How to Add Structure to Your Garden with GRDN Design

For this blog post, we’ve teamed up with landscaping experts GRDN. The outdoor design company have put together this handy guide which covers all things garden structure including function, aesthetics and recommendations for greenery.  Have a read of the blog post – it’s jam-packed with some great information about structuring your garden. Whilst you’re at it, you might also want to check out GRDN’s website to see what they’re all about. You can visit them by clicking here.

Leap into spring

Of course, we all know that in the month of March we might find ourselves venturing into the garden a bit more. Spring is approaching, the days are getting longer, plants are starting to wake up to the warmth and the lawn is screaming for its first cut. We can be forgiven for only focusing on the garden during the spring and summer months. This is when the weather presents us with opportunities to be outside! It is natural to think that spring and summer offer up the most in terms of outdoor interest, colour and structure. As designers at this time of year, we want to focus more on the garden structure. This can open up opportunities for your space all year round.

It is not entirely false that the majority of our gardens will look and feel complete in the spring and summer months due to the seasonality of the plants typically chosen. However, purposefully creating spaces with structure will enable the garden to have a year-round presence. Therefore, it is a key ingredient to any design! Without a level of structure in the garden, your space can lose its function, aesthetic qualities and important views. This means that the general practicalities of the space can sometimes be diluted in autumn and winter.

Garden structure

The structure of a garden goes far beyond the obvious hard landscape elements of walls, paving, steps, trellis and pergolas. A structure can actually be created, formed and established through various planting typologies. We should not be put off by the word structure or even intimidated by its meaning. It doesn’t always refer to something large, tall or complex. Rather, it refers to this idea of creating a backbone and a consistency within a garden, meaning it can be viewed and enjoyed throughout the year.

Below are three different layers of planting that could be considered to create structure within any garden: Trees, evergreen shrubs/topiary and groundcover. Essentially they are all very different, they are all on entirely different levels of intervention. However, at the same time, they all provide an all-important framework.


Of course, the term ‘tree’ covers a wide range of species. However, it is fairly safe to say that having a tree or multiple trees within a garden, automatically provides a level of structure. Whether there is a single-stem tree acting as a focal point, a small cluster of fruit trees, a row of trained pleached trees, or a show-stopping characterful multi-stem tree, they all do the job of providing structure. Trees provide height, screening/privacy, shade, seasonal interest through their flowers, fruit, and leaves, as well as scale the space. With a certain amount of design consideration, planting trees in any garden helps to form a top layer of intervention, which can assist in creating this structural backbone and permanent existence within the space.

GRDN favourites

  • Multi-stem (Amelanchier lamarckii)
  • Pleached tree (Carpinus betulus)
  • Single stem (Liquidambar styraciflua ‘Worplesdon’)

Evergreen shrubs and forms

The well-known evergreen species of Taxus baccata and Buxus sempervirens along with a wide range of other species can be clipped to create forms, which are physically present all year round, ensuring their colour, texture and shape are ever present in the garden. Careful planning and positioning of evergreen topiary pieces and shrubs will strengthen the garden’s appearance. They also act as a natural framework for groundcover and other seasonal species to work around.

GRDN favourites

  • Taxus baccata
  • Ilex crenata
  • Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’


Trees, hedges, topiary and shrubs are not alone in helping to establish a strong garden structure. Low level species are also important in any garden planting scheme. Evergreen species which will display foliage all year round, planted amongst trees, large shrubs, topiary and grasses ensures that there is a continuity and balance within the planting throughout the seasons.

GRDN favourites

  • Pachysandra terminalis
  • Tiarella cordifolia
  • Liriope muscari ‘Moneymaker’

Every garden can and should flourish, change and develop with the seasons. At the same time, gardens should have a well-balanced structure throughout the planting elements. As outlined above, structural planting can be formed using individual plants or a collection of species. As designers, our aim is to achieve a balanced garden, which provides a space that can be viewed and used and enjoyed all year. For more inspiration, visit GRDN’s  website to see their work!

Help to Buy: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

“Help to Buy” has been splashed across newspapers and discussed on TV more than ever recently. The government-funded housing scheme has risen dramatically in popularity and is not showing any signs of slowing down. In April, Help to Buy will be five years old and 2017 was apparently its most successful 12 months to date!

Today, we’re going to discuss what exactly Help to Buy means and how you might be able to benefit. Remember: it’s not just for first-time buyers!

So what exactly is the Help to Buy scheme? Well, it’s essentially a stepping stone provided by the government which can give you extra financial help in buying a home. There are many options within this scheme and which avenue you go down will depend on your personal circumstances. We will run you through the main few plans.

The different options available with Help to Buy

Help to Buy ISA

Firstly, a Help to Buy ISA has proved very popular over recent years. This kind of ISA is very similar to a typical ISA you may have put money into in the past, except its sole purpose is for saving cash to buy a property. You cannot use the money in your Help to Buy ISA for anything else! The benefit of this particular plan is that the government will “boost your savings” by a generous 25% on your completion date. It’s worth noting that you cannot use this bonus towards your deposit.

The catch is, you must have invested a minimum of £1,600 into your ISA before the government will give you a lump sum. This is because their minimum bonus is £400 (25% of £1,600). For example, if you have saved £3,000 and put this into a HTB ISA, you’ll get an extra £750 from the government to pay for your home.

You can calculate your potential government bonus on their Help to Buy ISA page using your total savings. To be eligible for a Help to Buy ISA you must:

  • Be over the age of 16
  • Have a valid NI number
  • Be a legal UK resident
  • Be a first-time buyer
  • Not have a separate active cash ISA within the same tax year

For the government bonus to be applicable, your new home must:

  • Be in the UK
  • Have a purchase price of up to £250,000 (or £450,000 in London)
  • Be the only home you are going to own
  • Exist as your sole residency
  • Be bought with a mortgage

You can also take on a Help to Buy ISA alongside the other schemes available from the government. Let’s discuss these further.

