Garden Pergolas pt 1 – How to know if your garden needs one?

Having a pergola in the garden can be a very nice feature as it adds height and year round interest. However, it is critical that they are correctly situated otherwise it could end up looking out of place and a bit of an eyesore!

Garden-Pergolas

As wonderful as a pergola can look, they certainly don’t suit every type of garden, so how can you tell if it will work well in yours?

Before we look at the where of pergola placement, we need to cover the why. If you get the why part right, then it will help you place the pergola properly.

So why do you want a pergola in the first place?

  • Is it to help screen the neighbours from viewing directly into the garden?
  • Is your garden flatter than the proverbial pancake and you want to create some height and interest?
  • Or, perhaps, you just really fancy the idea of having a pergola and don’t have a specific problem to solve?

Anything you place in the garden has to have a purpose, even if it’s just a visual one and never actually gets used. So if you chose the last option, be very careful to make sure your desired pergola actually works with the rest of your garden.

How to correctly place a pergola

You need to think, first and foremost, of a pergola as a path. Completely ignore the fact that it has upright posts and roof like cross beams. Just think path. Now ask yourself, would you put a path in the location that you are planning for the pergola? Would it look right? Or would you be thinking, why on earth would I have a path there!

PERGOLA

Things making sense visually is critical, as I mentioned earlier. A pergola is really a fancy walkway, so it needs to go to and from somewhere in order to make sense.

If it doesn’t initially make sense, don’t worry, there are things you can do. If a walkway style of pergola doesn’t seem to work, then consider a corner one instead, as shown in the example gardens below.

A corner pergola also works well in small gardens as it doesn’t take up too much space. The other alternative to a corner pergola is one that juts out from the house, usually over the patio doors. If you choose the latter option do be careful about how much light it will block out, especially when it’s covered with plants.

Corner-pergola

So, if the pergola doesn’t form a specific function, i.e. it’d not really needed to add height as you already have trees or it won’t work as a path and you don’t require shade over a seating area, then I would suggest you don’t go for one.

I certainly don’t use pergolas in every garden I design – I probably only put them in 25% of the gardens I design, because they are not needed.

Next time we’ll look at the different styles of pergola design you can have and the different types of materials they can be constructed from.

BUT do be warned, a well placed pergola will NOT be enough to give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Garden paths – How to choose the right style for your garden

Garden-pathThere are many different styles of materials that you can use for paths. Garden paths can be made from anything from gravel, to paving, pebble mosaics, brick, timber to recycled church floor flagstones!

Before we get going on what type of materials you should use, we need to look at the most important part and that is getting the path in the right place.

How to make sure your path in the right place

This might seem like a really odd thing to be talking about because your path goes from point A to point B, so surely it is obvious where it needs to go!

It might be obvious where you need the path, for example from your patio to your garden shed. However, just because that’s where you need it to go, it doesn’t mean to say that a straight route is the best option visually.

If you can get a slightly more interesting shape into the path, or have it over to one side of the garden, rather than just having a straight line, it will make your garden much more interesting to look at.

Yes, you may have to take a few extra steps each time you go to your garden shed, but that’s a small price to pay if the position of your path improves the overall look and flow of your garden. Let’s face it, you will look at it a lot more than you will walk on it.

When you add anything into the garden it has to work with the whole garden, so it’s really important you take into account everything else that is there.

Garden-Paths

The biggest mistake that most people make is just to add things. First, they had the shed, then goes in the path, patio etc. This makes a very disjointed and uninteresting looking garden. If you take a little bit of time to plan the shape of all of these elements together, even if you don’t put them all in at once, it will make for a much better looking garden.

A well-designed garden is like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has to fit in it place or doesn’t work. Great looking gardens are not a series of unrelated features, everything ties in together and has been thought about.

So consider sweeping your path from one side of the garden to the other, or having it curve around a circular lawn to get you to the shed or the other end of the garden.

What materials should you use for your garden path?

This will all come down to your tastes, style of garden and budget. Traditionally, brick paths have been very popular. If you’re going to use brick, do not use house bricks because they are not frost proof enough and will crumble over time. You need to use clay brick pavers which are specially designed to cope with the frost. Pavers are solid and do not have the indentation underneath them that house bricks do.

