In the last part of the eco garden series I want show you how to use the basic principles of interior design in your garden.. I do have to say I am not a professional gardener but a happy amateur for circa 20 years. I have always had a garden, even my little flat in my single days in London had a small (s/w facing of course) garden! With our big renovation in the pipeline I decided to properly design my own garden (future post as it is a work in progress) and thought why not apply all the same rules as with interiors… hence my garden series….
I hope you have enjoyed the series, it has been fun putting it together I learned a lot researching and writing it!
Please feel free to share with any friends who might be making changes in their own gardens…
Thanks for reading,
When undertaking heavy or construction work I would recommend:
Always consult the professionals and take advice and help with the lifting! Consider employing a contractor belonging to a professional organisation. Ask for references photos and ideally speak to previous clients (anyone in London I highly recommend Ginkgo Garden Design who did my garden in Wimbledon) can’t think why I have no photos on post but this section is an afterthought!! The RHS also has lists of companies click here to see
Check with your local council planning office to avoid expensive mistakes/disputes – fences and garden structures if they are near a boundary wall often have height limitations.
last but not least with an eco spirit let us all try to re-use, re-vamp, re-cycle and use previously loved material where possible…. 😉
When it comes to design, gardens are outside rooms and the design principles of interior design apply. Collecting ideas of what you like and want will help you decide on things through the process. Interior designers use mood boards and you can too for your garden, i.e. you like a plant or chair ask yourself “would it be out of place on my mood board?” You have your decision there and then. There are may good designers out there if you go that route and your mood board will be very helpful by giving your designer an understanding of what you want in a visual form.
1. Read my Garden Blogs 1-3 hints and tips of how to….
3. Assess your space & make a plan…..pencil, paper, measuring tape and compass (there is on the iPhone)
For her clients who wanted to keep as large a lawn as possible, Lisa moved the shed nearer the house and used the full width at the back of the garden. By making it a circular shape the lawn appear larger. By moving the BBQ & dining area eating area near the kitchen makes it convenient to use. The kitchen extension has bi-fold doors and the new patio is effectively an extension of the kitchen in the summer months. Siting the shed nearer the house allowed her clients to access the shed in winter without having to walk across a muddy lawn …. North facing she has selected many shade loving plants on her mood board above – to see more of this project click here
Coming soon…..Eco Garden Design Part 5
Don’t miss my next and final post of this series where I will walk you through each step of the design process used by interior designers to design your garden! Balance, Colour, Texture, Form, Scale, Pattern, Contrast, Unity and Rhythm…. once you have this know how…. you can design any interior or exterior space…
Thanks for reading.
p.s. I have some amazing images on my Pinterest Boards click below
For many the garden is their main contact with the natural world, however many gardens have evolved to be highly unnatural places.
Today, many gardens regardless of where, are lawn and borders holding plants, many which may be transported halfway across the world. To maintain such gardens in peak condition requires constant irrigation and liberal doses of chemical insecticides, fertilisers and weedkillers. Many people worry about chemicals inside their homes and on food that they buy, but forget about the garden which could be much more toxic than they imagine.
By choosing planting that is suited to your environment your garden will be ‘lower maintenance’ and you can get more pleasure and do less work! Eg, did you consider that a petrol mower running for an hour creates the same pollution in the atmosphere as driving an average car 560km?
Working with nature
Instead of imposing an artificial garden idea on a site regardless of the conditions – go with what mother nature would have planted there herself! Do this by looking around at your local forests, parks and see what works well in neighbouring gardens, ask advice at a good quality garden centre. By promoting native species, you attract local wildlife and insects and you will require less water to upkeep. In addition to this, use non-toxic structures and natural organic methods for pest control (see below)… and that is pretty much and eco garden!
Lawns do have their place and can be highly practical for children to run around safely on. If you have a lawn try to create a space for a natural garden area too then you will still attract the right predators to keep your precious plants uneaten.
Type of soil
Amount of rainfall
Aspect – direction of sun
Type of soil…. note that sometimes you might have a mixture of soil in your garden and some will be exposed to sun and other parts in the shade. Choose your plants according to the soil/area/blooming season and in no time you will have an abundant, all year interest garden. You could also put anything you want in a pot with the corresponding earth mix.
Clay is heavy, high in nutrients, wet and cold in winter and dry and hard in summer.
Sandy is light, dry warm and low in nutrients
Chalk is very alkaline may be light or heavy
Dry soil benefits from being mulched (spread and dig in) with product you can buy or make your own from old leaves and composted vegetables from the kitchen (avoid dairy/meat scraps).
Shade loving plants – if you have shade embrace these lovely plants which are full of texture – I love hostas! (note: put sharp grit or crushed egg shells around the bases as snail and slugs also love them!)
I couldn’t leave the Buddleia out of this post – it is a wonderful plant that thrives almost anywhere (so much so that it can be looked upon by some as a pest – shock horror!) There are over 100 varieties to choose from in pinks blues and whites…. butterflies and bees love it and it only requires hard cutting back when it gets a bit too full.
