The Instant Gardener Series 1: Episode 3

The Instant Gardener Series 1 Episode 3

The Instant Gardener is Danny Clarke Garden Designer, who with the help of Helen Skelton and the Team, show us how to transform a problem garden, on a budget in just 1 day.

Today they are in  Basingstoke to help mother of 5, Tania Reid who wants a safe, accident proof, child friendly space for the whole family to relax in and enjoy.

Tania is a single mum with children ranging in age from 17 years old to 7 months who used to work as a carer but is now retraining to run her own care agency. So the busy mum has had little time for the garden.

Helen knocks at Tania front door and her, Tilly and Primrose show her the garden.

Tania Primrose and Helen Skelton

They like to have Barbeques in the garden and the children like playing on their swing, picking fruit and they all just enjoy being outside.


The Garden
It is cluttered with a mismatch of  furniture, toys and attempts to do something to improve the look of the garden.

There is a concrete path from the gate to the house which she has covered with some fake grass.

The decking is old and rotten and in the middle of the once lawn is some old carpet with a baby swing.

Garden before

The flower bed has some fruit trees and a grapevine!

There is a disco mirror ball and a bench that was once Tania's late grandfather so has sentimental value but it is in disrepair.

The garden was so full of clutter that a pre-makeover clearance has had to take place before Danny arrives to see the garden and design the garden.

Garden before

The weather forecast is not looking good for Danny and the team so they have put up some waterproof gazebos over the garden!

Danny hands Helen the shopping list and her, Tania, Tilly and Primrose disappear for the day leaving Danny and his team to transform the garden.


Danny's Design
Danny plans to move some soil over towards the house to raise the level which he is going to cover in some purple chippings.

An artificial grass lawn is in the middle of the garden.

Dannys plan

A fairy grotto is going to be in one corner complete with the refurbed bench with an arch over the top.

The mini orchard is looking good so will just get a tidy up.


A Work in Progress
Danny's team of AJ AKA Euan AJ Rose, the building expert and Horticulturist Lou AKA Louise Hampden arrive.

Tania brother Dean and her 17 year old Son Tom are also helping transform the garden.

Dean and Tom

The garden is completely dug over and levelled out.

The patio next to the house is going to be filled with Purple rubber chippings so Danny with his spray can and tape measure, marks out the area.

The rain has started and Danny digs a trench to add the edging for the patio.

Danny points out the damp proof line in the house and that soil should not be above this level as it causes damp within the property.

The chippings and artificial grass are both stuck in traffic so this is delaying the progress.


Danny and Lou

The ground is also full of stones or 'boney' as Danny calls it so another one of his tips. When digging with a fork keep it upright and twist it a bit to displace any stones that are in the way.

They can however get on with the planting and Danny has a good selection of plants including his favourite Foxgloves.

Foxglove Digitalis Purpurea 'Dalmatian Purple' is a good woodland plant that will tolerate shade and half sun.

The bell shaped flowers are great for pollinators.


contorted Hazel

Danny is using contorted Hazel, Corylus Avellana 'Contorta' to give the garden the fairy feel.

In the Spring the plant produces extra long Catkins which the children will find enchanting.

For ground cover he is planting Bugle Ajuga Reptans 'Catlin's Giant'.


AJ and Danny

AJ has been to the shops and got an arch to go over the seating area and for climbers and AJ gets to work putting some slabs down for the bench he has yet to fix.

The bench needs new struts and while he does that, Dean and Tom make the metal arch.

Once the slabs are concreted in Danny adds the arch and decides to add one of Tania's mirrors behind it.

To go over the arch he is using the Grapevine Vitis Vinifera that's not happy in the orchard  as well as a Clematis.

The lawn and rubber chippings finally arrive with less than 2 hours to go and are quickly put down.


rubber chippings

AJ tells Danny how much he likes the planting they have done in the garden, Danny is chuffed at this unexpected praise.

Unfortunately the lawn area is a sea of mud but they crack on laying the sand base for the artificial grass. They don't think this will help enough to be able to lay the fake grass today.

