There has been an enormous shift in our attitudes towards our outdoor and garden spaces over the last 18 months. They have been the places where, when restrictions allowed, we could connect with friends and family. They were the spaces where we could escape from the confines of our homes. They provided us with an all-important connection to nature, helping us to unwind and destress. Our expectations for what we can achieve with our outdoor spaces have shifted. Here are four of the key trends influencing garden design right now.
An extra room
Many people have embraced their gardens as additional rooms, viewing them as a space to live in rather than just somewhere to go when the weather is fine. From building garden rooms to outdoor kitchens, home cinemas, and seating areas, we are choosing to use and appreciate our gardens in a whole new way.
It took a pandemic to get us to embrace the idea of outdoor living. For years it wasn’t easy to get people to allocate some of the renovation budget to the outdoor space. But you get so much more from a renovation when you think about both areas together. The key to success is to create as unified a space as possible. Blurring the lines by continuing floor finishes, wall treatments and roof structures between the two areas so you can’t easily define where one space ends and the other begins. Running the same or a similar floor tile from inside to outside is a great way to achieve this kind of flow. Make sure the level from inside to outside is the same to create a seamless connection.
When you extend your living space outside, you gain additional living space. By carrying the internal finishes out, you create the illusion of your internal and external spaces feeling larger.
Our gardens have become more multifunctional in the last year. They’ve become spaces where we worked, exercised, dined, cooked, hung out with family and friends and much more. This has influenced how we decide to design our gardens. There is a move away from the fixed and built-in features, focusing more on creating spaces that can adapt and change depending on how we want to use the space.
‘It’s a lovely idea to be more fluid with the design of a garden,’ says garden designer Leonie Cornelius. ‘That’s the nature of gardens; to be more flexible.’As kids grow, for example, they will need different things. They will use the garden differently, so the garden should accommodate those changing needs over time.
Getting your hands dirty
As we’ve seen with interiors, people are more confident about tackling a small project themselves. I’ve seen people who never had any interest in gardens getting involved in small outdoor projects and enjoying the process.
‘People need to trust what they like and what they are drawn to when choosing plants,’ says Cornelius. ‘Garden design should be about feeling good and connecting wildlife,’ she explains. Gardening is all about trial and error. Just like people, every garden is unique. The orientation, soil composition etc., will all have an impact on what plants will thrive. What works in your neighbours garden might not work in yours, and that’s part of the fun.
Now that we are all spending more time in our gardens, privacy has become more of a concern. The best way to deal with overlooking gardens is to spend time figuring out where you like to sit and other areas where you need privacy. Then look for ways to add planting to create screening.
Planting for privacy doesn’t have to be confined to the perimeter of your garden. ‘Don’t feel you have to clear the central lawn area and plant all around it,’ says Cornelius. ‘It can be lovely to bring things into the garden a little and create breaks so the garden becomes a journey of discovery,’ she explains. ‘Rather than you being able to see everything all at once. A centrally planted feature cluster of shrubs or trees can work well and develop a point of interest in your garden.’
Cornelius recommends choosing native trees and shrubs when planting for screening. ‘We should be planting native specimens to encourage biodiversity,’ she explains. ‘Crab apples, birch, hawthorn and blackthorn are all lovely native trees,’ she recommends.
Finally, another way to create screening from neighbouring gardens is to create covered seating or dining areas with a pergola type structure or awning. When planning a covered area, you should also think about the weather conditions in your space. If you plan on having a roof covering, make sure it’s generous enough to keep the rain out. Glass or polycarbonate are good choices as they won’t create too much shade or block light.
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