If you’re looking for a budget path option, then gravel is going to be the cheapest option. It is not always the most comfortable material to walk on, so if you hate walking on gravel, then adding a few steppingstones through it will make it nicer to walk on.

If you want a contemporary feel to your path then smooth natural paving will work well.

Pebble mosaics can look fabulous, though they are very time-consuming to do, but if you’re feeling creative you can have a lot of fun with them.

Garden-paths2

Construct your path properly

A lot of times people think that they don’t need to use concrete when they build a path because it only has foot traffic on it and sand will do. Unfortunately, you can’t just put paving stones directly onto the soil or sand, because they will move and then become quite a dangerous tripping hazard. Brick paths can be laid on sand, but they will have a consolidated hard-core base underneath the sand and the edge bricks will be concreted into position to hold everything in place.

So, I encourage you to get creative with your path, but do put it on paper first and check that it’s going to work with the rest of your garden.

BUT do be warned, nice paths 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…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Paving ideas for traditional garden styles

Last time we looked at contemporary paving ideas but if modern really isn’t your thing and you want to create a more traditional feel for your garden, then the materials you use hold the main key to how your garden will look.

Traditional-paving

Traditional paving often has slightly rounded edges or a more intricate pattern.

Last time we discussed how using smooth paving with very straight edges creates a modern and contemporary feel, well the exact opposite is true if you’re looking for something traditional. The more lumpy and bumpy the edges of the materials, be it bricks or paving, the more traditional it will look.

There are many shades of traditional. There’s the very formal, right the way through to very rustic. Very formal gardens have a very geometric layout, so the materials you use will be in very rigid patterns to suit the formality of the garden.

More rustic garden styles can use the exact same materials, but because there is less structure to the garden, there isn’t the formality with the design shapes, then the randomness of the materials is what gives it the rustic feel along with the uneven surfaces.

The examples below show you what I mean. The same paving stones have been used in both gardens, but one has more a defined shape and the other a more rustic design style because of the uneven edges.

Traditional-and-rustic-paving

Same paving stones, first quite formal with defined edge. Second more rustic looking.

The wonderful thing about rustic and traditional styles of garden is that you can incorporate more things into the paving. Whilst I would still stick with no more than three different types of hard landscaping materials, like brick, stone and cobbles, you still want clarity in the design, you don’t want to go overboard and have too many different types of materials together.

So when I say you can add more things I mean feature areas within the paving, like mosaics made from cobbles. Or you could create a segment in the paving that’s a pattern of bricks.

Paving-feature-segments

Paving feature segments

There is a lot more freedom to be creative with the more rustic and traditional styles of garden design. The other advantage is the more rustic a look you are aiming for, the less you have to worry about how the materials will weather and age, because it will be part and parcel of the feel of the garden.

With contemporary schemes they look much better when they’re really perfectly clean, as soon as they start to weather and lose some of that crispness, they don’t look as good.

So if you’re not sure if you should go for a more traditional style of garden and can’t decide between that and a more modern feel, then take a look at the style of your property for guidance. The really old traditional style of house will always look better with traditional materials. That’s not to say you can’t have a more contemporary spin on it, but it is easier if you match the garden style with the house.

BUT do be warned, nice materials 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…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

Garden pots – How to use decorative pots in your garden

Garden-PotsThere are an amazing selection of garden pots available these days. Everything from classical terracotta, through to modern glazed urns in different shapes, sizes and colours.

Pots can make a great focal point, regardless of whether they have plants in them or not. If you have a nice urn shape, they are very well-suited to just standing empty in amongst planting as shown in the photographs above.

Grouping pots

Normally, when you group things in the garden, a group of 3-5 or any odd number tends to look best. But I find, with empty pots, two next to each other in different sizes looks really good and breaks the odd number rule. However, if you are planting the pots, then the rule applies. Odd numbers together do look better for plants.

Pots can add a dash of colour and a solid shape into a planting border that brings clarity in amongst the planting. You don’t have to use them solely to put plants in on the patio.

