Here it is: our garden in all it’s summer-time glory! It’s not perfect (don’t look at the damaged soi – we’re working on it!) but I think it’s quite close to our original plans (watch our IGTV discussing plans here!). We tried to do most of it ourselves – Chris laid the grass, tiled the terrace and we dug up the flower beds, painted the fence and laid the sleepers ourselves. We got an expert to lay the patio at the back and finish the side alley, and then I planted the flowers – weirdly I love the gardening aspect!
We’ve attempted to ‘zone’ areas, I found it especially helpful in a smallish garden to make it feel bigger and more ‘useable’ and then spent some time planning the areas around where the light hits.
The left side of our garden is in shade from around lunchtime so we decided to put the kids’ play area (with bark) here – the bark absorbs all the mess and they immediately understand it as their area. It also solves the issue of the trampoline, which has to sit on a soft surface, but the grass underneath it always dies!
The mud kitchen and sand table (from Plum Play – it has a cover so can be used as a standard picnic table too) are probably the most used items in our garden (our Mud Kitchen is from Chad Valley via Argos – but I’ve seen a marginally cheaper one from Wilko here, which looks great too!). We’ve since planted a climbing jasmine to grown up the trellis and we have some meadowy plants in the ground so it feels more natural (and pretties up the trampoline!).
The back right corner is our relaxing area and the spot for the 4pm onwards sun – we went for Indian Sandstone tiles (from Travis Perkins) leftover from the front garden and used cobbles to soften the edges. We had a few leftover which we managed to sell on Gumtree to help buy more plants! We also went for the Aldi sofa which I can easily fit on with both kids. We move the outside table up here for eating on sunny days, eventually we will invest in one that lives there permanently (with bench seating, to save space).
The black tiles are from Topps Tiles (suitable for outdoor use) and we have found them excellent, they fade beautifully and dry really quickly. Occasionally, they can be slippy for little feet from paddling pool water (especially mixed with bubbles!) so our kids wear their crocs outside (which they need for the woodchipping anyway!) and we lay towels down when using the paddling pool. The stone tiles are great, at first I was upset as they had stained from a nearby sycamore tree (mixed with rain) but I soon let it go – they’re natural stone, doing what it does. And in fact, after a few sunny days, the stains have almost disappeared!
We bought sleepers from our local timber yard and fitted them ourselves, we laid a membrane before adding the soil. Flowers we’ve used have been meadowy and a bit wild (which I love!).
I decided to not plan the beds, but plant some seeds and a few shrubs that I liked and would love to see in our garden. Will they survive? We’ll see. We’ve done some basic research and kept the fern in a more shaded spot, for instance, but I think trial and error is sometimes a good way to test hardiness – especially when gardens have different soil, drainage, sunlight. And as long as you use more affordable plants, it’s not a devastating loss (or you can move them if they’re not thriving – we’ve already moved some from harsh sunlight to shady corners!). I think sometimes all the ‘rules’ of gardening become a bit daunting and stop some people from just ‘having a go’. We used:
Leucanthemum: How it started, how it’s going
At the moment we’re a bit overlooked so will be looking into bamboo in high troughs at the back to feel a bit more secluded (if you ever really do with London living?). Luckily we have lovely vines and climbers coming through on the sides (from our neighbours) as ours will take a few years to establish! I can’t believe this time last year we were probably still painting this fence and tiling the patio!