With a good budget for the task, we thought when we first decided to have a garden make-over that it would be plain sailing. The garden that wraps around our bungalow, on a relatively modern housing estate, was last “done” after we had an extension 15 years ago. We say “done”, it was to a design that my husband and I drew on a flip chart with absolutely no knowledge of garden design, let alone accessible garden design, to meet his needs as someone who is severely visually impaired and me as a wheelchair user. Almost immediately this garden was completed in 2002 we were aware of its shortcomings and so were keen to avoid such mistakes this time around. Still with no specialist knowledge of accessible garden design ourselves, we were keen to employ someone who could meet our needs with options that we were not even aware of.
I put “garden design for wheelchair users” into our internet search engine and amongst the list I was offered I found Mark Lane Designs, the country’s only professional garden designer who is a wheelchair user. An email was quickly dispatched to him, followed by the photos of our garden as it was, as he requested. That was in December 2016. He said from the outset that he could not do anything quickly, given by then we had already spent two years messing about (each time our approach to a firm failed it took us time to re-group and try again) we were more than happy to wait if it would finally lead to a successful garden for us. On this basis Mark first came to meet us and our garden in January 2017. At that first meeting we were immediately confident that he was the person who could deliver what we wanted, he was the first person who “just got” what we were saying and opened up discussions of what was possible for us rather than leaving us feeling closed down as had happened with previous firms.
With just our memories and 800 photos and video clips to remind us of the 8 weeks, what we have now is a garden that far exceeds what we could have ever imagined. It really feels like we have moved house. As you approach, the bungalow is unrecognisable, the front garden is so different and the drive way is much wider. The back garden is equally unrecognisable. The heated Summer House has already meant that we have been able to spend time in the garden when it was too cold to be out. Due to the positioning of the Summer House, when in there we have views of two areas of the garden that we cannot see at all when in the bungalow. For this reason we have always viewed them as “dead” areas and never really bothered with them. Sat in the Summer House, particularly after dark when the lights amongst the planting come on, we can now see the fabulous woodland walk that Mark designed for the land behind the garage and the “secret garden” behind the extension which will be our shaded seating area in very hot weather. Other stand out bits are the fabulous water feature in the middle of the back garden (cat says “thank you” for his new outdoor water dish!)
Perhaps what is now most exciting is that this is only the beginning of our new garden. A bit like a new baby, we will see the now young planting grow and mature over what we hope will be the next 20 plus years, years when we may well be choosing to increasingly stay at home. We were clear from the start that what we wanted was a garden to sit in and enjoy and not one that relied on us doing a lot of actual gardening. Mark definitely delivered the garden of our dreams. I could write so much more!