The TV gardener talks to Hannah Stephenson about his own

mistakes over the years, and how others can avoid pitfalls in their


Diarmuid Gavin admits even he's made some faux pas in his time -

especially when he looks back at some of the dramatic changes he made to

people's plots in his early TV make-over shows.

"There were a couple of times when, with the exuberance of getting a

chance to create a garden and being given a budget, you put everything

in but the kitchen sink," recalls the Irish Garden designer and TV

presenter, 54. "Garden design and gardening is definitely a craft that

you learn as you go along."

So, what are the most common design mistakes people make?

"People are too fussy with line or shape, or it might be with using too

many materials. Simplicity is often lost," says Gavin. "People also tend

to use too many plants. Why plant three trees, when one will do? There

can be too much colour competing for attention."

Here, Gavin, who is judging the Young Landscapers Award at this year's

BBC Gardeners' World Live show, offers some top tips on the dos and

don'ts of garden design.

1. Don't leave plants in your car

"If you leave plants in the boot after a trip to the garden centre, you

may find them wilted and light-starved a few days later. This is also

true with packets of seeds. A huge percentage of those purchased remain

in foil-wrapped comfort and don't make it into the warming soil. So,

prepare the ground before you shop and when you get home from a trip to

the garden centre, don't just reminisce about the tea and apple pie you

had in the swish cafe - while your plants sweat in a sauna!"

2. Don't upset the neighbours

"Check if you need planning permission for projects. I once I created a

courtyard garden in Birmingham with an in-built lift. The terrace rose

at the flick of a switch to reveal a subterranean room for evening

entertainment. A neighbour complained, the council got involved, and the

sleek paving was no longer permitted to rise."

3. Don't go OTT on colour

"Be careful about the colours you choose when painting walls, fence

panels or sheds. Cobalt blue may look good in an exotic garden in

Marrakech but on the yard wall of a two-up-two-down with a distinct lack

of warming sunshine, it may feel a little forlorn. I'm responsible for

many awards of garish candy pink due to an obsession with the work of

Mexican architect, Luis Barragan."

4. Don't use too many different stones

"If you're planning on a hard landscaping project, keep in mind that

less can be more. There's so much choice of natural stone and paving

products available in DIY stores and patio centres that temptation can

lead you to purchase a few different styles of brick or slab. Combining

a number of different colours and finishes can be tricky. For greater

coherence with a design, stick to one product or theme."

5. Do find out your soil type

"The most important thing about gardening is understanding your soil and

putting plants where they are going to be happy. Most of us don't do

that. Digging and understanding what the soil needs to make it better is

vital. There's no point putting rodgersias or primulas in a dry part of

the garden."

6. Do pair up clashing colours

"I like clashing colours, and when we did that in my mechanical garden

(Chelsea, 2016), I tried to go against the norm, so I'd have pastel

pinks but then I'd also try a bomb of geums in tangerine, just to

explode it. Whatever statement you're making, make it! I don't believe

in the whole colour wheel thing or any of these rules. We'd all end up

with gardens looking exactly the same if we follow them."

7. Do make use of green

"If you are going for a bling garden in which you want every colour in

the sun, you want the Smarties pack, absolutely fantastic, but we

undervalue green. I find greenery really cooling and beautiful. Don't

underestimated the effects that you can get from the contrast of shades

and the shape of leaves, because that can be beautiful too. Then work

some colour in to highlight certain areas."

8. Do give yourself room on your patio

"Lay out a table and six chairs around it before you lay your patio, and

understand the amount of circulation you'll need. We are beginning to

live outdoors on patios and decks, whenever the weather's in our


9. Do try to hide paths

"You need good pathways, although I was always a devil for not putting

in pathways and making people walk across lawns, because pathways always

dominated my sight lines. I do have a path issue. In certain areas,

where they create very strong lines, I don't like them, so hide or

disguise them if you can."

10. Do plant next to the house

"Have a little bit of planting right next to the base of the house,

taking into account your drainage and that you don't want water seeping

into the brickwork. But planting close to the house will soften the

building. You can do it with contemporary architectural plants, using

topiary such as buxus in a modernist house. In a suburban house, you can

use something quite gentle, like billowing lavender, with climbers

shooting up in-between. They soften the landscape and the view looking

back to the house from the garden. If you can't plant next to the house,

use pots and containers and install an irrigation system."