It really extends it into another room of the house that you want to come out and walk and sit.
-I think that's the way you guys like to live.
Sit inside and see what do you think. See if the object of beauty is...
Such a beautiful object, that is!
-Just out of interest, which object of beauty are you looking at?
You'll cause offence to somebody.
That lovely chair in the middle!
It's really good. It just leads your eye straight out and across.
It really wants you to just go and have a peek and see what else is there. Wonderful.
-Can we build it?
-Yes. Work away.
Challenging as well to see what we can do with Colin and Chris
and the ideas they come up with and we can work together to do that.
We are definitely trying to open their minds up to other variations.
The other variation is the exact opposite of what they asked for.
I'm really looking forward to seeing it come together now.
Let's have a bit of a recap, Chris.
OK, we started by creating a simple, welcoming front garden
and then we moved to the back.
The space here allows us to play with angles design-wise
to draw the eye around and make the most of the total space.
It feels a lot bigger.
Even though it's actually a relatively small space, it's taken a lot to clear it.
Now it's clear, we've got a design structure.
Let's let the trusty Declan get on with building it
and see what Carol and David make of an off-the-wall suggestion for planting style.
OK, Chris, I've brought you to the tropical ravine
here in the Botanic, which may seem a bit extreme
considering we're talking about contemporary gardens in Bangor.
It's got everything that I believe they should see.
The ambience, first of all. It's so tranquil.
It's something that I think we need the guys to experience.
What do you make of being down here amongst the plants,
under the canopy with the light filtering through?
It's lovely, I think it feels very protective, very enclosed, but nicely so.
But this isn't what you started to describe
when we sat down and talked about what we might be able to achieve.
We've done a wee trick and brought you to the exact opposite of what
you're asking for, just to really give it to good rattle to see.
You described it being minimal, contemporary and chic.
I feel as though it's quite private and intimate,
yet you can still see the sky is still there.
So there is the light coming through.
That was an important point, you didn't want to loose the openness.
There's not a lot of colour of flowers here.
It's the abundance of green, that very verdant nature
that creates the sense of enclosure the sense of calm,
intimacy that you can reach out and you have to push the plants away.
That's part of the character and the personality
and I think if we can achieve some of that in your garden, then we're on the right route.
The purpose of taking them to the ravine was to just
blow all the cobwebs away and give them something.
"Wow! We didn't think of anything like this."
There's no reason you can't grow things like bananas in Bangor, you know?
Banana plants!? Give me a call.
I was surprised that they were so open to just how intense it was.
-Frankly, I couldn't live in a space like that.
-It was the middle of Belfast,
busy-ness going round it, yet it was tranquil, calm, and that was
to do with the planting, the colours,
the...space that was created there, with thinking, "This is just nice."
You can just go...
Much better to start off with a brilliant idea and make it workable,
rather than start with something half-baked and try to make it exciting. It doesn't work.
-Looks like that worked, Chris.
-So far, so good. Back in the garden,
Declan's started to put the walls up and the timber framework
to support the decking.
Back from the jungle wilderness. We've managed to change
any idea you had of a formal garden into a crazy, leafy environment.
But the boys have been busy here.
You get a sense now of what it will be like to come out on the same level. That's interesting.
You can see already that that'll be a natural lead in and out of the house.
And if you cast your mind forwards to when the planting comes in
and some high tree-planting, pleached trees, which come across
the top of the garage to break that severe skyline,
then you start to see the similarity between what you can achieve here
and what we've just seen. The other benefit in going to see it
is that Colin and I would have just said,
"It's big, it's green and it's leafy," a lot.
And you would have said, "Great!"
Do you think Declan's noticed I've stopped working?
No, he's in a trance. We need to get on. There's a surprising amount of work to do for such a small space.
This is me getting on with it.
I'll just get my surgeon's gloves on for hands that do dishes
or build decks or finish raised beds.
And another one of our new sayings. "Every home should have a Declan."
Are you trying to come off a board in the house? It's not.
It's got a line through. We'll have to do a slither cos that looks awful from inside.
