Making the most of your garden
It’s no secret that nature and fresh air can do endless good for your wellbeing, so now is the time to take your workout, book or virtual drinks outside. But first, the set up: if your garden is in need of a little TLC or you’re wondering how best to maximise on your small balcony, we have plenty of tips and tricks up our sleeve. From lighting and furniture to nature and sunlight considerations, here we show you how to make the most of all kinds of spaces. And if you don’t have a garden? Let’s bring the outdoors in.
Follow the sun
Whether you’re a sun worshipper or not, the first thing to consider when planning any kind of outside space is sunlight. The direction your garden faces will have a big impact on where you plant flowers or seeds and the layout of your furniture. South-facing spaces benefit from the most vitamin D throughout the day, but might be a bit chilly in the morning, whilst west-facing ones take advantage of that late afternoon and evening light. So, it is worth thinking about whether you want to use your garden for creating a verdant oasis, enjoying morning coffees, hosting (virtual) parties, reading in the shade or a combination. Of course, if you’re designing a garden from scratch you may be able to choose the direction to best suit your requirements.
Is the grass always greener?
If you live in the countryside, chances are you already have grass growing happily and all that’s required is maintenance, aside from perhaps creating an area for furniture and a barbeque to live. If you’re a city dweller however, the choice of garden surface can be more pressing. Wooden decking is a popular choice, as it’s easy to install and fairly cost effective. It can be laid over uneven surfaces, so there is no need to level out the ground below or can be installed on top of an existing surface – ideal for a roof terrace, for instance. Aesthetically, stone or slate paving offers plenty of options as, depending on the colour and type you choose, you can easily create a more contemporary or rustic look. It’s incredibly hardwearing but can be expensive if you have a large space to cover.
Then comes the real or faux grass debate. The natural appeal of real grass is hard to beat and is relatively easy to create by planting seeds or laying down turf. Visually, high-quality artificial grasses are now so realistic it can be hard to tell them apart from the real thing – except that it will always be the same colour and height. From an environmental perspective, faux grass is often hailed as being eco-friendlier as it doesn’t require watering, but it is worth noting that the majority is made from plastic and, although some have a long lifespan of up to about 20 years, won’t be biodegradable.
Choose your furniture
If you’re lucky enough to have acres of greenery, it all comes down to style and activity preference. Do you want to create an area for entertaining or one dedicated to relaxing in the sun? Or perhaps both? Either way, opting for a garden set, which can be reconfigured to suit all kinds of moods and days, is a simple and practical way to create a cohesive aesthetic.
Small garden or balcony? Stick to the essentials: somewhere comfortable to sit and clever pieces that can be adapted to your requirements – floor cushions or footstools can easily be stacked away or taken back inside when not in use. If you’re generally short on space, our all-weather ‘rattan’ furniture is ideal. It can be left outside from season to season, so you don’t have to find somewhere to store it. Fitting a table into your outdoor space means you have an extra place to work or dine, which is a refreshing change of scenery in small city apartments or houses. A bistro table is a good choice, as its base takes up very little space, and you can always bring dining chairs outside to go with it. Just as inside, mirrors are also a great decorating tool in small gardens as they reflect light and make the space appear bigger – choose a window style to create a ‘secret garden’ feel.
A roof terrace, no matter how small, is a delight in the warmer months as you’re guaranteed the most sun with the least obstructions. It goes without saying that you’ll want a sunbed to fully reap the benefit of this. If you have space, a double lounger is ideal as there’s lots of room for people to perch when it is lying flat.
Brighten the night
If you are planning on dining in the garden in the evening, lighting is key. Romantic dinner for two? Adorn all the surfaces you have with tea lights and pillar candles to create atmosphere – if it’s looking a little windy, then LEDs make the perfect back-up. Fairy lights are ideal for adding a little magic and creating a feature outside; wind them around trees or through balcony trellises. Lanterns are also excellent decorative additions, adding interest and character as well as essential illumination.
If you’re looking for something a little more permanent, consider the focal points of your garden. Is it a spectacular selection of plants and foliage? A water feature? A statue? Well-placed recessed lights, which are embedded in the ground, can illuminate these structures and make your outside space a work of art at night.
Warm it up
Traditional fireplaces are always a focal point at home and there’s no reason why this can’t be the same outside. The addition of a firepit, chimenea or outdoor heater helps you enjoy your garden as their light and warmth make them hot spots for gathering long into the night – even if ‘gathering’ only means you and your dog currently.
Treat your garden as an extension of your home and choose a colour palette for textiles – essential for cosying up but also for creating a welcoming aesthetic. Throws are key for sitting out past sunset, whilst outdoor rugs are great for defining space – textured options add visual appeal as well as warming feet in the evenings.
Embrace nature and make wildlife welcome
If you live in the city, bringing nature to your garden may seem like a lot of effort, but it is all the more important. Luckily, there are plenty of flowers and plants that love to climb and can take that small, gloomy back corner of your space to vibrant new heights. Bougainvillea, honeysuckle, jasmine and clematis are known to be particularly fast growing. Alternatively, opt for wall-hanging pots, which also take up zero floor space whilst offering maximum colourful rewards. If room is less of an issue, it’s time to get started on growing your own vegetables. Tomatoes, potatoes, beans and courgettes are thought to be easy to grow and can also be grown in pots if you don’t have any grassy space.
Make wildlife welcome too. Bumblebees are incredibly passive pollinators and unfortunately, they’re declining in numbers; encouraging them into your garden can be very beneficial to the species as well as your plants. Planting perennials, including water features, offering shade and choosing bright coloured flowers are all ways you can try and bring bees into your outside space. Birdbaths and bird feeders are also an excellent way to invite feathered friends in, and can be beautiful features in their own right.
Create a makeshift garden
If you don’t have a garden, embracing natural elements is all the more essential. Bring the outside in with organic textures, like wood and rattan, and sit by the window and take in the fresh air. If you’re green-fingered, window boxes are a great way to get your fix. Many plants and flowers – like fuschias and primroses – don’t even require much sun to be able to thrive. Alternatively create a hassle-free oasis with faux foliage; with a faux olive tree you could almost be in the Mediterranean.