As soon as there is a glimmer of stretch in the evenings is usually the time when many of us start to look critically around the garden and consider making changes to breathe new life and purpose into aspects of the space which may be looking a little jaded or underused. To help identify possible changes, here are some helpful suggestions:
- Start at the beginning but now
Traditionally the months of January and February is a quiet time in the garden but with the help of the internet, it is an ideal time to do some research for ideas for garden design, products and contractors. Arranging meetings now with potential contractors/installers will leave plenty of time to schedule the works and avoid the risk of any disappointments later or of long delays as contractors/installers become busy and lead times lengthen.
- Don’t move and Renovate
The desire for a bigger and better garden is a key reason why people moved house, but you can avoid all the upheaval and expense involved with selling and moving. Instead why no plan a major renovation to create your dream garden, not only will this be a totally new environment but without the disruption and expense of moving.
- If it’s worth doing, do it right first time
If you are able to do it yourself then by all means do so, this is a very satisfying and cost saving way of implementing any changes. There are of course regulations/ legal requirements where certain works can only be completed by registered contractors. If you do decide to employ a company, seek itemised quotations for any works to be done. Also ask to see proof of the Employer & Public Liability Insurances. If in doubt also ring the insurers to verify that the policy is active. Any bona fide contractor would be delighted to provide you with the details. Home owners can also benefit from the Government’s recent announcement to incentivise home owners to undertake home improvements (Terms & Conditions apply).
- Let there be Light
Every garden can be enhanced with garden lighting and thanks to the improvements in LED lighting technology has now made external lighting more affordable and reliable. Get more enjoyment and use from your garden by adding garden lighting. It doesn’t need to be Las Vegas, install lights discreetly to admire the planting and other features after dark. It is now possible to operate garden lighting remotely, providing home owners with more comfort and flexibility in determining the preferred lighting effects. If you are working to a budget, worth remembering that once you install the necessary cabling around the garden, garden lighting is similar to planting, you can add more over time.
- More space for Outdoor living
Everyone loves being outdoors, making the patio is a very important aspect of the garden. When the sun is bright and warm, everyone enjoys themselves on the patio, it is important that patios should be large enough to accommodate all users, 4.0m x 4.0m is a good size for most families. Patios are best positioned where it is best enjoyed and normally in the sun. Where patios are located at or near the house, a seamless transition between the house and patio works well. This means no steps, and therefore more user convenience. But if steps are required, it is better to ensure they are generous in size, and possibly consider making them a feature? Bigger isn’t necessarily better, size should be practical, comfortable and proportionate to the house and the size of the garden. Natural stone (including sandstone, limestone, and granite) is an excellent material for constructing patios, hardwearing and beautiful surface finishes which are easy to maintain and lasting a lifetime. In larger gardens there is usually scope for an additional patio, e.g., a separate patio for morning and evening use.
- Go with the roll and on the level
A neat and level lawn remains the Holy Grail for many gardeners but this is also true for family gardens where removing undulations and trip hazards is a priority. A consistent level free of potential trip hazards such as step areas will not only make the area safer to use but also much more appealing. Improving lawn levels will normally require an element of digging the ground with cutting and filling before using a garden roller to achieve a uniform and stable ground level. Remedial or local repairs to an established lawn are possible but if the general condition of the grass is poor or infested with weeds then it might more sense to start from scratch and install a completely new lawn. Using roll turf grass to install your new lawn is convenient, time saving and with great results.
- Good fences make good neighbours
We all understand and appreciate the importance of having a good garden boundary. But apart from the obvious security benefits, a good garden fence or wall can also have a major role in defining the design and overall garden appearance. It is such a great pity, occurring all too often, to see an attractive garden spoilt by drab or unappealing walls. One of the best tips to create a better ‘outdoor room’ look to the garden is to improve the appearance of the garden walls. Applying a rendered (sand and cement plastering) finish will transform the appearance of concrete block walls, and for an even more stylish finish, considering painting the rendered wall surfaces. Matching any exterior house wall finishes is an easy and obvious way to extend the ‘look’ into the garden. By replacing drab boundaries with stylish walls and fencing, planting will be more visible, less will probably be required, and this will save some costs as well as reduce the garden maintenance requirements.
- Take the lead with the garden path
For some the garden is best used but not seen, preferring to see it as a means to take the long way round the garden. A sweeping garden path is certainly more appealing than a straight path. A path can easily spoil the look and effectiveness of the garden. Classic mistakes are dividing the lawn with a path directly leading to and drawing attention to the humble garden shed. Instead try to use the lawn to circumvent the lawn, defining a more interesting shape to lawn as edge as well as planted border. Gentle sweeping curves are visually much more appealing and effective to catch the attention and lead the eye around the garden. The path can also be used to ensure a consistent level. In larger sites, more interesting paths can be used to weave through the planted areas and exploit the now you see it, now you don’t potential.
- Small is Beautiful
Several tricks can be applied to make small spaces appear bigger. Perspective is a good one, for example, planting taller plants at the near end and small plants at the opposite end of the garden, fools the eye with the illusion of the garden appearing to be longer than actual. Another method is to taper the lawn area with the widest section at the house and gradually narrowing to the opposite end. Colour can also be used, for example, bright colours are effective to making the space appear bigger. Other practical considerations worth considering, avoid planting large trees or shrubs which will simply outgrow the space and/or demand lots of maintenance to control. Limit the range of plants to 2-3 varieties to create less fuss and more relaxed results. Some small sites may have no planting spaces; this is easily resolved by installing raised planting beds.
- Smart Gardening
Probably the three biggest challenges for most gardeners are privacy, colour and maintenance. Traditional methods for achieving privacy have included building tall trellis screens (wall climbers), plant trees but these risks impacting light levels and often high maintenance requirements. For smaller gardens, planting trees is not practical. A popular and excellent screening plant is bamboo but can be an invasive and difficult to control plant. A smart and effective method of controlling bamboo is to plant them in a raised bed. In addition, raised beds are also ideal for providing required growing conditions (lime/acid) for a wide range of plants. Raised Beds may be built with a range of materials including timber, stone etc and can be used as a key design element in the garden. Raised Beds also make excellent informal seating as well as helping to dramatically reduce the plant maintenance requirements.
- Build an escape
Whatever the intended use, be it play or hobby room or simply somewhere in which to relax and enjoy, most gardens will be enhanced by the addition of a garden room. Tucked away in a quiet corner, is the ideal spot to locate your favourite retreat.
- Plants to please
Plants are fundamental to the enjoying life and soul of every garden. But with the increasing demands on people’s time, achieving the preferred results is often a frustrating trial and error. Low maintenance planting schemes are increasingly popular but low maintenance need not mean dull or boring results. On the contrary there is an abundance of choice available of plants which are easy to grow and requiring often little maintenance typically 1 hour or less/year. Despite the limitations in available time or resources to manage a planted space, it is still possible to devise low maintenance schemes which are practical, seasonal and dynamic yet look interesting for most of if not all of the year.
- Enhance to enjoy more
Whatever changes you plan to undertake, be they small or big improvements, you can be certain that the new enhancements will breathe new life into your garden. Draw up your ‘to-do list’ and prioritise your goals, get help if necessary from the professionals, and in time reap the rich rewards of a rejuvenated garden.