If you a staycation this year why not make your garden seem like a holiday destination? Here’s how to create the perfect summer garden.
As I’m writing this it’s raining outside and so I’m comforting myself with a favourite saying “No rain, no flowers”. Seriously though, we are usually blessed with wonderful summer weather here in the UK and if you can enjoy it from the safety of your own garden, it feels even better.
My wishlist for the perfect summer garden includes
- A lounger, hammock or daybed – somewhere to stretch out and relax
- Privacy – I don’t want the neighbours hanging over the fence while I’m sunbathing
- A cool shady spot for swelteringly hot days
- Shelter from chilly breezes
- A cook station
- Somewhere to eat al-fresco
- Lighting for long lazy evenings outdoors
- Colour and interest – but not so much that my eyes are overwhelmed
- Minimal maintenance
Garden design and landscaping are all about taking your wishlist and turning it into reality. Notice that my wishlist isn’t all about specific features or materials – it’s about function. After all, what use is a garden if you can’t use it?
Turning your summer garden wish list into a usable space
Now that you know what your summer garden needs to provide, it’s time to turn benefits into features.
I have a vast choice of garden features that could bring my wish list to life. I also have to think about the budget. So I’m going to prioritise.
The patio – a great garden multi-tasker
This is a patio we built in Farnham. There’s room for a table and chairs but it also doubles up as a path from the house to the garden. I love the shapes, the contrasting materials but I especially love that tree.
A well-built and spacious patio is essential for a perfect summer garden. Dress it with furniture, cushions and planted pots to create a welcoming space that you can use for almost anything. Relaxing on loungers, barbecuing, eating with friends, reading – anything.
Be imaginative with the patio in your garden design. Think about what time of day you are most likely to use it and position it so that it catches the sun. Rectangles are not the only shape. Think diamond shaped, curved or irregular shapes? A good landscaper will be able to create neat edges no matter how your patio is designed.
How will you access the patio from your house? Do you need a path? How will you join the patio to the rest of the garden?
Shelter and shade
Don’t you just hate squinting at your book because the sun is in your eyes? Much as we love sunshine, a little bit of shade is sometimes welcome. Trees are great at providing dappled shade, but a screen, trellis or garden building are pretty awesome too. Plus you won’t need to wait twenty years for them to grow. As a landscaper I’ve built and installed some wonderful garden shelters. From summerhouses to bespoke timber pergolas. When it comes to garden design and landscaping, the world is your oyster.
Careful positioning of a screen – whether it be planted or man-made will ensure it works really hard for you. It can be a wind break, a source of shade AND provide privacy from prying eyes. Pleached trees are really good for this. They take up hardly any room on the ground but offer a great many benefits.
The luscious lawn in this Chertsey garden is a great contrast to the porcelain patio both in colour and texture. Variations like this add an extra dimension to any garden.
I have built several gardens without grass but for me, the perfect summer garden has a lovely natural lawn. Why? Because lawns are really good at cooling the environment around them. Each one of the millions of grass plants in a lawn does something amazing. It’s called transpiration and it’s the way the leaves stop themselves from cooking in the heat. Transpiration is the plant equivalent to our perspiration, but what it does is it makes the whole garden feel more comfortable.
As well as transpiration to help keep you cool, natural grass absorbs energy from the sun. Hard surfaces tend to reflect the rays of sun back into the atmosphere…especially if they are light coloured. Indoors it’s a great idea to keep bouncing light around a room. Outdoors, in high summer, it can be a little harsh on the eyes – and hot!
If your current lawn is looking a bit lacklustre, the good news is that it can probably be revived fairly cheaply. Robbie Lynn from Premier Lawns has a great YouTube Channel stuffed full of tips on reviving and caring for your lawn. If you need any help with levelling, re-turfing or overseeding your lawn, the Manor Landscapes garden maintenance team are at your service.
The Light Fantastic
Your new garden design should include some outdoor lighting. Trust me, you’ll want to use it all year round. Garden lighting means that you can spend long evenings in your perfect summer garden. It also means that you can enjoy your garden through the window on cold winter days.
Bringing colour to your perfect summer garden
In my mind, plants are the very best way to bring colour into the summer garden. But they’re not the only way.
Accessories such as cushions, blankets, bunting and lanterns are a great way bring splashes of colour to your outdoor space. Pots and planters – even empty ones – come in all sorts of sizes, colours and designs. Try using brightly coloured pots with foliage plants. Fences and sheds don’t have to be brown. Take a look at the range of colours available. Black or plum colours look amazing next to vibrant green planting.
To avoid sensory overload it’s wise to limit your colour palette to two or three main colours. White and pastel colours tend to create a relaxed mood, whilst jewel colours and citrus hues energise a space.
In this summer garden the colour pallet is mainly green (which is said to be one of the easiest colours for our eyes to look at). Splashes of purple and blue are mirrored throughout the garden.
The overall feel is calming and cool.
A little bit of work at the beginning of the season will ensure that your perfect summer garden needs minimal maintenance.
Add a thick layer of mulch to the soil around your plants. It will keep the weeds down and also help to conserve water.
Ask your landscaper about automated irrigation systems so that you don’t need to stand outdoors with the hosepipe every evening.
Raise the blades on your lawn mower. Maintaining your lawn at around 8 cm long will keep it greener for longer and give weeds less chance of finding a bare patch to root into.
Building your perfect summer garden
For the very best results with the least damage to your back and your energy levels, I’d recommend asking a landscaper to build your perfect summer garden. There are landscapers, and then there are people who call themselves landscapers. Always hire the first type and never the second.
Your landscaper of choice should have a proven track record and be able to show you examples of past work. If he or she is a member of a trade association such as the APL you can be assured that they are not a rogue trader.
TV Garden Makeover shows are great for design inspiration but remember that they are heavily subsidised by the production companies….the actual cost of the garden is invariable more than is seen on the screen.
If you need any help or advice, Manor Landscapes are one of Surrey’s top landscaping companies. With two decades of experience, and a strong reputation for finishing work on time and on budget we work with you to build a garden that you’ll be proud of all year round – not just in summer.