Archives for August 2014

Front garden makeover – Case study

The front garden makeover in this case study had a driveway either side of it and a small lawn at the front. The design needed to be viewed from all angles and be welcoming as you approached the house from the road, whilst also looking good from the view from the window. Front-garden-before So how do you go about creating a garden that looks good from every angle?

Step 1 Choose a shape that enhances the space and looks good from whichever point you view it.

The easiest way to do that is to choose a shape that is simple. If you try to use irregular curve shapes in a small space, it never looks right. So, keep it simple and base the shape on a circle or box shape.

Step 2 Make sure that the shape you choose enhances the area.

Again, circles are wonderful for making any space look larger. Simplicity really is key. If you try and overcomplicate things, it will never look right.

Step 3 Make it interesting with a clever choice of materials or focal points.

You don’t have to fill every last space in your planting borders with plants. If you use a gravel and cobble mulch, you can leave areas of empty space so that you can clearly view the cobbles. This creates additional space and makes borders more interesting, and it’s also low maintenance because you have less plants. If you are going to use a gravel or cobble mulch, make sure you put down a good weed suppressant membrane that will help keep the maintenance low.

You can see in our example garden that we edged the lawn with pavers to match the driveway. This created continuity with the existing materials and it also kept the maintenance lower because it meant the lawn didn’t need to be edged and would never lose its shape. The shape also mimicked the fencing panels, which furthered continuity in the design.Front-garden-AFTER The curved shape pointing outwards from the house helped make the area look longer from within the house as well as creating a welcoming shape as you approach from the road.

You don’t have to spend a fortune and it doesn’t have to be difficult!

This is a really simple makeover. It didn’t need anything overly fancy or ‘designery’, nor did it need a small fortune spending on it. Design shapes are what REALLY make the difference, not how complex you make it or how much money you spend!

Circles and curves really are your best friend in the garden, just having a simple shape like this on your lawn and patio area makes a tremendous difference. Even though we were unable to fit a whole circle or semicircle into the space, the design shape did originate from a circle. Never underestimate the power of the circle, it’s why garden designers use them so much!

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Garden mirrors – How to effectively use them in your garden

Using a mirror in the garden can create a whole new dimension, especially if your garden is very small, as correctly using a mirror creates an illusion that can make it look twice the size.


What size of mirror should you use in your garden?

Well, that all comes down to the type of effect you are trying to achieve. There are many different things you can do with a mirror from creating a small window-like portal, through to a full-length one that looks like you can walk through it from a distance.

How to create an illusion

Where you place your mirror and the surrounding items around it, will dictate how successful an illusion you can create. Just having a mirror on its own with nothing around it isn’t that effective. Mirrors work best in the garden when there are lots of plants growing around them so that they blend in with the background and your eyes have less edges showing to focus on that shout, “this is a mirror!”


The mirror sticks out like a sore thumb in the first picture, but the planting soon helps to make it work well in the garden.

Basically you need to mix as much reality in with your illusion as you can. For example, I have attached an open gate next to a full-length mirror, with a stepping stone path going up to it, which creates the illusion of an entire garden beyond. Details, are important.

With our full-length mirror and stepping stone path, we cut the last steppingstone in half and placed it right next to the bottom of the mirror so that a full steppingstone was reflected back.

Garden mirror ideas

Below are just a few examples of how you can use a mirror in your garden. As you can see, there’s everything from using them like windows, to full-length gateways.


How to correctly place a mirror in your garden

Placing a mirror correctly in the garden is actually much harder than you might think. The reason for this is that you have to be very careful what the mirror reflects back. So if you place the mirror at the end of the garden and it only reflects your house or utility area back, then that probably won’t be ideal.

A quick tip is to take one of your house mirrors out into the garden and try it out in different locations to get a feel of where is the best place, if it isn’t obvious, like at the end of a path, for example. That way you can see what is reflected back.

A trick to help you get the best view from your mirror

If the view reflected back in the mirror isn’t that good, the good news is, often, you can cheat! If you place something behind the mirror that angles it like a piece of wood, then you can completely change what is reflected back, in a lot of circumstances.

It’s useful actually, to angle the mirror slightly anyway, so as you walk towards it, you’re not immediately reflected back in it, and spoil the illusion of having a garden beyond.

Where to buy?

GardenMirrorIt can be quite tough to find a decent garden mirror (I’ve some alternative tips below, if there’s no where local). One place I’ve found in the UK that does offer a good selection of garden mirrors is Greenfingers (aff link). All is not lost if you can’t find a ready made one…

What type of mirror should you use?

The type of mirror I recommend you use, will go against conventional advice. My suggestion is that you use the best internal mirror you can afford to put in. Yes, there are mirrors specifically designed for outside use.

The problem with exterior mirrors is that they are usually either made from plastic or polished metal. Forget the metal ones, they look like they should belong in a men’s urinal (not that I’ve ever been in one!).

The plastic outdoor mirrors are a little better, but they do tend to look like they’ve come out of the fairground house of horrors, you don’t get a perfect reflection back and it ends up looking a little bit warped, which does ruin the effect somewhat.

So, I’ve found if you use a good quality interior mirror, they will look good and last longer than cheaper mirrors, outside. They won’t last forever, and yes when you go to purchase one there will be a lot of tutting and head scratching and “that won’t last outside dear” type of comments from the mirror supplier!

The main problem with using a mirror outside is that the water gets in and separates the reflective surface from the glass. In the past, I’ve used a flexible metal-like tape over the top of the mirror to help prevent the water getting in. If you ask in the mirror place, or builders merchant, they will hopefully know what I’m talking about and be able to supply you with some, once they’ve stopped telling you what a bad idea it is to use a internal mirror in the garden!

Another issue can be glue. If the mirror is glued in place, the glue has a nasty habit of working its way through the mirror’s reflective surface and causing a darkening in the glass – especially, if the mirror is repositioned during glueing. A mirror supplier will hopefully be able to guide you on how to fix the mirror in place and which glue to use if traditional mirror fixings aren’t an option.

DANGER Beware!

One last thing on placement of mirrors, and this is really, really important, especially in hotter countries – be aware of the sun! You need to place your mirror out of the sun so you don’t end up accidentally setting fire to your fence or neighbours garden with the reflection from the sun.


It’s been mentioned in the comments that a mirror might cause an injury to birds, so please place them responsibly – so not too large or high. I’ve never personally come across this but do consider flight paths etc in when positioning them. And have plants growing near and slightly over them, that will help dissuade birds from flying in to them.

Going back to aesthetics – do be warned, features alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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