After sharing a picture of our (still not finished, but getting there..) newly landscaped (I use this in the loosest term) front garden on Instagram over the weekend, I had SO many DMs and emails, I thought I’d better do an actual post, where I can answer all your questions in one place.
As you may or may not know, we have a teeny-tiny courtyard back garden with a little round table and four chairs. It’s tiny, but very cosy. It’s just big enough to have an al fresco supper for four. When we bought our house back in 2012, there was nothing at the back except an ugly, high fence. So I immediately set about planting as many things as possible, wherever possible – beds, pots, climbers, to cover (literally) every inch of wall and fence. I even strung festoon lights across the courtyard, and trained Jasmin and Clematis to grow along them. So now, it’s like sitting in a cosy little (very green) cave out there…
Last Summer, I turned my attentions to the front garden, which is actually much bigger than the back (our house is set down from the road, so it’s unusually private and secluded for a front garden. We just had a muddy patch of (unusable, do to the muddiness and reluctance of any grass to grow properly) overgrown, scruffy grass, and some overgrown beds. We never used it, so it was just redundant space. It was just such a waste, and used to irritate me every time I looked at. But it took us a few years to get around it to it, mostly due to cost (landscape gardening, however minimal, ‘aint cheap).
Now I can go into more detail about specific plants and flowers, but I can do that at a later date, if people are interested? Let me know.
We had a gardener design the space for us, but we worked very closely on how I (did I say I? I meant, Tom and I obviously!) wanted it to look, and how we wanted to use the space. Both equally important factors. We wanted a mix of entertaining, playing and relaxing space. To keep costs down, we did keep some of the existing features – the beds are pretty much all the same as they were, just replanted (some plants were moved). The biggest/most expensive jobs were adding more paving (to match the ones we already had); and rendering the steps. We also had some large branches taken off a tree that used to overhang our steps (fine if, like me, you’re not tall, but my dad used to bump his head every time…).
Things I really wanted included were the hazel hurdle fencing (I like it with our white house) on both sides; a large mirror (to visually open up the space even more – ours is from Kempton market, but this one is very similar), to eventually be framed by plants; room for plenty of pots around the edges; and a for all the walls and fences to eventually be covered in climbers (like the back).
Now I did have to fight with Tom to get the paving, because we have a family of toads who live in the front, and he was worried they might relocate, which would then affect the wildlife in the garden. As frustrating as I was by this, he was right, and the local wildlife (however small, and seemingly insignificant) is of great importance to me and my family. So my ever-resourceful gardener suggested a compromise in the form of a water feature. Ummmm. Now I know I am a total grandma in my nightwear choices, approach to nightlife and tea drinking, but a water feature?? That was a step too far. Next she would be suggesting a rockery! But, she (Nicky, our lovely gardener) showed me some ideas and made some suggestions, and in the end it was the compromise both Tom and I needed to go ahead. It is actually a very simple old copper pipe that runs into a sunken (and now almost completely obscured by plants) plastic trough, set into one of the flower beds. The idea was that we will eventually replace it with an old stone water fountain, but we have yet to source anything that we both like. It makes that lovely soothing sound (if you consider the sound of someone weeing soothing anyway? Just kidding – you get used to it!), and I have to say, does look rather pretty. As with the rest of the space, the more the plants all grow (and out), the prettier the garden will become (as was the case with the space at the back). Pretty gardens come to those who are prepared to be patient. But they do come.
So, as for the ‘dressing’ of the garden, again, I have kept things pretty similar to the back. I don’t like anything remotely gimmicky, colourful or kitch in my home (outsider or in), so I always veer towards the more ‘old and scruffy’ (which Tom prefers to call either ‘fake old’ or ‘shitty chic’). I’m sure it will come as no surprise that Petersham Nurseries is a constant source of inspiration. I like metal garden furniture (we have this table, in green, and six matching chairs, but this is a great smaller verson too – I like all three colours) with mismatched cushions, pretty lanterns hanging on crooks in the flowers beds (we have these too), and a real mix of different sized pots. I am also adding baskets into the mix at the front. I love the idea of them mixed in with old pots. I was (pleasantly) surprised to find a few at T.K. Maxx of all places (I also just ordered this one) . Cox & Cox do some lovely baskets too. I will also be adding in some zinc planters. And when it comes to the table, I always like to add a tablecloth – to make it feel more like the inside of our home. I like everything to be as cosy and homely as possible, and my outside spaces are no exception. And this includes no plastic glassware or crockery. I would rather take the risk. See, not such a Grandma after all?
Our space is pretty small – we do also have a bench (from Cox & Cox, but they no longer sell it) that was there before, but I am thinking of maybe adding another ‘sofa-y’ seating area at some point. But if you have more space, I love the idea of mixing different pieces in different textures in your garden space. How gorgeous would this be? Or this?
Anyway, I hope you found this useful? As I said, do let me know if you would like more details on anything specific? I didn’t want to get too rambly (although I gave it a good shot!).
I will share more pics as more things start to grow, and as I add more things.
pps: if, like mine, your kids insist on having a bug hotel, then this one is more boutique and less Travelodge…