A garden big or small evolves with your lifestyle. Flicking through the latest gardening magazines low whitewashed walls, tiled terraces and intermittent areas of hardwood decking linked with architectural planting seem to be trendy. Where existing materials and architecture allow then this style can be really very striking and attractive. A keen sense of place and a sympathetic approach is essential though. June and July are wonderful months in the garden and inspiration is running high in the aftermath of Chelsea and leading up to Hampton Court and the other big shows. I wonder if you realise that most of the points available for the show gardens are awarded for the selection of plants!
Most gardens have some or all of the things I am about to mention, a patio area, possibly a water feature, a lawn, a utility area with a shed and compost heap and even sometimes a vegetable plot. Combining all these ingredients into one space creates visual confusion and looks unattractive unless it is thought through carefully. Within the home we tend to divide areas for the sake of privacy, hygiene and comfort. Try to think of the outside space in the same way and try not to divorce it from the house. The garden should wrap harmoniously around the house.
A garden designer has many skills in her tool box the most important of which is spacial awareness, or how to break up space into smaller portions, linking up the various elements I have mentioned to create beauty, depth and surprise. Dividing the garden is one option and this can be done in a thousand ways using all sorts of different materials, not just fence panels and planted borders.
If you have a small garden and you decide not to divide it up then try enhancing the various elements. For instance, instead of having raised vegetable beds stuck up in a corner somewhere near the garden shed, be bold make a feature of it by creating an ornamental parterre garden using all sorts of different shapes and textures and include plants and flowers which you would not normally use. Include a seating area, perhaps a small arbour and paint the garden shed a soft colour so that it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb.
If you decide for the sake of low maintenance to pave the entire area use a little sensitivity and creativity to discover ways to soften the hard lines of slabs, architecture and fences. A garden is a place of self expression an oasis for ideas, it has so many possibilities. Working out what to do in a garden is very much down to personal tastes and there is nothing wrong with trying something different and radical or using modern sculpture and art to create the wow factor or a sense of fun.
Why not be inventive and let your character spill out into the garden. A garden which reflects the character of the owner is always a treasure to find. Own it, elect to foster it, enjoy the time you spend in it and make it work for you and your lifestyle.