That's fine. I'd rather see a slither there
because the main focus will be here and you won't be looking at that.
So we'll just slither that.
For everyone else's benefit, what is a slither?
I have no idea. I was just bluffing it.
I know. I thought it would take a while. It's all in the measurement.
If anything, that's going in a bit to your left. My left, sorry.
-Can you move your nose round that way a bit?
-There you go.
Where you have a space which has to be quite tactile,
which is warm to step out on,
especially if you're bare-foot in the summer,
then decking or its substitutes can work really well.
Decking is looking good, but we may have a wee problem.
-But what space do you leave in them?
-That's not far-out.
-Does that expand?
-It will in the heat.
Why can Chris not just design something that's straight?
You won't be whingeing when you see the finished result.
I know about the finished result, but we have to get there...
-I just thought you'd like the challenge.
-..sometime this year.
-'You tell him, Dec!'
-I think it looks too wide.
-That's not going to work.
-That's not going to work. That's way, way too wide.
That's... The stuff has come pre-set.
That's just a ridiculous expansion joint. You'll lose all sorts of things down there.
Including your high heels.
How would we do that?
-Have you got any high-heeled shoes in there?
Do you normally work in high-heeled shoes?
-Colin's looking for them. We'll have to do a bit of a test here.
-What are you trying to do?
-See if they'd fall through the hole.
-I'm more thinking what Ben would put through it.
Well, it's your call.
I think we scrap the deck today and do the paving because that will be a circus.
I tell you what. Can we get some biscuits?
-Wee wooden biscuits?
-Obviously a technical term.
Not a nice custard cream?
-We just need a three-mil expansion gap.
-Double them up.
-Beeswings folded in half.
How quickly can we make the biscuits?
Because we can counter-sink on the edge
and then biscuit all the way through and drill in at 45 degrees.
-About five minutes.
-Fine, let's do that, then.
I think it might just work.
Good thinking, Batman. Biscuits all round.
Can you tap that in? And then put that in.
-And those screws through the top?
-But that's a much better solution. We should patent that.
-One for Dragon's Den.
-Yeah. Do you think?
-What else were you going to put on Dragon's Den?
Will it be called a beeswing slither?
-Can you make me some slithers, then?
-'While Declan makes some slithers and biscuits...
-Sounds more like a cooking programme! But it's working.
'Though it's held us up significantly. We need to crack on
'and get the gravel into those beds for drainage.'
If we were to get this square... It's not getting done.
What are the jobs that need doing? I sense a bit of flapping going on.
-No. Let's see.
-We know who to blame.
-"Let's see", isn't a team attitude.
-I thought he was being a big girl's blouse
because of the amount of work until I came today.
'Big girl's blouse? Our Declan? Really?'
I believe because I want to believe. It doesn't matter whether it's true or not.
Girls, give me a shout if you need your brow mopped. There's a bit of sweat appearing.
If there's thinking to be done, it's over here.
-'You were the one with the pretty gloves on. Just get on with filling the beds.
'The raised beds are taking a lot of filling
'with tons and tons of topsoil over the gravel.'
Can you get me a Tesco bag or something? Just to throw that into.
Or any other bag, but like that.
-Other supermarkets are available.
-Other bags. That's right.
Come back half an hour later and it's foamed out
like an overblown washing machine.
I'm going to take a break and do some dressmaking with Carol.
Right. We're using your dressmaking skills.
This will stop any soil running in under the deck,
which will inevitably end up in the drains.
'The soil that's going in here will allow the turf to grow in the centre of the deck.'
We tried to get chintz, but the budget didn't stretch.
We did say contemporary. Wouldn't be chintzy.
-Doing a good job there, Colin.
-Thank you very little!
Time for another recap, Chris.
After clearing the site, we saw the design potential.
Then we took Carol and David to the ravine for planting inspiration.
Then I came up with that brilliant idea about slithers and biscuits for the composite decking.
Modest as ever. While I did some dressmaking,
filled beds, filled beds and filled beds.
Whinge, whinge, whinge.
