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  • Writer's pictureGabriella Walker

Our Garden Makeover with Holt Garden Centre

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

It's nearly 12 months since we bought on our house in Norfolk. When we were first looking to move to Norfolk back in Summer 2021, the property market was crazy. We'd see something newly listed on Rightmove on a Tuesday, book a viewing for the Saturday and then arrange hotels and plan our weekend. More often than not though, by the Thursday, we'd get a call from the Estate Agents to say the owners had accepted an offer and the house had sold. It was a heartbreaking cycle. It felt like we'd just never be able to make it work. So in very "us" fashion, we decided to find another way. We rented a house literally anywhere we could find close enough to the North Norfolk Coast with a short term lease and threw ourselves into exploring Norfolk, working out exactly where we wanted to be...ready and primed for whenever that perfect house made it's way onto the property market.

The reality was, that 'perfect house' never did come onto the market. Of course it didn't; there were hundreds of people looking to escape the city for a coastal dream, just like we were, and they probably had much better connections than we did and I'll be honest, probably lots more cash.

But then with 2 months to go on our short term rental lease, I spotted something on Rightmove that caught my eye. It wasn't like anything we'd been considering. In fact it was the total opposite of everything we'd been considering, but it had potential. HUGE potential.

I remember like it was yesterday standing in the garden of the house on our viewing. I remember my heart beating fast in my chest as I tried to play it cool with the Estate Agent; knowing how much I wanted that house but not wanting to let on. I remember looking up at my husband, Matt, and catching his eye. I knew immediately from that one glance that he felt it too. We'd found the one.

We were due to be back in London for a friends birthday that afternoon. The 2.5 hour journey flew by as we excitedly chatted about everything we could do it. All the ways we could renovate it (it was a fixer-upper. A liveable one but definitely a renovation project). There was one thing that we kept circling back to though....the garden. The beautiful huge garden (well huge to us, we had a postage stamp of a garden at our house in London). We couldn't wait to make it our own. To make a feature of the incredible sea views, find a way to blend the house into its surroundings and create more space inside but also bring the outside in too. The options of what we could do were endless and we just knew we had to make it ours.

As soon as we parked the car up by the house in Richmond, I got on the phone to the Estate Agent. I have no idea how we even managed to hold off for over 2 hours to make that call if I'm honest, but we made our best offer. 10 minutes later my phone rang. I remember distinctly where I was when I saw my phone flashing with an 01263 area code (letting our dog Luna have a wee on the grass outside Gails Bakery - glamorous, I know 😂). Heart in my mouth, I answered. Our offer had been accepted. It was going to be ours.

As I write this (sat in the lounge of The Clifftonville Hotel in Cromer - one of my top 5 places to work remotely on the North Norfolk Coast by the way) I'm genuinely welling up a bit thinking back to that day. Especially as I now know that the reason our offer was accepted so quickly was because the people selling the house weren't just looking to sell the house, they were looking for their new neighbours too. Turns out the house was owned by the people over the road, and we hadn't just been having a viewing of the house with that Estate Agent, we were being vetted too. How excited and passionate we were about Norfolk, the house and our future lives in Trimingham had made them want us, and only us. They'd turned every other offer down that day (some were even higher than ours) as they'd been hoping we called and offered the asking price. Some things really are meant to be.

On 30th June, it'll be 12 months since we exchanged and moved in. In that time, I'll be honest, we've done hardly anything to the house. Don't get me wrong, we started. In the early days of the Norfolk Uncovered Instagram, there were even a few house renovation posts on there. But very quickly we realised spending all our spare time on the house meant no time in Norfolk exploring.

One thing we've been itching to do though is create our own little oasis in the garden. Especially in summer, when it's hot, we can't always be out exploring as it wouldn't be fair/safe for Luna. But we've wanted to find a way to bring the beauty of Norfolk's nature into our garden, find ways to be more sustainable so we could do our bit to look after the environment and have a peaceful oasis that was ours, all ours.

Despite not being a new build, in an attempt to make the house more attractive to potential buyers, the previous owners (and now new neighbours) had fitted new fencing and done a big job of clearing the whole garden and returning it back to just turf. It definitely saved us a lot of work when we moved in but also meant it lacked a lot of soul.