The Royal Horticultural Society has a plant finder search where you can list your soil/sun/rainfall and the search engine will advise you. click to find plants here
Not all weeds are created equal – I have some in my garden (not a clue what they are) but they are pretty so I leave them! I do however like to tidy weeds, stray grass etc away from the driveway and paths… just pull them up when I see them or you could try my recipe below – the toughest will wilt and it is all natural…… be careful not to spray on plants you want to keep!
It is completely unnecessary to use chemicals in your garden just another multi-billion dollar industry we have been programmed to “think” we need.
Insects friend or foe?
Many insects are highly beneficial to our gardens as they prey on others that eat our pretty plants! Ladybirds (or American Ladybugs) are not called the gardner’s best friend for nothing! They eat aphids, whitefly, greenfly and mites. Some people even buy them and put them in their gardens!
One of the best tactics is to attract the correct insects to your garden, for a complete list of making your own mini insect army to fight the war for youclick here
If you do have a persistent problem this natural insecticide is safe to use on affected plants only.
If you are too squeamish to collect the slugs and snails (my kids love doing this) and take them to the local forest to set them free…. then get a few small glass jars (baby food or jam) and fill 1/3 with beer. Leave them sheltered from rain under the leaves they like to eat. Once they have been removed you could lay crushed eggshells or sharp grit to deter others.
Would like to end this post with a pic from my garden of my favourite tree Magnolia Grandiflora – spring has defiantly arrived here in Switzerland.
In part one I gave some stylish ideas that I will be using in my garden to save, better use and collect water …
In this post I wanted to shed some light on how easy it is to use recycled, eco and chemical-free building products to build the hard landscaping, i.e. fences, steps, flowerbeds, pathways and garden structures.
STONEis unique and highly prized for the patina it gathers over time…
Get to know where your local builder’s salvage yards are (see Resources on the top menu bar for some ideas) and look online at eBay/craigslist/gumtree sites. All types of stone, gravel, rocks taken from old churches, schools, factories etc… can be found – there is a multitude of fabulous product out there and not only will you have a unique look but the satisfaction of seeing it in a new home (together with a quirky backstory) is not to be underestimated!
I am often asked why is using new stone bad for the environment it’s natural? The problem is that to produce use new stone it must be cut from quarries. This requires huge amounts of water in the cutting and extraction process, together with general the manufacturing and transportation causing air pollution all adds up to an un-eco product. Especially when there is so much beautiful stone around just waiting for someone with a bit of imagination to come along and reuse it! Perhaps we could also start to think of natural resources as finite, i.e. once they are gone that is it … and surely we need to consider to leave some for future generations. The other big advantage of using reclaimed stone is that it has a patina which gives your garden instant gravitas and blends better with nature….
Concrete is a highly debated subject in the eco world. However it can tick a lot of eco boxes; be locally produced, needs no maintenance, is highly functional, lasts a very long time and can be recycled again.
As with many eco decisions it is about weighing up the pros and cons!
The most damaging component in concrete is the use of portland cement in the mix which causes vast amounts of CO2 emissions when produced. The good news is that this component is no longer necessary (unless you are building skyscrapers) and can be replaced by other things including fly ash from steel production waste instead. So investigate that you are getting a greener concrete and you should not feel un-eco to use it.
It is fair to say that here in Switzerland they do like the modern look. The terrain is quite hilly and they love concrete. I managed to find some concrete walls that I don’t find hideous!
images of concrete below from creabeton.ch
If you do decide that you will go with an ‘eco’ concrete (as outlined above) there is a big variety and concrete can be customised by colour, moulding and texture…… e.g.the wood profile below is quite a good way of having a maintenance free decking/path and I like the ‘trunks’ to sit on or make stepping stones with…
Concrete can be coloured and textured to look like stone..
Wood is versatile, and sits in nature without even trying. Here in Switzerland it is no longer allowed to use railway sleepers in your gardens because of the diesel/ chemicals which leach into the soil even after many years. As a removal incentive the local council even allows you to deduct the replacement of these with something non-toxic from your tax return!
The best rule of thumb is to use FSC registered wood products (now widely available at your local DIY depot) or repurposed wood (from salvage) which is untreated and free from toxic paints/stains.
When painting/staining garden structures use zero VOC products. Look at resources above and check outSansin Wood stain.
You can also choose to leave wood untreated, allowing it to weather to a lovely silver grey
The versatility of wood means that you can create just about anything you want, from fencing, pergolas, glass houses etc to suit modern or natural gardens and the colour can blend with your interior or disappear into nature….
I will be making a shady corner in my garden and am very inspired by this…..
… and I would love one of these to help my non hardy plants in pots survive a Swiss winter – FSC of course!
