When it comes to Victorian Terraced Homes, the courtyard gardens can seem a little daunting. When it comes to city living a garden, a balcony or a deck can seem a little uninspiring. The narrow shape, the restricted size and the blank canvas look of them can be overwhelming. It can feel as if there is nothing to be done with it - that the space isn’t inviting enough, that it is simply just a ‘space’. But limited space needn't be a cap to originality and comfort. Read on for some great ideas and news of a special summer competition that we will be running that should help to inspire!
While small gardens, terraces, decking and patios have their own set of design challenges, even the most economical of plots can be transformed into impactful and elegant outdoor havens. Small but perfectly formed.
Your back garden could be the stylish urban garden that you always dreamed of - in fact, it could even be a cottage garden, an alfresco dining area complete with dramatic lighting, or a playroom for the children!
Using space intelligently is the key to making a small garden work; seats that double up as storage, wall-mounted flower pots or herb planters and even folding furniture will all help free up precious square-footage.
Most design principles work indoors and out; there are plenty of ways to make your outdoor space seem like an extension of your home.
Take a cue from the inspirations that we have added to our Pintrest page.
Where there are certainly many parallels between indoors and outdoors. For example, mirrors can create the illusion of space where there simply isn't any, fireplaces make a quirky ‘fire pit’ to sit around, gazebos and arbours can bring shelter and structure without needing lots of space.
Solar-powered lights, fairy lights and lanterns are really easy to come by and generally fairly inexpensive. They are are the safest and the most long-lasting option and combined with a wood-burning fire pits can heighten atmosphere as well as give out heat when the night's eventually draw in.
If you don't have green fingers then you can be assured by easy to manage plants such as ferns and grasses, bay trees and evergreens. Tree ferns are superb and in sheltered town gardens often keep their fronds all through winter. Arum lilies are equally arresting, though they dive underground for winter. For some colour a geranium is an easy way to add the splash of colour without the needs for too much attention.
So, if you live in Plymouth, think your garden has everything we have mentioned, you have been particularly proud of your garden this summer, or you are about to embark on a new project - then let us know! We’d like to hear from you by September the 1st 2016 about what you have done - that means that you have exactly one-month. Send us photos - they can be ‘before and after’ shots, they can be inspiring photos of your plants, they can be pictures of your family enjoying your garden. Upload them to our Facebook or Twitter Pages with a few lines about why you think your courtyard garden deserves to win and we will pick the very best one to win £100 in B&Q vouchers. Don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ those pages so that we can contact you if you win!
Here is a list of top tips to get you started:
- Even if your back yard or courtyard is no more than a sub-dungeon, you'll want to sit out in it. Think how and where. Try sitting in it at different times of day and night. Where are the sunniest patches, where is it dark, damp, dry? Create your plan from that knowledge and work around it.
- In a very small yard, the neatest solution will be built-in seats: a slab of green oak on top of a retaining wall, a series of lockers (for storage) with cushions on top.
- If you buy furniture, get stuff that's a pleasure to look at. But don't plonk it centre-stage. Set it off-centre, preferably where the evening sun lasts longest. There are beautiful things to choose from - sofas, tables and chairs, armchairs, swing seats.
- The floor of your courtyard matters. Why spend a fortune on a limestone, slate or wooden kitchen floor if it butts on to a hideous concrete chequerboard of green, pink and cream pavers outside? Get rid of them and spread gravel until you've saved up for something more permanent.
- If you are lucky enough to have sound walls round your terrace or yard, use them. But wire them before you plant. In a small space, climbers and wall plants need tight tying-in.
- Choose wall shrubs and climbers with scent: evergreen trachelospermum and myrtle are superb. What, no roses? No. Think of the malevolent thorns. And, in a small space, the pruning.
- Terraces and courtyards are often paved throughout, but a border just wide enough to plant climbers will be a huge benefit. Plants will grow better in the ground than in pots and you won't have to water so frequently.
- Keep your outdoor space uncluttered. A few big pots packed with plants will have more impact than a scatter of small ones. As for the pots themselves, that depends on your style.
- Gardens attached to traditional Victorian terraces are generally long and thin. This introduces the possibility of doing different things in different areas. From tamed to wild in a hundred feet. It can be done.
- Changes in levels help to define changes in mood and style. But make the transitions generous. Steps that stretch lazily across the width of a garden will help make the garden itself seem wider.
- Fix your fences. Sagging larchlap can only get worse. Keep climbers well trained. You do not want to make the garden even narrower than it already is.
- Compose a view from the window that you look out from most. It'll probably be the one by the kitchen sink... Devise a natural backstop to that view: a tree that produces autumn fruit as well as spring blossom, a beautiful big pot planted with a steel grey agave, a metal bower, trained all over with sweet-smelling summer jasmine, a small wooden hut, stained birch grey, to escape to when the sink gets too much.
- Don't let the end of the garden degenerate into a dump of old carpet, un-scrubbed plastic pots and pallets that never got made into a compost heap. You need a working area, but make it crisp, with an outdoor potting bench and a compost heap that is strong and well-corseted.
- Plant more of less. In a small space, that's a tough discipline, but it will pay off!