The Little Extras
Electricity, irrigation, water
Now that you’ve drawn up a basic plan you should consider building in services like electricity for lights or a pond pump.
Installing an automatic watering system is also a good idea. It would be a good idea to employ a professional as DIY systems can be costly and, if not installed correctly, a waste of money. At the same time, you could consider asking them to install an outside tap there are sure to be occasions when access to a separate source of water is useful.
Structures: sheds, compost bins, summer houses
Ready-made structures such as a sheds and summer houses can be tricky to incorporate into the garden as they are usually out of scale and unsympathetic to the materials used in the house. The problem can be easily overcome by hiding them all behind a screen. If your garden is too small for a shed, you could screen off a small area for your unsightly garden necessitie instead.
Grouping utilities, serviced by one path, will also help achieve unity. If you don’t have the space to screen off an area, stain them all the same colour but make sure you choose dark colours that don’t shout out - dark green is always a good choice as it will recede and give your space the illusion of being larger. If you have an octagonal summer house or conservatory, build an octagonal pool to strengthen the visual theme.
Structures: pergolas, arches, tunnels
A pergola can be ‘directional’ - that is one that leads you from one space to another, possibly with a focal point at the end such as an urn or sundial, but don’t make the mistake of introducing too may focal points - in a small garden, one is probably enough. On the other hand, it can be ‘static’ - where it is attached to a wall of the house and acts as a roof for sitting under.
Whether you choose a wooden pergola or metal framed arches and tunnels, climbers scrambling over will soften the effect and provide shade and privacy. We will be discussing plants in the next feature, but it’s worth mentioning here that, when choosing plants for a structure that is attached to the house, you should take time to consider if the plant loses its leaves in winter or if it is evergreen, because if foliage is too dense it might make the house too dark in the winter months, when you want maximum light.
You can also make an interesting structure to act as an arbour by using living plant material such as Sorbus aria (whitebeam) or willow, although ‘living’ arbours (pictured above) do need regular maintenance. Think about the shape of your structures - look at the house and if there is a square or round window, maybe your arch needs to echo these shapes. This will bring the garden in line with the proportions of the house.
Features, ornaments, furniture
Garden furniture - chairs and tableThe appearance and comfort of furniture is important. Darker shades of paint, natural stone or plain wood are best as they blend in and will recede into the overall composition of the garden. Avoid white and vibrant colours which will detract your eye from plants.
If space is at a minimum it’s a good idea to incorporate seating into your structures - a wide brim around a raised bed or pond acts as useful fixed seating. Benches can also double up as storage - by incorporating a wooden hinged lid seat you have space inside.
Pots and containers
When it comes to pots and containers, it goes without saying that natural materials are best - Italian or Spanish terracotta, ensuring they are frost-proof - stone, wood and lead.
If you have a roof garden though, heavy containers may not be an option so plastic is a better choice. Don’t despair though, there are some very realistic plastic containers on the market.
Next article: Plant combinations