By Chloe Shakesby


THIS WOMAN has shared how she transformed her humdrum backyard into a ‘dream garden‘ on a budget, starting off by ordering just £200 of plants online and spending just £2K in total.

Teaching assistant Sophie Valentine (34) from West Sussex, UK, moved into her present three-bedroom, £400,000 1960’s semi-detached home in 2019.

Sophie in her garden.

Faced with a 40-foot plain and grotty lawn, along with her husband Ben, Sophie decided they would not settle for mediocre and hatched a plan to radically transform the garden.

Now, having learnt gardening and bargaining tips on how to tame outdoor space, Sophie can share her top tips for anyone feeling underwhelmed by a boring garden or overwhelmed by a wildly overgrown one.

“To get my garden started, I spent £200 on plants online,” said Sophie.

Sophie estimates she has now spent about £2k on her garden.
Sophie’s wisteria-covered pergola.

“This included clematis, a whole cottage border collection, Fatsia, a blossom tree and a lilac tree.

“I then have added to it bit by bit adding plants that have been given to me.

“I was given a foxglove when I moved here but now I have about thirty of them just from it self-seeding.

“In the garden centres I head straight to the reduced section where you can find amazing bargains.

“Over the three years of this garden project, we have spent £2,000 including some fencing, pergolas, two decking areas, plants and turf.

“Facebook marketplace and eBay are what have helped this garden evolve.  You get so many bargains on there.  Most of our decking we use has been free from Facebook or one section was £50.

“Ben built us two pergolas himself which saved thousands, one being where my beautiful wisteria canopy grows.”

Sophie first started gardening ten years ago when she moved into her first rented home with a garden.

She explained how she first ever got started on her mission to become the Queen of her very own garden.

“In spring 2019 on one cold rainy February morning on a Saturday, as a family we got outside and started the mammoth task of clearing the garden,” said Sophie.

“We live in a semi-detached home and our garden wraps around the whole of our house meaning we were able to create three zones – the kid’s garden and deck, wisteria courtyard, and the cottage border.”

The family found plenty of ways to save on making the perfect garden – from doing their own DIY to finding reduced-price plants.

Sophie’s wisteria-covered pergola.

“People often move into a home and they want the garden cleared, so it’s possible to get amazing pots, plants and equipment free or very cheap,” said Sophie.

“I wanted a garden filled with flowers, so growing from seed helped me achieve this.  Of course, my favourite dahlias are big plants bursting with flowers all summer long.

“I also used tutorials on YouTube to learn how to take cuttings from plants, propagate and divide my plants.

“Buying plants online is so much cheaper than garden centres and buy what you can afford.

“If you can’t afford big established plants from the garden centre then buy plug plants online.

“These are small plants often delivered in the post that you grow on yourself.  It might take a few years for some to establish but you will soon have a full garden.

“You then learn to divide the plant and you will have twice as many plants for free.

“My tips are to shop online, check selling sites for bargains, grow from seeds, grow something fun and unusual.

“Always ask for help and advice on Instagram – we all help each other.”

Sophie first started to share her gardening tips online last year, and says that she used the garden to help improve her mental health.

Sophie’s wisteria-covered pergola.

“I started my Instagram page last year to document the journey of our garden transformation,” said Sophie.

“After a difficult family estrangement  I threw myself into the garden to heal myself and help improve my mental health and well-being.

“I wanted it to be the best the garden had ever been.  In creating this garden I also grew the best version of myself.

“The Instagram gardening community is so unique, so supportive and caring and we all have so much in common.”

Sophie shares tips for creating a beautiful garden on a budget on her Instagram page, @lookinsidemygarden.

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