Helen returns with the plants and is shocked at the sorry state of the workers and mostly the garden!


Helen AJ and Danny

A big hug for them both as they have tried their very best and are very downhearted not to have completed on time.

Helen goes to break the news to Tania that the garden will not be finished and will be out of bounds.


Garden Visit and Shopping
Helen is taking Tania, her Mum Jan and the girls to a woodland garden at Furzey Gardens near Lyndhurst Hampshire.


Furzey Gardens

The garden is a magical place for both adults and children and Tilly wastes no time running around to explore the garden.

The gardens are built round a 16th Century thatched cottage it is made up of woodland planting and a maze of paths running through it.

It had some wonderful features including fairy doors, and wonderful magical touches.


Head Gardener Peter

They meet with Head Gardener Peter and tells them about the planting in the garden and how having things at different levels makes it more interesting to look at.

Underplanting is a good thing to do in a small garden as it fills every possible space.

They try to make the garden inviting for children to explore and learn about nature and the garden has Fairies living in it but Peter has never seen them!


fairy door

They work hard to give the garden an informal look, Tania likes it as its not straight and boring.

They let the wildflowers and flowers self seed and spread.

Ideas to try out at home include building visual barriers to add mystery using hedges and shrubs. 


Furzey Gardens

Twisting paths make a journey through the garden. 
Miniature features like fairy gardens and doors, Bonsai or alpines.

Furzey Gardens has its own garden shop with plenty of plants for them to look at with the help of Tim the Gardener.

They are after some plants that are suitable for underplanting.

Luckily Helen has Danny list of Woodland plants, Bell-shaped Flowers and good advice!


Danny list

Tim suggests Veronica Veronica Gentianoides, Columbine Aquilegia and Siberian Bugloss Brunnera Macrophylla 'Silver Heart'.

Tania wants a whole range of colours and these plants will spread to form a mat of plants.


Helen Tania and Tim

These will survive children and will tolerate shade.

An Azalea does require Ericaceous compost so will need to be grown in a container if the soil is not suitable.


Hardy Geranium

Hardy Geranium Geranium Macrorrhizum 'Ingwersen' are tough and will self seed and spread.

For fairy magic Tim recommends a fairy door for the garden and they have added a Primrose Place plaque to  make it an extra special surprise.


What the Garden Means to Them
Tania and Helen find some shelter for a chat about why the family garden is so important.

Tania says having 5 children on your own with such a big age gap is hard work and she is tired all the time.


Tania and Helen

But she loves it and has no time for herself as her life is her children.

The garden is for all of them to be together but also to spend some time alone in the evening.

Tania is undertaking training to be an independent carer and is studying Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dementia Befriending and Counselling.

Tilly is always falling over so the garden has to be child safe.


The Garden is Finally Completed
A few days later Danny and AJ return and the garden has dried off and the artificial grass can finally be laid.

But Danny is not happy with the metal edge to the rubber barked patio area and now want it to be wood!

Also as the garden is South facing he feels it needs some shade and needs a Ships Sail.

So its not nearly finished as poor AJ thought.

Decking boards quickly replace the metal edging.

They get to work to put in 3 posts for the sail which are cemented in and the sail clipped on.


artificial grass

They rake the lawn over to make it level, and then use a whacker plate to compact the sand.

Finally the lawn is rolled out and secured with metal pins.

The final touch, the Fairy Door is put under a tree in the orchard border.


The Grand Reveal
Tania, Tilly and Primrose open your eyes.


Garden after reveal

'WOW' 'it's lovely' 'it's lovely thank you' 'it is going to be so safe' 'awesome' 'I love the sail shade its awesome' 'excellent' 'the chair looks good'.

They all thank Danny although Tilly a little shy but the children are soon playing in the garden.


Garden after reveal

The garden is now child friendly with Artificial Grass, Rubber bark chippings and shade from the sun.


Garden after reveal

A seating area complete with Tania Grandads bench, an archway of climbers, mirror and even a disco ball.


Garden after reveal

A border of colourful and tough woodland plants.


Fairy Door

Not forgetting the secret Fairy Door.


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