Garden-urn-on-side

An urn on its side looks good surrounded by cobbles

You can also use the urn shape pots on their side with cobbles around them as shown in the photograph on the left, which creates an interesting focal point.

If you have pots dotted about on your patio, they do tend to look better when grouped. Also, having a colour scheme running through them helps bring clarity to the grouping, rather than having an odd assortment of different types of pots.

If you have an odd assortment of pots that people have given you over the years and have collected, then a trick to make them work together well is to have certain plants that you repeat through the planting in the pots. So, for example, you have now Alchemilla mollis that’s in several different types and style of pot mixed in with everything. The repetition of the plant brings clarity to the mixture of different types of pots.

What style of pot should you choose for your garden?

Try to choose garden pots that are in the same style as your garden i.e. traditional or modern. If you have an assortment of pots that doesn’t suit the style of your garden, then consider painting them. Even the most boring of old terracotta pots can be completely transformed with a coat of paint.

Coloured-Garden-Pots

Painted terracotta pots look great both on the ground and raised up on walls

Pots also don’t have to be relegated to ground level. You can put them onto window ledges, into metal frames or suspend them from the wall. Or just attach them to the wall as they do in the patio gardens of Cordoba in Spain, as shown on the first of the three images above.

The pots used in the patio gardens are suspended away from the wall slightly with the use of a small piece of wood behind each one and they watered them very carefully to make sure they don’t stain those lovely white walls.

Garden pots used correctly can really liven up any garden and make a great gift if you’re stuck for what to get a garden loving friend.

BUT do be warned, features like pots  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…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page: https://www.successfulgardendesign.com/freeclasses/

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Leave them in the boxes below…

Wide garden design – Case study

wide garden

Wide garden before design

If your garden is wider than it is long, then you need to put a bit more thought in to how you plan it. The problem with wide gardens is their lack of depth, it makes the garden feel confined because the end of the garden is so close.

This is true even if the garden is quite sizeable. You might have a lot of physical space in the garden, but if it’s pointing in the wrong direction i.e. widthways and not lengthways, then visually it will make the garden feel much smaller than it really is.

So how do you design a wide garden?

Step 1 Divide the space of the garden into different areas.

The division doesn’t have to be a wall or fence, it can be very subtle with planting or a pergola. By dividing the space up, it will make each area look longer. So in effect, each end of the house has its own garden.

Now depending on just how wide your garden is, you can divide it into two or perhaps three areas.

Step 2 Choose shapes that will make each of your divisions look longer.

So, for example, using either an oval or rectangular shape in each of the sections of your garden for the lawn, will make that area look longer, because your eyes will follow the length of shape. You can also use interlocking circles or boxes. If you have enough space, then you can consider using the free form flowing curves. However, it is advisable to start off with simple geometric shapes, just to get an idea of the feel of the space.

Step 3 Create interest by having focal points that draw your eye down the garden.

By having strategically placed focal points like a statue, urn, or bench/seating area, your eyes will automatically be drawn to the solid object in between the planting. Adding a focal point to look at occupies your mind with more visual information and that always helps distract your brain from the true shape of the garden.

Case study wide garden

Wide-Garden-Before

In our wide garden case study example you can see that owner had had a really good go at designing the garden herself. She had put in one nice size lawn shape, and had a good ratio of plants to space. However, the shape she had used for the lawn accentuated the width and made the garden feel shorter, rather than longer.

Wide-Colour-Plan1

 

This transformation could be easily done on the limited budget that was available for this garden. It really is amazing just how much difference getting the correct shape lawn can make to a garden. I know it’s totally counterintuitive, you want to think of your garden as putting things in, like patios and plants, but it really is down to how you shape the areas of empty space. That’s what really makes a difference!

Many thanks to Gillian for so willingly allowing me to use her garden plan as a case study example.

Did you find this case study helpful?

Please leave your comments in the boxes below!

Would you like us to show you how to design your garden?

If you’d like to learn more about exactly how you can DIY transform your garden, then check out our brand new course on WIDE, SQUARE & AWKWARD shape gardens! Discounted price until the end of May!WideBOXcov

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