During my life I have had all manner of outside space from tiny dark courtyards to long thin gardens and sometimes none at all. As you can guess from my blog I put a lot of care and attention into how I design my home. The flow of the rooms, the colours, the mood, how we function in it as a family, and I love the planning process. Then I would get to the garden/outside space and for some reason would throw plants in there in a whimsical fashion, as they caught my eye or if they were on offer in the garden centre. I would panic buy a patio table because I had arranged a BBQ or the summer had just begun. I would dump things in the garden as a storage facility. All in all I did not take care of my space. The silly thing is I would spend so much time tending it and trying to enjoy it but because I had not done any planning my efforts were fruitless, and the garden became a waste and not the wonderful space I desired. This time things will be different and I will share my planning process with you.
1. Consider It A Room – I think this was my main problem, if I had considered it a room I would have used the same detailed planning process as the inside of my home. So with that in mind before you even look at plants or tables get a pen and paper out and write a list of how you want to use the space. Do you want to entertain in it? If so what sort of entertaining? BBQ, Sit down meals? Outdoor cinema? Is it a place you can sit and read in? Do you want a play area for little ones? Do you want chickens? Do you want to use it all year round? You may even find yourself imagining coming home from work and drinking a glass of wine on the patio. Once you have established how you want to use the “room” you can move on to the second stage of planning.
2. Accept limitations – If you have a small courtyard you can’t have a pool but you can have a small water feature. If you live in a climate that gets cold winters you have to find hardy plants. If you have children and pets you should choose safe plants and avoid thorns. You have to accept limitations but don’t view them as limiting. You can do wonders with a balcony and make an arid space appear green and inviting.
3. Study Up – When you look at your list of how you want to use the space it will more than likely inform you of the plants you want. Garden centres are tempting places so it is easy to buy things that do not suit your space or your needs and you can end up wasting huge amounts of cash without proper planning. Ask yourself a few questions; how much time to you want to spend tending plants, how much space do you have, how much light do you have, what is your soil like, how cold/hot does it get? There is no point in buying plants that need too much care and time than you are willing to or able to give. Nor should you buy a plant that is going to out grow your space. It is easy to find the information you need online. The research is fun to do and don’t panic the beauty of nature is there is a plant for every type of space.
4. Make The Space Work For You – When you move into your home there is normally some sort of garden already in place. You don’t have to keep the plants or the layout that is already there. Just because the lawn runs the length of the garden it doesn’t have to. Just because the patio is in a certain location you can still move it. Walk around the space and think how it will look from different angles. Will your plans work if you stand at the bottom of the garden and look at the house?
5. Let Go Of Guilt – It is okay to dig up unwanted plants. Yes I said it, it is not wasteful you can compost what you don’t want. Gift bunches of flowers to people before you dig them up. And if you remove a tree you will have a woodshed full of craft materials and fuel for the stove like I do. It is no worse than stripping wallpaper you don’t like or re-placing a carpet and we do that all the time so don’t feel guilty make the space your own.
6. Think About Colour – We look at endless paint samples when we plan our room but often overlook colour stories for the garden. Remember that you can add colour in more ways than just plants. Adding permanent colour features in a garden is a great way of keeping it bright though the winter months if you are lacking in evergreens.