Worth it, though. Look at it now. Beds all done and painted.
Deck finished. Lovely cobbled paving down.
David even painted the house
and walls to match my favourite touch, the outside sofas.
Nice to see it now it's all painted. It makes such a difference.
It brings the whole space together, having that unity of the paint.
It just means you get one image instead of lots of little fragments.
And the decking actually is working very well as well.
-It proves that we know what we're talking about.
-Have you done this before?
And then you've just got the planting to get in.
You remember back to the Botanics
and we were standing in that fernery?
That's the feel we're after. So we've got the structure
and the plants will now start to develop
that real kind of oasis feel about it.
By the end of today, once the life goes into it, the plants,
you'll notice a big big change.
Shall we get on with it? Or shall we stand staring at it?
-I've got nice pink gardening gloves for you.
-Great. I'll need them.
..are you going to bring me and where are we going to?
-School. First day.
You've got your school uniform on, that's right.
So, Chris, while Ben goes off for his first day at school
on a chilly day, you have us doing a fussy, fiddly job.
Bet we're still here when Ben gets back.
One of the great things about using
limes in this pleached way, this really hardcore trained way,
is that they're so well behaved, and they provide a green foil.
One down, nine to go.
-Daddy, are you nearly finished digging?
-It might be some time.
Do you want to come and help me?
-Mummy, that's a bit messy.
-It is a little bit messy.
So, still here when Ben's back. At least he's back for the dancing.
-See if you can catch Colin up.
-He's caught me!
-I got him!
-You know that humid tropical feel that you get in the Botanics?
-Just like today.
It's exactly like today. Which is why we've got the plants
which will create that same atmosphere. So, dense planting with a very eclectic mix.
There's plants here from all over the world. For instance, there's the Musa here,
which is one from the Japanese Highlands.
A banana. This goes up and up and up. Great big, long leaves.
-This is the Bangor banana plant?
-This is a wonderful little plant.
Right next to that is a plant from New Zealand.
This New Zealand flax, the Phormiums.
And then the date palm from the Canaries.
So all over the world these plants are coming.
But the basic principle is that they just spill over one another.
And when you sit on the bench here,
you feel as if they're wrapping you up and within a couple of seasons,
you will feel as though you're back in that Temperate House at the Botanics.
-When do we get our first banana fruit?
There's plenty to look at before you get the bananas. You can have the neighbours on
because just nip to the local supermarket
and wire a few bananas on and say, "Look, bananas!"
'Hmm. Bananas in Bangor? Has a nice ring to it, though.
'Is that a sceptic in the garden?
'Here's something that'll grow fine. A bit of turf.
'Wash down the new cobbles. Final touches to the planting.
'Not good for my fingernails.
'And then, finally, washing off the walls.'
Where we're sitting now used to just be concrete.
When we sat with Colin and Chris at the beginning,
we couldn't have imagined that this is what we would have ended up with,
but it very much fits all the needs that we talked about.
Dave and Carol have really embraced
what Chris and I have kind of chucked at them.
Initially, what they were asking for is not what they got.
But what they got I think is what they really wanted.
I think it will completely transform the way that they live
and the way that the family unite
because they'll be able to share all of that space together.
All the spaces are welcoming. They're exciting
and they're vibrant
because there's life now in the garden.
And you just want to be in them.
'This is the very satisfying bit.
'The garden's beautifully planted - it's lush, it's verdant -
'but the space is chic and contemporary.
And yet, at night time, when you've got the outside light on,
it just seems part of that cosiness.
Even in this weather, such colour and brightness at night.
-You want go out there even though it is raining.
-You do! Yeah.
That old, grey space outside has now become
a place to grow up in as a house and as a family. It's fantastic.
And when you go back to work, in one word,
how do you describe how you feel about the garden now?
-One word from me is hard. "Beyond wildest dreams".
Is that three words? That's a phrase. One phrase. Is that OK?
-We'll give you a phrase.
-Beyond wildest dreams. Never imagined.
-They're not bad at what they do.
-It turns out they know what they're talking about, yes.
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