Novice gardener vs a wild garden!

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Hi everyone, I have recently moved and find myself with a garden for the first time. When I moved in, the front garden was essentially a large patch of dirt with a scattering of established plants, but I was told by neighbours that it was planted with a wild meadow mix and it was going to grow back, and boy did it! For a brief period when everything grew and came into bloom, it was quite beautiful, but now its overgrown, dense, and dying off. It does not look good!

I have no idea what to do with it in its current state, but its looking a mess and starting to flatten either from its own weight, weather, or animals making paths through it. It seems to be killing off any of the established plants by choking them, and for the rest of the year when everything dies off it will go back to an unattractive dirt patch.

I really need some advice on how to deal with this type of garden to keep it looking good, but also how do I ensure I have a garden that has plants all year round when the wild flower mix self seeds and dominates everything.

Help! and thank you
 
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Well, (1) welcome to the forum and (2) welcome to the joys of home ownership.

Before really going down what you should do to your garden I can think of 2 questions you'll need to answer

1) Most importantly - what do you want from your garden? My idea of looking good, my neighbor's idea of looking good, and your idea of looking good are going to be different.

2) of lesser importance - start talking to your neighbors again. See if they can tell you what the garden looked like under the previous owner and maybe what the previous owner did to maintain it.
 
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Thanks for your reply, let's see if I can answer your questions.

A little background on the garden for you. Its approx 30 feet long and is triangular in shape, the widest part is approx 10-15 foot. It is also a raised mound with a low fence along the long edge and front. The house is white rendered with a cottage feel and a gravel drive.

So:
1) what do I want from the garden. I don't want a formal garden that takes lots of work to maintain as I don't have the time to dedicate to it at this point as the house is a renovation project in its own right! I like a bit more of the unstructured feel that gives lots of flowers for bees and wildlife but works throughout the year, rather than just 2 months. Ideally because of the low fence I would like to work some form of privacy into it, whether thats bushes or larger plants Im open. Ive attached some pictures, you can see one full of flowers, this was the sweet spot where it looked good but was more controlled, though weeds were coming in heavy so this is probably still too dense for other plants to grow and survive. There is one which shows a patch of dirt which is what I have until all these seeds grow, and one where its gone past it and is looking a mess in my eyes. I want to find a balance between keeping some of the meadow flowers, but for them not to be so dominating they kill off everything else. When it was a dirt patch I planted some agapanthus, theres a magnolia in there, some anemone mistrals which have vanished and some bulbs which haven't done anything.

2) Previously the garden was surrounded by large conifers so no one knows what was there prior to the wild garden which was planted approx 2 years ago. I think it was left to its own devices so minimal maintenance needed, apparently this is the first year its come in fully so it sounds like it was just getting established and with each year there's more self seeded growth.

I hope that helps? Steph
 

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Thank you for the photographs and the description. That helps a great deal.

That annual display of Field Poppies (Papaver rhoeos) and Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) is beautiful, but the show can be short-lived.
It sounds like you might want an informal garden dominated by perennials and shrubs. That is often the choice with the lowest maintenance requirements.

The first thing to do, is clear out the annual growth. That material is compostable, but there is the likelihood of seeds persisting, so you may wish to dispose of it with whoever handles you municipality's green waste.

Now you need to design a garden planting, and select the shrubs and perennials you want, and then have it all installed. This is the major undertaking. Determine what you are able to do on your own, and then hire professional help for the rest. At the very least, an initial consultation with a garden designer would be most beneficial.

One further thing I would advise: after planting mulch with an organic mulch, bark chips would be ideal. Unplanted areas such as paths can also be covered with several layers of cardboard under the mulch. I would not advise any plastic weed cloth, though others will swear by it. Please don't carpet your garden in plastic. Will some annual seedlings come up next year? Most likely, yes, but the number shouldn't be overwhelming if there is a thick layer of mulch. Weed them out before they go to seed and the number will be reduced each year.

Who knows? You might want to let a few of them bloom after all. They are beautiful and supply many ecological benefits, such as food for pollinators.
 
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Thanks for the advice. Would you recommend I start clearing out anything thats dying off now so it has less time to spread seeds but also to start thinning it?

I'll be doing all the work myself, hopefully i'll develop some green fingers! and happy to mulch with bark chips as I not only do I have bees but lots of frogs and toads, so if this can help suppress weeds and some of the growth naturally thats great.

What time of year is best to mulch and plant perennials? Im more than happy for some of the wild flowers to come back next year, they get a lot of positive comments from people and the mass of colour it produces is amazing, I just need it a little more controlled!
 
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Yes, removing the annuals now will decrease the seed load, though some may have already scattered.

Late summer is an excellent time to plant hardy perennials in your climate. They should be rooted in enough by Winter.

In the Fall, there are usually fallen leaves and such that can be spread as mulch or composted depending on the situation.
However, early Spring is the time to apply a layer of woodier mulch that should last through the warmer months to suppress weeds, enrich the soil, and conserve water. Of course, any new plant installation should be mulched at the time of planting.
 
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This is very helpful, thank you for all the advice. I've already set up my composting bin and have a number of trees for the leaves to spread around later in the year too.

Cheers
 

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