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Gardens on a tight budget

Garden designers show how to make a garden on a restricted budget at the 2012 RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Our first home, our first garden

Four garden designers are showing just how much you can do on a limited budget by creating gardens combining practicality and inspiration for the new 'Low Cost, High Impact' category at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.

On the tightest budget, with just £7,000 to spend, Nilufer Danis of Landform Consultants has created a garden in a new home for a young professional couple with little spare cash.

Ideas for gardening on a budget

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Reclaimed materials

Money-saving ideas in 'Our First Home, Our First Garden' include using reclaimed scaffold boards throughout the garden to make seating, boardwalks and decking, and paring down expensive trees and shrubs to a minimum in favour of cheaper herbaceous perennials.

The modern colour theme of sulphur yellow and deep blue, created with easy-maintenance perennials such as Achillea 'Moonshine' and Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', surrounds a space designed for entertaining. An open-fire chiminea keeps partygoers warm even after the sun goes down, and a semi-sunken area doubles as seating. Fragrant thyme softens the contours, and a boardwalk seems to float through the planting.

Neatly shaped and compact shrubs such as Pittosporum tobira 'Nana' and bamboo-like Nandina domestica keep the garden interesting all year round, and there's seclusion and privacy from the protective branches of Amelanchier canadensis (juneberry) and Malus toringo, a flowering crabapple with unusual oak-like leaves.

Nilufer, designing her first show garden at Hampton Court, says she wants it to inspire a love of gardening.

'It's been a challenge given the size of the garden and what you've got to pack in,' she said. 'It's easy to do things creatively when you can throw money at it, but it's been really interesting to push myself and create a contemporary feel with what are effectively throwaway materials.'

Tradition meets contemporary

Compromising situation

With a more generous budget, at £10,000, designer Richard Wanless combines two very different approaches within his design entitled 'A Compromising Situation', designed for a young couple living in a Victorian terraced house who each want seemingly contradictory things from their garden. He wants a lawn and enjoys ferns, while she prefers modern, natural planting.

The result is a smooth transition from one style into the other. The garden moves from paved seating alongside a shared garden access where the owners can sit and chat with neighbours, towards a more secluded pergola. More traditional Victorian-style planting near the house includes an elegant fernery and neatly-clipped lawn, but the cobbled path leads up a gently-terraced slope toward more relaxed, modern planting including South African restios among natural-looking mixes of grasses and perennials, and wildflowers to attract butterflies and bees.

The higher-budget gardens, with a price tag of £13,000, are two very different outside spaces.

Water-wise design

Summer in the garden'Summer in the Garden', designed by previous RHS gold medal winner Mike Harvey for Arun Landscapes, is for the water-conscious gardener. Drought-tolerant Mediterranean-style planting requires no watering, and there is no thirsty lawn to look after: a crushed gravel mulch prevents water loss through evaporation.

An informal path of reclaimed York stone studded with creeping thyme weaves through highly scented planting, with silvery hummocks of lavender and Santolina chamaecyparissus, punctuated by bright orange geums and red poppies. A seating area with a built-in stone fireplace for evening entertaining is sheltered by two beams of reclaimed oak: across the table, made of recycled pallets, runs a river of one of the most drought-tolerant plants of all, Sempervivum tectorum (house leeks). They're also featured in a vertical planting within a frame, hung on the wall like an outdoor picture.

Al-fresco dining

Live outdoorsAlso at £13,000 is 'Live Outdoors', designed by Roger Smith, an urban outdoor kitchen with open-air cooking at its heart.

Leading up to the raised deck seating area, a lush green carpet of ferns, hostas and Luzula sylvatica (wood rush) weaves around the feet of an avenue of Dicksonia antarctica (Tasmanian tree ferns) whose ferny crowns serve to shield this city garden from the tall buildings overlooking it.

The kitchen area at the centre of the garden is just as lushly planted, with the walls softened by vertical planting pockets full of golden Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' and purple heucheras. In an original twist, the pergola, too, is dripping with plants: the bearers have been turned into planting channels, with ferns, trailing Vinca minor (lesser periwinkle) and geraniums creating a luxurious, intimate bower for an al fresco evening meal.