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How To Design Outdoor Living Area

How to design outdoor living area – Some garden designers will come for a consultation of just an hour or so and sort out problems and make suggestions on the spot. Try the Society of Garden Designers to find someone in your area

First steps

Decide what you want from your outdoor area.
l A garden is full of potential, no matter what its current condition, and can be tailored to your particular needs. With a bit of thought, preparation and attention, it’s possible to achieve the most amazing transformation.

l The best way to start the process is to define your priorities. Most people want somewhere to sit comfortably, so think about how you’d like that seating area to look and how big it should be. Would you prefer it in the sun or shade? Will it take up the whole of the garden? Do you want a dining table and chairs or to have more of a lounge area with sofas?

l As well as a place to relax you’ll need practical areas to hang a washing line and store bins. You might also want space to grow vegetables. Maybe you need access to a gate or storage for bicycles somewhere. Have a think about all the uses you could make of this space. l Define the sunniest and shadiest parts of the garden. This will determine the best areas to position plants and activity areas.

l If you’re overlooked, decide if you want to screen off some areas for privacy.
l It also pays to consider what you love about your garden and what you don’t. If you don’t like something, can it be taken out? Or is there some way you can hide it? Often sheds can be dispensed with if you have a good clear out, but otherwise can be screened from view.

Finding inspiration

l Collect pictures of gardens that appeal to you. Mull over what it is in them that you like. You might think there’s no way you could make your garden exactly like it, but you could recreate a similar kind of environment or just use some of the details.

l To find what atmosphere would suit you, decide if you are a ‘neat freak’ or a ‘messy Joe’. Are the pictures you like pristine and tidy or are plants hanging over paths, rose petals romantically left on the grass?

l Are you an open or closed garden person? Some gardens are closed in to create secret areas and magical winding
paths. In contrast, some are as open as possible showing the boundaries of the garden.

l Straight lines or curves? Go with curves for an immediately softer effect that looks more romantic. If you opt a design with straight lines, your garden is likely to have a more open, modern and geometric feel.

l Lastly look at the details of your pictures – colours, ornaments, plants, paving. Make a note of any walls, fences
or hedges you like as these are  the sorts of things that will adapt to any garden.

Preparing the way

l First rearrange things within the garden to create spaces that garden designers call rooms.
l The idea of making rooms is important and easy to demonstrate by creating a plan. For instance, you may want to have a sitting area in the sunniest spot, halfway down your garden, as well as a shed and a bin at the rear and paths to the shed and sitting area. Plan A below incorporates all these elements but the overall scheme is a bit
bland and unimaginative.

l However, by first creating two rooms, which consist of circular lawns, as illustrated in plan B, the same elements, in similar positions, will look so much better.

l In a small garden where you want to socialise with friends, it could be tempting to build a big patio with a patch of grass in front and a row of plants at the far end. This is like using half a living room and feels unbalanced; see plan C.

l Instead treat the whole space as a room by putting the seating area in middle. In plan D, a built-in seating area is surrounded by plants and is much more inviting. There’s no grass but with all those plants, the plan appears much softer than the first version.

l Once you have an idea of where and how big the rooms or areas are going to be, think about how to define them. The outlines could be curved or straight. Plan E shows a curved seating area for a more gentle style than plan D.

l Your choice of paving and surfaces will affect the scene. Light, regular-sized, tile-like options will create a  modern and clean appearance whereas random-sized natural stone will look more romantic and cottagey. Walls with smooth, painted render will look more contemporary than brick-built or wooden fences and trellis.

Finding the right plants
* Once you know the aspect of your beds: sunny, shady, moist
or dry, select plants naturally adapted to that setting. Think of new
beds as a long-term plan and in the beginning keep your selection
simple and limit the number of types you include. Also limit your
choice of colours to three or four and buy plants in groups of odd
numbers of at least three to give impact.
* Keep in mind how big shrubs and trees are likely to grow
and also how much maintenance they might need.
* The Royal Horticultural Society’s website has a great plant
search facility at rhs.org.uk/plants. Put in exactly what you
need and suitable plants will come up.

Doing the work

Creating a new garden takes a lot of building work: laying paving, erecting walls and making ponds, so unless you’re a keen DIYer it might be best to employ a professional.

l There is plenty you can do yourself, such as clearing the site. Even if it’s just getting rid of old toys, unwanted plants and furniture, you can make a huge difference. Either rent a skip for the weekend or bag it up and take it to the recycling centre.

l Once the garden is clear and tidy, you can mark out what you want to go where with line marking spray paint, available from builders’ merchants, to get an idea of how it might look. Measure and mark out the ground where the different rooms and sitting areas might go. Take your time and live with this for a while to imagine how it will work.

l Reshaping the lawn is easy and you can transform your garden in an afternoon. Mark out the new shape you want
and then cut away any excess, using a spade. l If you want to make the lawn bigger, buy pieces of lawn turf
from a garden centre. Spring and autumn are the main times for this but if you can keep it well watered, it can be done through the summer. Make sure the ground is completely flat–raking and walking on it to make sure it’s as even as possible before you start. Lay turfs closely together and try not to walk on them for a few weeks.

l It is possible to lay a gravel path in an afternoon. First, scrape out grass or soil to form the path then hold back the edges with a metal edging such as Everedge, which pokes into the ground. After that simply pour on the gravel. To prevent weeds coming through, first lay a water-permeable membrane but try not to make it too thick
or it will be difficult to walk on.

 

Originally posted 2015-05-24 09:43:20.

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