Saturday, 21 January 2017

Before & after: garden makeover

It's been a very long time since my last post, for which apologies. In the interim, I've got married and done up a house, as well as generally working full-time. 

I'll dig out some suitable wedding pix and post those soon, but meanwhile – there was also the garden makeover, which came about thanks to the wedding generosity of our friends and family. I'm going to start with the (almost) finished version.

It started life as a to-scale drawing done by clever Declan, my now husband.

Our brief – to ourselves – was to turn it into a garden we might use even in chillier or wetter weather. We wanted to get rid of the crazy paving (which you'll see further down) and have some grass, but also wanted somewhere solid to put a small compost bin (I have my heart set on the Alys Fowler-tipped Hotbin). The gravel comes in handy for that, and for the tiny shed, which has been bumped closer to the new patio; the composter will hide behind that when we buy it in the spring. 

Somewhat reluctantly, we went for artificial grass. It's such a small patch that having to get a mower just wasn't worth it, plus it's another thing to find space to store. It's actually a brilliant fake, though we might get something thicker and tuftier down the line to help soften the edges between lawn and path. If anyone has any extra suggestions for breaking up that line, I'd be very happy to hear them, in the comments below.


One of the unfinished elements is the lone raised bed, on the left here. We had this expanded from the even weenier little square it was previously, which you can just see in the last before photo. It's still not much of an area for planting, but in any small garden compromises have to be made; we wanted to use the garden for hanging out in, having people over in, and I'd love to lie on the new lawn in the summer to read a book. 

We also didn't go for a complete overhaul: the decking platform was already there and rather than demolish it we just reconfigured it. We had a fantastic garden builder called Allen who is the most thorough contractor I've ever worked with, and was full of clever solutions to all sorts of unexpected issues.

This is the original plan. There were a few changes from this along the way, but it's broadly the same.
And here's how it looked just before work started, hence all the piles of things everywhere.



The main part of the project was to build a waterproof pergola coming out from the back of the house. So the lovely scented jasmine and honeysuckle that were growing between the roof and the windows had to go. The plants remain, but now just stop at the start of the new pergola. Once we've figured out how to make it work with the drainpipe that runs across it (we did that after the photos, since the first time it rained it was very splashy underneath), hopefully it can grow across the front of the sheltered area. We're also training scented climbers up the vertical posts.

I convinced myself for a long time that the crazy paving had a sort of 70s charm (the same era as the house), but looking at these photos again, I'd forgotten quite how urban and grey the whole effect was. We had a round table in the middle of the paving but it was a pretty unwelcoming space.

We were reluctant to waste the paving stones and luckily our neighbour saw them piling up outside the back gate while we tried to find a good place to recycle them and decided she wanted to build a rock garden. We can now look out of the upper windows of the house down onto her garden and see all the old slabs housing a lovely rocky raised bed next door.

This is a shot taken before it was completely finished, but we had guests and so tried to make it useable.

The concrete tiles – madly shipped from this place, in Ireland, in a misguided attempt at economising – were a nightmare for many reasons. The main issue with them now is that, despite having sealed them, they are filth magnets and seem to pick up every stain going. On the plus side, they did look a little too pristine and gleaming when they were first laid, so they at least look lived-in now.

We'll put a vegetable bed on wheels parallel with the table once Declan makes it, too. So a bit more growing space. Talking of DIY – what do you think of the table? It's two Ikea tables with timber strips (wider versions of the horizontals under the pergola roof) laid across them. It's a temporary measure – I'm going to get some hairpin legs and we'll lash the planks together so it's more sturdy – but it's fared us well for a good few dinners and a lively Christmas do.

We really wanted it to be a space where we could sit in the evening and so lighting and heating were key elements.

The light over the table (excuse the dangling wires – sorting out the electrics is also something we've postponed until spring) is actually a halogen heater. It's absolutely brilliant and super warm. The festoon lights have LED bulbs and don't provide much light, but look nice and twinkly after dark.

We picked up the blue kitchen cupboard on the left on eBay. The top drawer is actually a flap-down surface, so it's perfect for light potting. It also boosts storage, very useful since the shed doesn't hold much.

The flowerbed is another project for spring. It has a few more things growing in it now, but it's still only a third full.

Any suggestions (it's a pretty sunny spot) please suggest them in the comments below!




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