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How To Create A Sunken Garden


Every garden is unique, especially to the person who owns or cultivated it. Few people in the world love their gardens more than those in the UK, with sprawling lawns, tree-lined fences and delicate flowers blooming in the warmer months. Then we have the sunken garden[i]. This is a thing of true beauty and charm that literally gives depth to a traditional garden. 

You may think the sunken garden is a new concept in landscaping. However, they have been popular in the UK for centuries. So if you’re looking to recreate a stunning new landscape in your existing garden or want to start your garden from scratch and need something unique with lots of impacts, the sunken garden may be what you’re looking for.

What Is A Sunken Garden?

The easiest way to explain a sunken garden is in the name itself. A part of a garden is about a foot lower than the main level of the garden. The sunken part of the garden can be a place to plant certain plants, or you can create a fantastic, almost hidden sitting area outdoors. There are many different types of sunken gardens, and all you need to do is decide which one is best for you. 

How To Plan A Sunken Garden

The first step to creating a sunken garden is planning. You first need to decide the purpose of the sunken garden. For example, will it be a home to specific plants, or do you want a special outdoor area for sitting and relaxing? Once you decide what you want your sunken garden for and where you would like to position it, the rest involves a bit of digging and some extra tasks, depending on the type of sunken garden you hope to achieve. If you’re unsure where to start, ask the experts at your local garden centre or hire a landscape designer for some sunken garden ideas.

Consider Drainage

Before you start digging the hole for your sunken garden, keep in mind that when it rains, the excess water runoff will naturally seek the lowest point in your yard and depending on how your garden slopes, this could very well be your sunken garden. This may not be a problem if you have decided your sunken garden will be home to plants that benefit from extra water, but it will be a problem if this area is full of garden furniture. Also, suppose you plan to use the sunken garden as an entertainment area. In that case, you need to consider installing adequate drainage, and you may be better off seeking professional advice on the best way to incorporate drainage. 

Build Robust Walls

Digging a hole for a sunken garden is only one step in creating this beautiful type of garden. However, when you dig a hole, the soil on the sides of the hole will inevitably fall or collapse inwards. Therefore, the deeper your sunken garden, the more importance you need to place on the walls. Solid, robust walls are essential to a sunken garden to prevent soil from falling into your garden and ruining your plants or burying your garden furniture. You can build a wall using bricks or wooden sleepers, or you can have a cement wall built in. It’s also worth considering that if you have a deeper sunken garden, you will need to create stairs that allow you to comfortably enter the garden.

Consider Your Seating

A sunken garden is the ideal setting for an outdoor entertainment area. For one, you will most likely need to create a nice pathway from your back door towards this sunken sitting area, giving you a place to walk towards with anticipation. Apart from considering the aesthetics and flow of your sunken garden, you should also consider what type of seating you want to place in this special place. 

Consider garden bench sets to ensure you have a complete and fully functioning outdoor setting for comfort and style. These sets include two or more benches and a table to give you the perfect place to serve afternoon tea or entertain family and friends in the late afternoon or evening. Depending on the size of your sunken garden, you may prefer to have some teak Adirondack chairs or simply a few comfy wooden garden benches and a table. 

Keep It Simple

Planning a sunken garden is essential before you start. You need to know exactly where your sunken garden will be situated, the type of soil you will be digging into, the types of walls you will need to build and many more things to consider. You may also need planning permission before you start digging, so you must contact your local council to see if you require any permits. There may be pipes or phone lines running under your land, and you need to know if there is a possibility of causing damage to these. 

Once you know where you want your sunken garden and whether or not you can build one in that space, you need to know which materials and equipment you need to get started. In most cases, you are better off hiring a landscape designer to help you plan your sunken garden and ensure you have all the permits you need and an estimate of the total cost of building this garden. You don’t necessarily need to hire landscapers to complete the project for you. However, if you don’t budget correctly, you may find your funds disappearing faster than you thought, leaving you without enough money to complete your sunken garden.

Keep your design simple and realistic. If it looks too plain, you can always add decorations and lighting to jazz up your sunken garden later.

How To Build A Sunken Garden

Building a sunken garden isn’t overly complicated, and if you plan on a DIY project, you need to have a definite plan, including any necessary permits. Once you have these, you can get started with these steps:

  • Map out the area for your sunken garden using wooden pegs.
  • Start digging to your desired depth.
  • Build your walls. You will either use bricks or railway sleepers. You will need to install posts along the edge to support your walls. Make sure they are concreted into holes that are at least 50 cm deep.
  • Ensure the base of your sunken garden is level. If you plan to use your sunken garden as a sitting area, you will need to make a wooden deck or use pavers. If you are creating a sunken garden bed, decide where you will plant each type of plant. 

Unique Sunken Garden Ideas

You can incorporate many different ideas into your sunken garden, from a stunning garden bed to an outdoor sitting area. Here are a few unique sunken garden ideas for you to consider:

A sunken pool garden – A sunken pool garden is simply a sunken garden with a pool of water as a water feature. You can use an existing pool that you can partially fill with gravel or create a different level within your sunken garden specifically for a small pool or fish pond. 

A sunken garden for a fire pit – Fire pits are a stunning addition to a garden, but they may not be very practical in a windy area. If you happen to live in such an area, it would be beneficial to know how to create shelter in a windy garden with a sunken garden. You don’t necessarily need to have a deep sunken garden to shelter you from the wind. You can plant hedges around the edge of your sunken garden or put up some feature walls. 

A sunken patio garden – There are several ways to have a great sunken patio garden. You can place benches around the edges of the garden and a table in the middle, or use wooden bench sets and place them where you like. If you need a little cover, you can also use a large market umbrella or put up some steel posts along the edge of your sunken garden and place a gazebo cover over this area.

A sunken hot tub garden – One of the best reasons to create a sunken garden is that it gives you a little extra privacy. With this in mind, why not use this versatile space for a hot tub? Of course, you will need extra planning to achieve this, and you may also need planning permission from your local council, but if you can pull it off, you will have a hidden oasis to relax in after a busy day at work. 

Whether you have a large or small garden, you can create a sunken garden. While a sunken garden is ideal for growing various plants, you can also create a gorgeous feature in your yard for relaxing, entertaining or both. 


  [i] https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/spaces/sunken-gardens.htm 

Anna Sharples

Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches - a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.

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