Follow the rules
When you’re making any major changes to your garden, there’s one important guideline to consider – if in doubt about planning, check. One of the most common issues is removal of trees. If you want to cut one back or remove it, ask your local tree officer if it’s covered by a tree preservation order (TPO). If you’re in a conservation area they will be protected and you’ll need permission to fell or prune them. Front gardens have more restrictions than rear ones. For example, fences along a path or road are limited to a height of one metre without planning permission. Elsewhere, the boundary between you and your next-door neighbour can’t be higher than two metres. It’s always worth talking to your neighbours before commencing work to ensure good relations.
Finally, new houses often have covenants limiting what you can do, from putting up features to planting against a neighbour’s wall, so it’s worth checking it out before making a start.
Fix on finance
Having a budget really helps to focus the mind. Gardens, like any building work, can eat up housands of pounds. ‘Remember that it doesn’t all have to be done at once; staging the revamp can help to make it seem more do-able,’.But whatever job you decide to do first, always have a contingency of 5-10 per cent, just in case!
Wants and needs for a perfect garden design
When planning your job, it’s always best to begin with the simple question: What do I want? Maybe seating… If so, for how many people? Does it need to look good from the house? Perhaps you want
somewhere to store things to keep it tidy. Or do you need to create an area that’s safe and
appealing for children? ‘When you’re thinking about your priorities, be as specific as possible and you’ll limit and define exactly what you need to do. The clearer you are about what you want, the better the result will be.
Search through pictures in magazines, books and the internet for ideas. Pinterest is a great source and you can make your own boards of images that you like. Once you have a good selection, examine them closely so you’re able to identify two things – the overall theme and then the details. There will probably be some random choices, but are they mainly country or modern in style, dark
or light, cluttered or pared back? And then really focus in on the specifics. Take a close look at the materials, the shapes, the lighting and colours.
Careful detailing really makes a difference. If you’re creating a sitting area, think about both the look and the cost of paving – the price of the material itself and the cost of manpower to prepare the ground and lay it. Smoothand symmetrical paving looks more modern than riven, random shapes and patterns. Natural materials such as stone and timber work better in gardens than porcelain tiles and will look good over a longer period.
‘It pays to get the best quality materials as they have to last year after year. But it’s worth the investment. If you get the garden right, you’ll have an additional room to your house to enjoy. If paving is too expensive, consider gravel. Again, the details are important – gravel comes in different sizes, colours and shapes. Too big and it’s difficult to walk on, too small and it travels everywhere. Too dark and it will look dowdy, too pale and it doesn’t look real.
Often the revamp will boil down to creating different areas in the garden, such as a place to sit, or a place for children to play. Make sure each space is large enough for the activity it will be hosting. A dining area, for example, will need to be big enough so that chairs can be pushed back from the table; a swing or slide for children will need a long clear area. Get hold of the dimensions of the tables, chairs or play equipment before you start work and mark them out on the ground to make sure you get it right.
Set the boundaries
These spaces would often benefit from being enclosed with plants such as shrubs or bamboos. However, a quicker way to divide the garden into different areas is to put up trellis screens.
Think about what sort of trellis to use. Consider the style of your surroundings; does your quaint country cottage call for something traditional such as diagonal trellis? Or perhaps your super-modern new-build requires something a little more contemporary, such as slatted panels.
Clear the clutter
Often a reason for gardens getting messy is lack of storage, so think about putting in a shed
that will work well in your space. It doesn’t have to be an eyesore to hide away. Some can
be beautiful given the right treatment. Give yours a lick of paint to complement your garden and this will extend its life too.
Add shelving inside to really get organised and make the most of your space.
Light your way
The key with lighting is Always to focus on what is being lit rather than the light itself. So light a tree, skim a wall,highlight a feature.
Draw attention to new elements you’ve included in the garden by lighting them up – whether it’s a water feature or a line of pots. Solar lighting is getting better but often the best time for garden lighting is on dull winter afternoons, and for that you’ll need conventional power. It’s always advisable to use a qualified electrician to install this.
As children grow up you don’t need to worry quite so much about safety, but whatever their age, having standing water is a worry. Even if it’s very shallow it’s best to fence water off or put a sturdy grill at surface level. Another consideration in gardens is what material to use beneath play equipment: grass will wear out quickly; bark chippings will get kicked about.
Rubber tiles, mulch or bonded rubber are other options for safer landings.
Don’t forget the finishing touches – pots, water features and ornaments. These can help draw the eye to a far corner of the garden, bring a sitting area to life and give structure. Always try to use them for a purpose, so three or five pots in a line will break up a wall and give a repeated pattern. A water feature next to a sitting area will visually give a reason for the seat to be there. An ornament at the end of a path acts as a view stopper, to prevent the lines of the path just fading away.
MAKE IT LOOK LARGER
Top tips on how to create some magic in tiny spaces:
- Stick to pale colours for plants, paint and furnishings to bounce light around the garden
- Avoid using small plants or materials. Larger paving stones, for example, will help to give a cleaner look
- Try to make sure walls or fences look the same or work together so the space feels coherent and not cluttered
Also read: Adromischus (Crassulaceae).