Re-designing your garden part 2
This week we continue with our garden design tips on how to re-design a space that works for you and
your family and all the activities that are part of your life. See last week's tips on how to get started if you missed it.
Some "must have" features - just think of it as putting furniture in a house
A level patio outside the back of the house near the kitchen, big enough to place a table and
chairs and even a BBQ on!
A green area for the kids to play in if you have smaller children, not so important for
teenagers – they might want a special area for them and their friends
Enough area for some clever planting that will add interest and furnish your outside room for most of the year
A path to connect all the functional areas of the garden, such as from the patio to the herbaceous borders to the shed. This
will link your whole garden together but also make it easier to navigate wheel barrows or indeed wheelchairs from one end to the other.
Some for the wish list?
- A vegetable and fruit garden. No space? Use containers!
- An area for pets to roam in
- An area where you can hang your washing?
- An outdoor kitchen! Why not? If you have the space, budget and love cooking, this is a real addition .
Long and narrow gardens - create interest and avoid the Gotthard tunnel look!
A meandering path is always a good way of making the eye wander around the garden rather than just along its length. Features like an arbour or an arch act as vertical counterpoints and will create interest, as will low walls. Structures such as these combined with a mix of low, mid-level and higher planting will give the garden a sense of mystery and encourage visitors to go and investigate.
The key here is to ensure it is usable and depending on the steepness of the slope you may have to terrace it, cutting and filling as you go along. This saves money on taking away soil. If you terrace you must link the different spaces, otherwise it can easily look disjointed. Using the same hard landscaping materials such as paving slabs for both hard standing areas and paths will help to unify the garden. Use a limited plant palette and don’t plant too many varieties or colours. Use a mix of texture, soft leaves with spikier ones, and taller plants with low mounds.
The steps to the different levels need to feel comfortable and a good contractor can ensure that they are built solidly. Of course if the slope is not too steep you can build a ramp, but this only works for the gentlest of slopes.
If your garden is only a few square metres you can still enjoy the outdoors and is one of the few instances where 100% paving or shingle is best, but ensure the paving stones are permeable so that water can seep through and not cause flooding. Containers and pots are the way to go here. You can move them around where you want and when you want. The style is up to you but it is best to minimise the different types of plant used and add colour and texture with your pots. A mixture of tall and short plants will give a sense of depth to the courtyard and make it appear larger than it really is.
This is often a problem in urban areas. The closeness of other buildings often shades the garden. But this need not mean that you cannot enjoy a lush garden full of exciting plants – you just need to choose wisely. Choose plants that thrive in shady conditions, there is a wide variety available for you to chose from and there are also some grasses that do well in shade. If in doubt speak to your local garden centre or the garden designer you have hired; the right mix can make all the difference.
Child friendly garden
If you have small children, ponds are probably not a good idea until they are older. A sandpit is always fun, but these will need a cover and will need to be kept clean.
Smaller children do need some kind of green grass to play in but this need not be real, you can use fake turf. These days they are made of the finest artificial fibres, http://www.artificiallawn.co.uk/
makes different types for all kinds of uses.
Ensure that if you are building a BBQ and eating area it is away from the children’s play area. As for the plants, there are some that are poisonous so check with your supplier; if you have hired a garden designer they will ensure that all plants are safe.
Privacy an issue?
If you have low fencing between you and your neighbours, why not extend the panels with trellising of some kind, plant climbing plants to screen further from prying eyes.
Why not plant some trees and pleach them? You can trim them to the height and shape you want. Hornbeam is good for town gardens as it lends itself to all kinds of forms and can look both traditional and contemporary. Perfect!
Permanent structures will require planning permissions so make sure you check with the local planning office first.
A mix of fencing and planting judiciously placed can provide an excellent screen from others and can greatly increase your enjoyment of your garden.
Poor soil - builder's rubble?
If there is builders’ rubble because you moved in to a new house, you need to clear that completely or as much as is physically feasible. You can always use it as hard core if you are building a patio or need to put in a concrete slab for the shed or garden room.
Plants will struggle on bad soil and rubble, the cost of clearing and replacing with good top soil will be repaid many times over by not having to buy plants every year because they fail! Try to avoid changing the soil from acid to alkaline or vice-versa – you should garden with what you have. It’s too costly and is both time and labour intensive.
Attractive all year round?
Definitely possible although his does require some expertise in gardening. For winter greenery use box, privet or laurel. These are evergreens (some privet is not) and will give your garden structure. If you have space of course you can plant some trees, make sure they are not too near the house and well away from the foundations. Plant flowering shrubs which give interest in leaf colour and texture. Plant flowers for the spring and summer, and sometimes they may even flower in the autumn. Finally fill in with annuals, so that you can change the scheme as the mood takes you each year. If you are not a gardener the staff at most garden centres will have lots of advice on what to plant.