WIN: one of three £5,000 garden makeovers

Here's your chance to have your garden transformed free by experts
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Garden with pool and stepping stones
© Liz Eddison, The Garden Collection/
Designer: Reaseheath College, Tatton Park 2005
A contemplative pool with stepping stones and restful green foliage would make a great choice for an urban retreat, even where space is limited
Imagine having a custom-made garden, planned, built and planted to suit your every need and fancy.

Whether you yearn for an ultra-minimalist outdoor space or a flower-filled retreat, a sophisticated place to party or a hot tropical oasis, your hazy vision can become glorious, pin-sharp reality - thanks to our competition to win the garden of your dreams.

The competition

To celebrate a groundbreaking new book - The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design - Homes & Property has teamed up with publisher DK and the RHS so three lucky Londoners can have their gardens transformed by a duo of top garden designers, leading horticulturist Chris Collins and expert landscaper Sven Wombwell.

Each garden will have a budget of £5,000 and will be landscaped and planted by the expert pair in consultation with the owner, who will be able to leaf through the comprehensive encyclopedia for inspiration - and, inevitably, be spoiled for choice. For details on how to win the garden of your dreams, see the bottom of this page.

The results of the competition - the three new gardens that emerge - will be revealed in a show-and-tell in Homes & Property at the end of April. The gardens will also be part of an exciting new enterprise, the Great London Garden Trail.

Well-designed town garden
© Marianne Majerus/Designer: Alistair Howe Architects
The open space and minimal planting in this thoughtfully designed town garden offers flexibility to accommodate many different uses
Organised by DK, the RHS and the Society of Garden Designers, the trail, open to the public on 4 May, will feature 12 exceptional and rarely seen London gardens, and will include our winners. Homes & Property will give you details of the trail so you can follow the route and visit the gardens.

Tips from the experts

If you plan on tackling your plot yourself, take tips from the encyclopedia, which covers every step of the design process, from assessing your space to creating your chosen look with hard landscaping and appropriate planting.

Learn how to create a site plan, measure an irregular plot, draw to scale - though at first, you will need nothing more than a scrapbook, or storyboard, to build a visual reference of the kind of plants, landscapes, furniture and maybe art that appeal to you.

Deciding on what you want at the start, and keeping to that brief throughout, is paramount. The simple questions the professionals ask their clients are the same you need to ask yourself before you put pen to graph paper.

First, how do you propose to use your garden: as a space for entertaining, a haven for wildlife, a play area for the children, a tranquil place for relaxing? How do you want to feel in your garden? Do you want vibrant colour and striking features, or soft colours, flowing water and organic shapes?

Small garden in rectangular plot
© Marianne Majerus/Designer: Claire Mee
The arrangement of elements in this small garden breaks up a dull rectangular plot and creates many interesting shapes and spaces
But here is the crucial question: how much time are you prepared to devote to the garden on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? No point planning a herbaceous border to rival Sissinghurst’s if you can’t put in the spadework.

Lastly, what will your garden look like? Take inspiration from garden visits, shows and plant nurseries, as well as magazines, books, television programmes and websites.

The secret of success

The key to successful design, say the experts, is not to combine all of your ideas into one space but to review and edit them so you develop a coherent overall look for your garden, whether you are revamping a mature plot or starting with a blank canvas.

Have a clear image of what you hope to achieve and select elements, features, materials and plants that combine to produce a unified composition - perhaps, a clutter-free landscape and a limited plant palette, or a profusion of flowers bringing the countryside into the centre of town.

You might be moved to recreate, small-scale, the lavender fields of Provence, the clipped-box formality of Versailles or the lush, large-leaved foliage of the tropics. In the world of garden design, anything is possible. The one ingredient you need for sure success? Vision.

A city garden with a country feel
© Marianne Majerus Garden Images/Designer Piet Oudolf
A drift of loose, naturalistic planting gives an impression of being in the countryside

How to enter:

To enter, you will need to send in up to 150 words explaining why you think your garden should win a professional makeover, along with a photograph of your garden in its current state.

Visit for an application form and all the details. Closing date for entries is 4 March 2009. The usual terms and conditions apply.

Book offer:

The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design costs £25, but Homes & Property readers can buy the book for £18.99, including p&p, by calling 0870 070 7717, quoting the code HP/RHSGD, and allowing 28 days for delivery. The offer ends 30 April 2009.

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