Help to Buy Scheme helps a young mother

Shared ownership

A Shared Ownership scheme is available under the government. This is particularly aimed at people who may not be able to afford a complete mortgage on a home, even with the Help to Buy ISA bonus included. Shared Ownership means you can buy a share of your home – between 25% and 75%. You’ll have to pay rent on the rest of the home and you can later buy bigger shares if you are able to. There are some factors required for you to be eligible for the scheme: your annual household income should be below £80,000 or £90,000 if you live in London. You should also fall into one of the following categories:

  • Be a first-time buyer
  • Used to be a homeowner but can no longer afford to buy a property
  • Or are already under the Shared Ownership scheme and looking to move

Equity loan

If you’re buying a newly built home, you can apply for an Equity Loan. In this case, the government will lend you up to 20% of your new property’s cost. This means that you will be required to pay a 5% deposit and apply for a 75% mortgage. And what’s more? An Equity Loan will not charge you fees for the first five years of owning the new home. So, for example, say you are looking to buy a £200,000 house. You’ll have to put down a 5% deposit of £10,000, acquire £150k (75%) through a mortgage and the government would lend you the remaining £40,000 (205).

You don’t have to be a first-time buyer to be eligible for the loan – your new home must not exceed a price of £600,000 and must be a new build. You also will not be allowed to sublet your new home or own any other property at the time of purchasing the new one.

Help to Buy helps an elderly couple

Help and advice from Martin Lewis

In particular, the country’s favourite finance expert Martin Lewis has taken to the TV (and Twitter) to give the nation some much-needed advice. According to Google, Martin Lewis is the most searched man in Britain and we can’t say we’re surprised. His information is concise, easy to understand and most of all, relatable. We recommend visiting Martin’s website for guides and advice on all topics from buying a new home to signing a mobile phone contract!

Towards the end of January, the money saving expert recorded an episode of his TV show dedicated to Help to Buy ISAs and LISAs. He also invited Twitter users to join in the conversation and ask any questions using the #MartinLewis hashtag.

This particular quote, on the two deposits needed for buying a house, is very useful: “The most important thing to say is that you usually use the SAME money for both deposits. Many were worried they’d have to find two different deposits”. Check out this tweet for the rest of the advice.


We think the most important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be a first-time buyer to qualify for the Help to Buy scheme. Yes, some of the plans are suitable for first-time buyers but there are plenty of options for existing homeowners. You can’t be eligible if you’re buying a second property (as in, you will own two houses simultaneously). However, the scheme generally is there to help anyone who is struggling to buy a house – whether it’s your first step on the property ladder or you’ve been in the game for years! There are also additional options for disabled and elderly people so make sure you check out the government website for more details.

We’re Going to the North West Build It Live Show!

If you’re in the self-building or renovating game, there’s every chance you’ve heard of Build It Live. If not, you’re in for a treat. Build It Live is an immersive exhibition that really allows enthusiasts and traders get hands-on with the self-build process. Every year, the event makes three stops around the country: Kent, Manchester and Bicester. The 2-day exhibition will be taking place at EventCity in Manchester across the 17th and 18th of February. Tickets are available here. We’re also offering free tickets to anyone who gets in touch with us!

This exciting live experience is brought to you by Built It Magazine which is Britain’s longest-running self-build publication. The magazine offers expert advice, planning tips and design inspiration to their readers. So, it’s no surprise that their dedicated exhibitions are a must-see opportunity for any aspiring self-builders or renovators! If you’re a fan of the magazine, you’re certain to enjoy the event as it “replicates Build It in 3D”.

It doesn’t matter the scale or the complexity of the project you have in mind, we’re pretty sure that you’ll be inspired by Build It Live. Over 16,000 people visit the show every year and many travel far and wide to attend. It’s definitely not one to miss and it’ll certainly help you take that next step in your project.

What’s on offer at Build It Live, then?

We’re glad you asked. You can expect hundreds of suppliers who will be available across the two days to answer your burning questions and discuss opportunities with you. Alongside this, there are 1000s of products ready for you to browse and explore. Like we said earlier, it doesn’t matter the scale of the project, you’re guaranteed to find something practical and useful to you here. You’ll also have the opportunity to view plots around the country and get finance-related advice from professionals. If that wasn’t enough, there will be talks from real self-builders who are bursting to share their experiences with you. It could really be the inspiration you need to get on track. There are also plenty of seminars and workshops on offer which leads us to our next point…

We’re going to be there! It’s official. CB Homes are going to be attending Build It Live in the North West this year.

What can you expect from us?

Generally, we’re here to answer any questions from any prospective self-builders and visitors to the exhibition. In particular, we’ll be offering free advice for those looking to start their self-building journey. We can also help with initial preliminary costings if you’re keen to get started. How about you bring your drawings along? We can take a look and answer any queries or concerns you may have as well as giving expert opinions. Whatever questions you’ve got, whether they’re about plots or materials, we’ll be happy to answer them. And finally, you’ll get the opportunity to book future appointments for land values and self-build costings so that we can get you on track to start this exciting journey.

Get your tickets booked

Need we say anymore? Whether you’re considering heading down the self-build route or you’re a development extraordinaire, it’s not an event you should consider missing. As we mentioned, tickets are available from the website and we’re even offering free ones to those who contact us. And if you’re not local to the North West but the exhibition is something you’re interested in, perhaps consider heading to the South East or Oxfordshire-based shows to get your fix.

As always, make sure you head over to Twitter and give us a follow or like our Facebook page to be kept up to date with the latest news.