My dream garden has, of course, a strong emphasis on edibles, from the conservatory packed with hot-climate fruits and exotic spices to the native greens I'd hope to encourage in wilder areas. It uses a few permaculture principles and would aim to support all kinds of wildlife. Social aspects are important too - I love being outside and I love entertaining, and am really into the idea of outdoor living areas - I want indoors to blend into outdoors via an outside kitchen, a seating area around a brazier for chilling out with friends (I'm seeing a big curved strawbale bench, decorated around and about with herbs and alpines), a vine-draped pergola over an outdoor dining table, Italian style, and maybe even a hammock in a shady spot for lazy summer afternoons. A natural swimming pool would be amaaazing, and shelter frogs, dragonflies and more in its borders.
Like WellyWoman, I love the idea of a walled garden, but out of sight is out of mind for me and I know it'd be far more sensible to have the veg garden as close to - and visible from - the kitchen door as possible. Maybe the house could form one wall, so I can have it both ways, but that puts paid to the sprawling countryside views I'd like to enjoy from my garden. Sometimes we have to compromise even in our dreams... I envisage neat square vegetable beds with immaculate paths between them - a far cry from my messy allotment! A permanent herb bed near the kitchen is a must, as is a decent-sized asparagus bed, a large polytunnel (don't mind if I can't see that from the kitchen window), and a soft fruit patch not too far away. I'd like some architectural features too - I'm not sure exactly what - to divide the space, to give height and structure, to lead to new areas. Maybe living willow structures, maybe tactically planted bamboo, maybe rocks or rockeries, maybe arbours and fences draped with climbing plants.
Beyond that, there are plenty more things on the wishlist. An area of forest garden, with nuts and tree-fruits above (a good Victoria plum tree is essential), wild and cultivated greens below, and mushrooms wherever I can get them to grow. Some free-range chickens and ducks scratching around for grubs and leaving fertiliser wherever they go. Space for a few pigs (which I'd move onto the veg patch in autumn to clear plant debris and manure the soil) and maybe some rabbits. A beehive or two in a far corner. A choice of nice places to sit. An open space; no neatly-trimmed lawn but a wilder meadow, and an area - perhaps with pond - left completely untouched for insects and animals to make their homes.
Picture by Graham Burnett, from Wikimedia Commons.
I'm not completely against ornamentals, but I can't bear the thought of a formal flower garden with its high-maintenance borders and constantly changing bedding plants. Bulbs and self-seeders are more my style, not together in beds, but grouped here and there wherever they look good. Common self-sowing companion plants such as marigolds and nasturtiums, borage and limnanthes can grow wherever they please as far as I'm concerned, as can natives like foxgloves, wild pansies, forget-me-nots and primroses, and flowering herbs such as thyme, marjoram, lavender and hyssop. Where I fancy a bit more colour I might choose a few tulips, daffodils or gladioli, or a butterfly-attracting shrub. I'd like to aim for colour all year round, and Mum's low-maintenance garden has taught me how great shrubs can be for this; bright yellow kerria in the spring, brilliant orange and red cotinus in the autumn, Japanese maples and golden brians, and the red winter berries of holly and cotoneaster. I saw a wintry picture once of flame-orange dogwoods underplanted with purple kale and snowdrops - a striking scene worth replicating. And I love the huge blooms of magnolia in early spring, and the different coloured cherry blossoms I see in others' gardens around here.
Incredible 'cotinus coggyria' leaves in Mum's garden.
There's one more special thing; the icing on the cake... I'd like a moonlight garden area, filled with white flowers and pale-leaved shrubs to pick up the light, as well as night-blooming flowers and those that give off their scent after dark. A moondial perhaps (does such a thing exist? It does in my dream) and a very gently trickling water feature, and of course a bench, to take in the peace and enjoy a hot summer night.
Too much? Well, it's fun to dream... What's your dream garden like?