Willow and wicker is a great natural and sustainable option (grows quickly and locally found) and gives a lovely texture to your garden, it also allows the light to filter casting interesting shadows. It is hardwearing and requires no maintenance.
Containers of all sorts can be repurposed, the trick is to keep it simple and not mix too much otherwise you might end up feeling like you are sitting in a junk yard!
Garden furniture is widely available in FSC woods and can also be reclaimed. Once you start looking you can find…… the wood is likely to be better quality also and last a lot longer so justifies a slight premium on price….
Gates and railings can be found in salvage yards.
You might find some interesting ways to recycle – just use your imagination!
Antique terracotta chimney pots look wonderful as plant pots, bird baths or just sculptures in their own right!
I hope I might have inspired you to look for some interesting ways to make your outside space beautiful and tap into the wonderful eco resources all around us!
As more of us are working from home, finding your perfect garden retreat or office/studio is becoming a route many are taking. JK Rowling has an office at the bottom of her garden…. Sometimes just some extra space for the kids – or a guest house for the in-laws when they visit!! Maybe we all have that inner-child who just wants to play?
Whether you want to go the self-build route or something from a specialist company, then its important to look for inspiration and find out what will be right for you. It could be ultra minimal and sit in a garden with lots of long wavy grass to give some texture and contrast, or you could go for something whimsical and enchanting to fit a forest style setting, or something neat and conservative in an urban setting. Consider how it looks from your house and how it looks with your house or other garden structures in the garden. Depending on the purpose you might want it close to the house if e.g. you want it to be a sitting or dining area (you don’t want to be carting food/tableware etc too far) or further away if it is a workspace where you need peace and quiet away from the house. If you just need electrics then distance is not usually a problem and some companies provide solar panels or small heat pumps so you could be quite low energy or even off the grid. However as soon as you factor in drainage for plumbing then the further from the house could add to the cost.
Using good quality products will cost more in the beginning but quality will pay for itself over the long term, and you will have something for many years to come. A good solid base is important and think if you want to have something low maintenance (in natural wood which will weather) or something that requires upkeep in repainting every few years. Either way get the best quality you can afford its a false economy to cut corners here. Always check with your local planning office before you start planning and find out what restrictions there are on your property if any. It is also worth noting that when a structure is movable and non permanent it sometimes can bypass tricky planning rules…(shh….you did not hear that from me!!)
Size can also be difficult to visualise, and it is easy to get carried away and go for something too big. Use a ball of white string with some small sticks to mark out the area and make sure it doesn’t dwarf your garden. I say this because when we lived in London and my kids were little, we put in a treehouse on stilts – the whole shebang…. lets just say it dominated our garden and everyone laughed when we said it looked smaller in the catalogue!! It was lovely though so not a complete disaster – and with young kids you tend to compromise – big time!!
I found some interesting eco ideas I’d like to share…..
Denmark & International – add a room
I have admired this company for many years and it was good to see they have just won an award as Best of Design 2016 on houzz. The company was founded in 2006 by a couple who renovated Swedish summer houses. They combine sustainability, simplicity and flexibility. They offer various sizes with the ability to add extensions so you can configure different layouts. You could even build a whole house! I love the natural minimal elements, Swedish spruce specially treated to be low maintenance using eco friendly techniques, quality insulation and windows. Comes fully complete. The limited colour palette is timeless and would suit many different spaces.
Eco pods built to FSC specs with thermal glass, low voltage lighting, low energy Scandinavian underfloor heating, offers a modern clean look with impressive eco credentials. This would be an ideal office/art studio/playroom….
This design would suit most urban gardens and has a modern look but still a traditional shape.
This prefabricated hideaway works with nature and can be placed on the ground or in a tree. It is highly insulated with a variety or renewable energy options including photovoltaic solar systems and rainwater harvesting systems so it could be off-grid.
This style is slightly more radical and would suit someone wanting to make a bold statement in their garden …….. with the added benefit of bathroom facilities it is more independent.
A first-nation aboriginal community called Shuswap whose language is called Esk’et is the inspiration for this more than cute, artistic little abode. The company is founded and run by Robert Johnson an Aboriginal Canadian and his wife Bettina from Switzerland.
The exterior features aboriginal carvings and the roof is shaped like a salmon. The siding is in local pine which has been treated with Shou Sugi Ban a natural Japanese method of preserving and fire-proofing the wood by scorching it. (This method is stunning and will do a whole post about it soon!)
The Tiny House is built on a trailer base incase you want to move it.
This look is more whimsical, I could see it in a forest setting looking quite enchanting. I do love the backstory as well………
A modern holistic eco approach with major science behind the concept. Based in Germany with franchises in EU and N. America. For city dwellers with no gardens there is even the possibility to put this on a flat roof.
This option is more expensive and certain offers more luxury, with floor to celling panoramic windows and full construction is done off site and lifted in. It would also be a very upmarket office suite or hotel rooftop bar.
or as a super extravagant modern pool/summer house