Garden makeover: a neglected backyard turned into a pretty cutting garden for a florist

Discover how this florist has transformed her uninspiring backyard into a modern country garden space that's filled with beautiful blooms

Woman sitting on a decked seating area with a dog
(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

The transformation of this outdoor space is so dramatic, that it’s hard to visualize what this garden looked like before florist Deborah Boston worked her design magic on the area. 

Before moving in, the couple’s Victorian home had been untouched for years, and needed lots of loving attention to turn it into a modern space, with a stunning flower garden fit for a professional florist.

Buying this three-bedroom property in 2013 was a huge lifestyle change for Deborah and her husband Jonathan. They swapped inner city living for a house further up the coast in a more suburban setting. 

‘After years of living in Brighton [on the south coast of the UK], we wanted a complete lifestyle change. We sold our one-bedroom flat and moved out of the city so we could afford a house with a generous garden,’ Deborah explains. 

‘We bought our new home from an elderly gentleman who had lived in the house his whole life, and the property hadn’t been touched since the 1980s. We had our work cut out.’ 

The couple's garden design ideas are an inspiring mix of sustainable, affordable and quirky but contemporary. Which could be described as a dream combination for many of us!

The original garden and how it looked before

shot of a garden before a makeover with damaged lawn

The building work from the couple's extension left the lawn in a sorry state

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

While they saved up for their new extension, the couple focused their attention on their unruly garden. Made up of a lawned area, there was also one border filled with sad-looking roses, a few fruit bushes and an overgrown privet hedge. 

They put up a garden room for florist Deborah (@honestwoman.co), which was the first stage of their garden makeover. But then in the spring of 2019, the couple forged ahead with their ambitious renovation project to makeover their kitchen space and the garden, transforming how they lived in their home forever. 

Builders ripped down a Victorian outside toilet and pulled down the scullery. ‘We were left with a gaping hole at the back of the house and the garden was turned into building site. The works were a messy business which made living in our home during the whole build a challenge,’ says Deborah. ‘At least I had my studio to escape to when I needed to work.’

The plan for the makeover

A small garden with lawn area and outdoor seating

'Within my own garden, it was important for me to grow flowers to use in my work, reducing my carbon footprint and to be more environmentally-friendly,' says Deborah

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

Though unkempt, the garden was in a better state than the rest of the house so the couple decided to keep what existing elements they could. 

Deborah wanted to use cheap garden ideas to transform the space into a modern, country garden where she could harvest flowers. ‘We kept what we could, including the cherry blossom tree in the middle of the lawn, and worked these existing features into the new design.’

It was essential to create a garden full of flowers and plants that Deborah could use in her floristry work. So the couple wanted to widen the garden borders and add flowers that would bloom all year long.

To save money, Deborah was eager to do the entire garden makeover herself. And being a creative person she was more than equal to the task.

Putting in the garden studio

A professional florist studio painted black at the bottom of a lawned garden

Deborah’s vision for her garden was to create a space where she could host friends and family. She also needed a space to hold her flower workshops, as well an area for her to work in

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future )

They started by tackling a large sycamore tree and the hedges, calling in the help of a tree surgeon to shape these areas. By far the toughest job was to remove a large mound of earth to make room for an outdoor garden office

‘I wanted a space to host flower workshops away from the rest of the house. We found this large studio from Skinner’s Sheds. We built the concrete foundations, and my dad did the electrics for us,’ she explains. ‘We painted the exterior of the studio black to match the rest of the house and widened the borders on both sides.’  

Working with the extension

A woman standing on a b;lack decking in front of a kitchen extension with bifold doors

Large folding doors slide open to allow a full view of the garden from the new kitchen renovation

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

The new extension was designed to flow seamlessly from the kitchen and onto a living area, opening out onto the garden. This turned their backyard into an outdoor living space where they could entertain and relax. 

‘One key part of our garden design was the large bi-fold style doors running along the back of the house. We wanted doors made from black metal to give the space an industrial look. We found a local window specialist who made the doors in modern-day materials to our exact specifications,’ she says.

Aesthetically, the exterior of the building project had to complement the Victorian building and the newly renovated garden.

Hard landscaping additions

woman standing in a garden makeover with a lawn and gravel path

Copy Deborah’s style by painting your fencing, exterior and decking in black paint. Choose all weather paint for a longer lasting look

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

A garden path down one side of the plot uses grey slate so it's in keeping with the period features of the house. Husband Jonathan installed modern decking ideas leading out from the studio and kitchen extension to create two relaxing areas which Deborah uses for her flower workshops that she hosts throughout the summer.  

At the bottom, she added an outdoor sink and potting bench. ‘We made that from the old garden gate, and I repurposed an old Polish washing tub found at an antiques fair. It’s now my outside preparation area,’ she says. ‘Where I can, I use reclaimed materials in my garden like vintage pot plants, buckets, urns and vases.’

Creating a floral feast

Kansa peonies and lupins growing in a flower bed

Kansa peonies and lupins are a really givers in the garden

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)

Taking inspiration from the Sussex Prairie Garden in the south of England, Deborah filled her garden with grasses to create an all-year-round display. ‘Over the years, I’ve been slowly adding different types of plants. In my first year, I learned how to grow hydrangeas and peonies, then every year since my borders have accumulated more color within them.' 

Last year, the couple increased the size of their flower bed ideas to create a cutting garden. ‘We dug into the lawned area, then mixed in a Sussex manure which is renowned among gardeners for encouraging fabulous flowers growth. Within the border, I added ornamental grasses for movement and structure.’

Clever cost-saving ideas

A vintage table and chairs used as a garden table with a bouquet of cut flowers

Deborah grows everything from seed and tubers to create new plants in her garden

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future )

Deborah's work bench is made from the old back door from the house. ‘I salvaged it and turned it into my table.’ Along the back are shelves full of vases. ‘I’ve been collecting for years, and I hire them out for events and weddings. The main point about my studio is it is a working space, it’s not tidy but it doesn’t matter as it is filled with beautiful things,' said Deborah.

The vintage table and chairs found on Facebook Market Place were painted black to match the garden fence ideas. ‘I love dressing the table for lunch. And when I host my workshops, we finish with drinks at the table. Everything in the garden has to be dual purpose and work hard to earn its place here.’

A garden for work and play

A florist holding cut flowers in her garden

Deborah collects the seeds from her flowers at harvest time to put into packets to save for next year

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future )

By landscaping with flowers and filling borders with plants of different heights, the space looks natural and lush, with the black fencing creating the perfect backdrop to the floral displays. ‘Every bit of the garden is working hard for me, providing homegrown materials for my work. I even use cuttings from the privet hedge in my arrangements.’ 

Over time, Deborah’s garden has evolved into a place that she works and relaxes in. ‘My garden is my therapy, where I can work, relax with friends, and entertain. Pottering around out here is my favorite pastime.’

a black decked seating area with weatherproof outdoor sofa and bifold doors into a modern kitchen extension

They painted the woodwork black to co-ordinate with the exterior wall color and sash windows above. They waterproof garden furniture is positioned in a sheltered, sunny spot

(Image credit: David Woolley / Future)
Maxine Brady