Very early into moving into the house, we bought two water butts and a composter. We also had two raised beds that we brought with us from another house. We'd visited Holt Garden Centre to get some ideas of what we could do to the garden (it's the perfect place for this as it's so beautifully curated into sections so that you can get ideas and see how different things might come together in your own garden at home) but I'll be honest, we'd not done much since then.

I haven't been able to keep away from Holt Garden Centre though. It's an amazing place to work remotely (definitely in my top 3 working remotely spots in Norfolk - I really need to do a blog on that, don't I 💡). Their Cafe has the perfect hidden, quiet spaces for working and on a sunny day, sitting outside in the sunshine on their amazing terrace is just stunning. They're not just dog friendly there either, they're true dog lovers. Luna has even been featured on their Instagram and Facebook and genuinely now thinks she's famous. I've never know her as excited to get somewhere as she is to that cafe, as she knows how much attention she'll get. I think it may well be her favourite place! From a human perspective, the coffee is also great and the lunch menu is fab.

So when Rachael at Holt Garden Centre (who is one of the world's best humans you'll ever meet by the way) saw on our Instagram that Luna and I were working remotely from the cafe, she popped down to say hello. After chatting away about our move to Norfolk and our garden, she made me an offer I absolutely couldn't refuse....collaborating on our garden makeover!!!! Don't think I've ever said yes to something as quick in my life!

Our garden (and house) renovations are going to be an ongoing project. We don't want to eat into our time exploring Norfolk and sharing it with you. So instead, we'll be doing it bit by bit, in the snippets of time when we need to be at home with Luna when it's just too warm to be out and about, or when we just need some time at home to chill. We'll update this blog as we go, adding in what we've done and sharing the before and after pictures.

Project One - 'The Glade'

Behind our shed was the weirdest bit of dead space. Much to Matt's annoyance, last year I bought a huge inflatable paddling pool and put it there. As he predicted, I used it once and then never went in it again (not that I'm admitting you were right, Matt 😂). After much pondering on what we could do with it, we decided it was the perfect space for a vegetable and herb patch and we'd try and create a bit of a 'nature garden' with the rest of the space, with a bench so we had a quiet and hidden space to relax and feel connected with nature without having to leave the house.

We had the raised beds and water butt already, but the rest we've bought from Holt Garden Centre and I can't believe the transformation (and it's not even finished yet).

So far we've painted the fence (2 x coats of undercoat/wood prep and 2 coats x black paint) - still one more coat left on the fence on the right hand side for those eagle eyed people who spot the colour difference 😂, filled the raised beds with top soil and planted...

Right raised bed

A selection of herbs, including Tricolour Sage, Purple Sage, Curly Leaf Parsley, Oregano, Lemon Balm, Italian Thyme and Rosemary. Then at the back (with plenty of room from the others as we're hoping they'll grow big) we've got Courgette and Squash.

Left raised bed

Tomato plants, Red Bell Peppers, Chilli Peppers and some Radishes and Beetroot that we're growing from seeds.

At the back

Various colours of Foxgloves, various types of Ferns, a Heuchera Wild Rose, and a Aquilegia Vulgaris 'William Guinness'.

We had a vision of the type of plants we wanted (wild type flowers like you tend to find growing along the edges of the quiet lanes where we live) and Holt Garden Centre had literally everything we had in our heads we wanted (and more). Their plants are also really well labelled if you're a garden novice like us and helped us to work out which plants were right for this bit of the garden given it's sometimes shaded by the tree. I'm now feeling far less nervous about them surviving and can't wait to see them flourish with time.

There's also lots of offers currently on the outdoor plants and 'grow your own' vegetable sections, which made buying as much as we did really affordable.

Still loads to do. This section of our garden isn't even complete and it's only about 1/20th of the back garden and don't even get me started on the front (which is about the same size). But baby steps. We'll get there, and we're so excited to share it all with you as we go.

Keep checking back for updates and inspiration and please tag us in your pics on Instagram if you do visit Holt Garden Centre. We absolutely love it there and hope we've inspired you to visit and get green fingered too.


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