It’s that time of year when the nature shows off with its’ gorgeous autumn colours and changing skies. These displays of beauty are of course sometimes accompanied by sudden downpours and chilly temperatures, but in-between we are treated to occasional crisp, yet sunny periods. A Saturday or Sunday morning when everyone else is still in bed is my favourite time to steal a quiet hour or two outdoors with a coffee and a magazine.
To me, it makes sense to plan your garden to maximise its use for as much of the year as possible, English summers are short after all. Read on for my tips for a fuss-free useable garden, even in the colder months (or scroll to the bottom for my quick tips).
About three weeks ago our garden was a mess. The prep base work was completed, but the builders were using it as a dumping ground and outdoor workshop, I was determined to get it as close to finished as possible so that I could enjoy it, even if just for a few days, before the winter properly set in.
The garden is small, it measures roughly 7x7 metres. The overall design was decided back in 2016, with the help of a landscape architect when it was a requirement that the planning application for the house was accompanied by a garden plan as well. I’ve made a few small changes, like narrowing the raised planters and replacing the rear patio with decking, but overall the design has remained the same. I would still love to add the water feature in future though.
Despite being small, so much planning went into this garden design. The bricks of the back garden wall match those used on the house. The brick wall (as opposed to a wooden fence) was requested by our rear neighbour, whom we bought the land from.
To contrast the traditional looking brick wall, I decided to design the wooden fences to be private, bright and modern, to complement the house. I liked the modern slatted-style fencing available, but disliked the fact that you could see through the gaps in-between. I wanted it to be completely private, so I designed the slats to overlap so that the neighbours got the same style on their side, but so that we couldn’t spy on one another through any gaps! To keep costs down, the builders used pretty standard rough-sawn boards to construct the fence, but a couple of coats of Sandtex Soft Satin in Clay White transformed it, and gave it that smooth modern look I was after.
The clean-lined, raised flower beds are built in concrete block-work and simply rendered. They were too high at first, so I asked the builders to remove one course to make sure they were not too dominating in the small garden. I think at this height they are perfect for doubling up as extra seating, which many people will probably perch upon next summer at the bbqs we plan to have. I’ve chosen Sandtex Chalk Hill for the flower boxes, the colour is slightly warmer than the Clay White and works well with the planting and looks especially good next to the green turf.
Choose Garden Colours Carefully
The decking I’ve chosen is a low maintenance, high quality composite in anthracite to balance out all the lighter colours in the garden. I’ve used quite a lot of black in the interior of the living spaces that open out onto the garden, so the anthracite carries that through to the outdoors nicely, without being too overbearing.
I remember some advice from the landscape architect at the time; she said not to use too many greys in UK gardens as the weather is quite grey for a large percentage of the year, and looking out to wet, grey finishes outdoors can be quite depressing!
I kill plants
I don’t mean to, but I do. So low maintenance was top of the list for me. Even the grass is low maintenance – it’s fake. But with such a small patch, and an even smaller shed with no space for a lawnmower, it just made sense.
I just love the very slight blueish tinge of the Sandtex Clay White on the fence, so I decided to use that as my inspiration for the planting, choosing plants in a modern palette of blue-green and deep red, with the assistance of a very helpful lady at my local garden centre. We selected Intense Blue, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Cabbage Palm (the red spiky one) and Rosemary.
I was told that the bluer plants don’t do well in the shade though, so as half my garden is in shade and the other is in sun, I had to find alternatives for the shaded half, for which she suggested ferns, Fatsia Japonica and a climbing hydrangea, I requested that they all be evergreen so that the garden looks good, even in the colder months to come.
I’m still working on the planting in the garden, there are still some spaces to be filled, but I think these choices make a very good start. I actually found it very helpful going to the garden centre in November, it gave me a very good idea of what to buy right now, and will always look good this time of year.
Somewhere To Curl Up
In the colder months I want a cosy spot, the regular garden furniture just won’t do for this time of year, so I drag out a soft chair, a blanket and a little table to the sunniest spot in the garden, even a stolen half an hour with an early morning coffee works wonders for getting ready for the day.
Something For The Kids
If you have little ones, you’ll know that entertaining them indoors on colder days can be quite tricky. So in a blatant attempt at distraction (and trying to buy myself thirty minutes here and there), I’ve set up a little playhouse for my daughter, Eva. We’ve actually had this playhouse for a long time, it was starting to look a bit sad, so I’ve given it a coat of paint to freshen it up, and to fit in with the new garden design. I chose the lovely blue-grey Sandtex Seclusion, I think it works really well with the other colours I’ve chosen and also the anthracite decking. Sometimes I’ll put her play kitchen in it and it’ll keep her happy for at least an extra ten minutes(!)
Even in a small garden storage is a must. I’m always amazed at how a newly constructed shed is magically filled up in no time at all. Ours was constructed by 3pm on a Friday, and by 4.30pm that same day I was climbing over bikes and a deflated bouncy castle to reach the screwdrivers. And besides, you need somewhere to stash your summer garden things so that they won’t get ruined by the harsher weather in the winter.
I was quite restricted in choice by the small area I had available (2X1m), but I managed to find this toungue and groove version, I wanted to echo the modern lines of the fence, so avoided the more traditional looking shiplap options. The shed is also painted in Sandtex Clay White, which makes it blend with the fencing even more and keeps the garden looking as spacious as possible.
For A Fuss-Free-All-Year-Round Garden
I’m not usually a fan of fake, but in our small garden I’m all for it! I wouldn’t go overboard and fake everything, balance is always good, but faux grass has come a long way, there are some great options available it’s great for small areas and if you choose a high quality composite decking, it will save you hours of mowing and maintenance come the summer months.
Choose hard-wearing, long lasting paints
Sandtex masonry paint have microseal technology, making surfaces dirt resistant, breathable and waterproof – meaning flawless coverage and protection for longer, and they offer 15 years guaranteed protection and a wide range of great colours.
Choose mostly evergreen
Your garden will look lush all year round, very important if you have a living or kitchen area with lots of glazing that looks onto it! I found visiting a garden centre out of peak season very useful, I could see what looked good at the time and the staff were less busy, so free to spend time walking around with me to talk me through choosing the best options.
Doing it for the kids
Add something for the kids, but paint it if possible to blend in with the overall look you want to achieve.
Because you always have so much more junk than you think!