Outdoor Living: Prepare your Garden


Outdoor Living: Prepare your GardenAs many of us know all too well, after working all day indoors there’s no where better but in the ‘outdoor’ room to relax. Unless you use your garden as nothing more than a convenient storage area, you are more likely to share the same opinion of the vast majority of people who regard the garden as a sanctuary and somewhere special to enjoy and relax in one way or another.

No matter whether you consider your garden large or small, traditional or minimalist, it should not be seen as merely an asset to add value your home or property but more importantly as an asset that enhances your outdoor living lifestyle.


A place to sit
We probably spend more time in the garden sitting and eating than any other activity. So it is vital the layout of our outdoor space takes this important aspect into account.

  1. Flooring: Today’s choice of outdoor flooring is vast including an extensive range of natural stone which includes bestsellers like Sandstone (available in a wide range of sizes and colours), Granite and Limestone (demand little maintenance).
  2. Location: Locating the patio in the sunniest part of the garden. Monitor the sun movements throughout the day to determine what is the best position for the patio. Most prefer sunny positions late afternoon or early evening but some might prefer dappled shade during midday. So choose a location for the patio where and when you’re most likely to use it most.


Plants please
Choosing: Of all the elements that go to make up your perfect garden, plants after structure are the essential component. The choice of plants today is practically endless, whether your preference is evergreen or deciduous (shed leaf in autumn), lime haters or lime tolerant, prefer sunny or shade, dry or damp, open or sheltered conditions. Also how you use plants in the garden can yield specific effects on overall garden size and style. Some plants may be planted as sole specimens, i.e. the centre of attention in a low level bed or to provide a screening requirement. Others may be planted as informal i.e. natural groups or formally to create dramatic geometric patterns.

Usage: Ideally plants should be used in as naturalistic way possible so as to enhance the desired look whether it is to follow a gentle curve or sometimes affect the overall appearance e.g. trees and shrubs can be cleverly used to disguise a long narrow garden to make it appear broader in effect, conversely plants can also be used to lengthen broad gardens which are not very long by using the taller plants nearer the house and shorter further away to create a perspective effect that makes the garden appear longer.

Maintenance: Although plants may be used in a variety of ways, it is well worth considering the maintenance aspects before making final selection. There is little point in planting large varieties in confined spaces and despite repeated cutting and pruning neither plant nor gardener will ever be happy. Instead choose plants carefully, consider mature heights and spread not just what the label states ‘…in ten years…’ because plants continue to grow. Instead try to determine what is actual plant height and spread at maturity. Pick plants to suit the suit site’s soil, prevailing conditions and size. This way you will have plants that will flourish and require little or no cutting.

Pathways: Borders can be straight but better to have gentle curves. Avoid intricate curves and above all pathways that dissect the lawn which will destroy the open aspect and make the garden appear smaller. Instead position pathway to oneside. Ideally borders with at least two or three planting lines look far more interesting. The backline representing usually the taller varieties are the all year round backbone with the middle and lower foreground lines providing seasonal impact. Beds should be at least 900 mm- 1,200 mm deep and to conceal structures like rotary lines or garden sheds might be larger than 2.000mm or more.


Raising your spirits
Raised Beds are becoming a very popular feature for more gardens, not only do they provide added height and hence presence to particular planting arrangements but a great solution to creating soil conditions required for specific groups of plants not found in other parts of the garden.

Azaleas, rhododendrons, forest flames all with spectacular foliage and flower characteristics and are easy to grow so long as the soil is lime free soil. These soil conditions are easy to create in raised beds. Trailing bedding plants can be used to great effect in Raised Beds.

Raised beds can be:

  • Positioned against boundary walls or
  • More prominently as island beds within paved areas
  • Constructed form brick, natural stone and a variety of timbers can also be used to create attractive enclosures for water features


Watered Features
There are a wide range of types and sizes but nowadays peoples choice is influenced by the safety aspects and low maintenance requirements.

Reservoir features are quite popular and are typically positioned on or near patio area where they are best enjoyed for both visual and the soothing sound effects of trickling water.
In more contemporary gardens stainless steel columns are a popular choice.

Irrespective of your style preference, water features add a new dimension to any garden. All that is required is careful attention to detailing, a thoughtful selection of plants, e.g. ferns, ornamental grasses combined with natural river cobblestones create superb compositions and very pleasing features to admire.


The meaning of Light
Lighting is really a must have in the garden. It can not only make an ordinary garden look spectacular revealing an aspect unseen during daylight, but come nightfall the silhouettes of trees and shrubs against textured walls take on a whole new meaning. Lighting offers a whole new dimension to the meaning of beauty in the garden albeit at nightime.

There are many lighting effects to be considered including:

  • Spread lighting across access paths
  • Up lighting to direct light up through the branches and trunks of trees or up the walls of buildings,
  • Spot lighting can be used to illuminate a statue or water feature
  • Down lighting is typically used to illuminate steps


Contained Treasures
Growing plants in containers whether it is seasonal summer planting and / or all year round planting is an important dimension to the planting aspects of gardens. Containers (urns, planters or humble terracotta pots) are much easier and less costly to introduce to a garden.

  • They can be very cleverly used to add high drama and bold colour schemes to areas within the garden.
  • Container planting also permits the growing of plants that might be too vigorous to grow in open ground because of lack of available space or other limitations.
  • Bamboos are fantastic container plants so too are Japanese maples but require sheltered conditions which may not be available in open beds during winter months.
  • Containers can be very useful mobile units to locate around patio to great effect.


In summary
For some of us relaxing in the garden is nothing more than sitting out or swinging in the hammock, usually in the sun but perhaps increasingly in dappled shade. Whether alone or with family and friends, sitting or eating, dozing or entertaining, living outdoors is a major aspect of how we relax and sometimes let’s be honest, a popular place ‘to get away from it all.’

How we use the outdoor living space is increasingly becoming more important than how it looks. In other words today’s homeowners are demanding more functionality from the gardens, yes, you guessed it, form follows function, is the prevailing principle and the smarter approach to determining the outdoor living space.

Source: Owen Chubb www.owenchubblandscapers.com

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