Cost of living: Savvy nan turns overgrown garden into oasis with ‘gin corner’ on a budget - how she did it
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A thrifty nan has revealed how she transformed her overgrown garden into a dream outdoor space complete with a “gin corner” on a budget - saving herself more than £5,000. Savvy Karen Brooke created her stunning garden oasis by upcycling materials as well as scouring selling sites and social media for bargains.
The retired PE teacher bought her three-bed bungalow in the aptly-named Forest Avenue, in Goostrey, Cheshire, for £267,000 two years ago. But instead of being put off by its abandoned garden, the 67-year-old broke up the soil with a tiller she bought from Aldi and began to transform the plot over the next year.
Karen erected a greenhouse in one corner and created a waterfall out of unwanted rocks she sourced for free online. She also put up a trellis, which is now covered in pink and white roses, and planted box hedges, lavender, hardy grasses and ornamental conifers.
Karen spent roughly £7,000 making her garden, but saved thousands more by “upcycling” most of the items for her amazing 18m by 18m plot. She now plans to spend the warm nights enjoying her favourite tipple in her summer house, which comes complete with a “gin corner”.
Karen said: “I always wanted to do the garden myself as I like to get my hands stuck in and knew I wouldn’t want to spend what a landscape gardener would have cost. Just thinking about it, it would have set me back around £12,000, so it was better to do it myself.”
She says her green-fingered hobby was also the secret to getting fit as she shed a stone after spending a year turning her rear plot into a nature-lovers paradise. And she has now urged other pensioners to roll up their sleeves and get planting as a way to keep mobile and lose weight in their older years.
She said: “When I first saw the garden I thought what can I do with it and just got stuck in - and have lost a stone in weight in the twelve months it has taken. Doing the landscaping and the renovation of the garden was fantastic for losing weight because you’re walking around with wheelbarrows and shifting rocks.
“And now it’s all planted, it still keeps you fit because you’re bending down and stretching. It’s also fantastic for your mental health and your happiness. It’s just ended up like an oasis - I get the sun all day in it and it’s very, very peaceful.”
Gran-of-four Karen said she had first set eyes on her bungalow two and half years ago after finding out that the occupant had sadly passed away. She knew the property would need an internal and external renovation but decided to snap it up as it was close to where her daughter was living.
Her relatives helped gut the home by ripping up the floorboards and taking off the plaster before builders arrived to complete the work needed inside. And while her home improvements were taking shape, Karen said she had begun to set her sights on the garden.
She said: “When I first saw it, I didn’t really see how bad it was – I just saw how good it could be. The actual landscaping - the shape of the garden - was already there as the previous owner had done it at some point.
“So I bought a tiller from Aldi and set to the task of just digging it all up and getting rid of everything. It just all fell into place without having to think too much.” Karen said she had cut down on her costs by looking for unwanted items that people were giving away for nothing on social media for her garden.
She added: “I’m a bargain hunter, and I like to find things on freebie sites. I had to pay large sums of money for the concrete base, the greenhouse, and the summer house, but even on the patio, I upcycled what was there.”
Karen particularly likes hearing the burble of her waterfall and listening to audiobooks in her summer house with her cockapoo Marley during the evenings. She added: “My summer house has three chairs and I’ve upcycled them with white chalk paint, and I have a nice gin and tonic in there at 6pm.
“It’s actually got a label on it saying ‘The Gin Corner’. I sit in there with my dog for a couple of hours. I’ve also got a beautiful water feature that looks like a tumbled-down mountain, just a rocky waterfall, and that was to disguise an old fish pond that was there.
“I really feel I have turned a jungle into a garden.”