Garden Design: A Seven-Week Series


Garden designer Martin Brady continues his weekly series on garden planning. This week: terraces and patios …

A lot of garden plans are made on holidays. Sitting by the pool or dining alfresco in the Algarve, our thoughts inevitably turn to home and how, when we get back, we are going to continue this lifestyle. Do not spoil the illusion by mentioning the weather. It seems this might be the year to follow our dreams. Imagine, picnics for the younger ones, long family lunches and impromptu barbecues with friends or even the neighbours, with plenty of room for social distancing, while remaining social.

The size of the area in question and what materials to use must first be taken into account. One thing’s for certain, that existing miserable orange patio with the black spots will have to go, replaced with a splendid new terrace. You only went for that awful stone in the first place because you were worn out making decisions and desperate to see the back of that builder.

This time you are going to get it right. Porcelain tiles are increasing in popularity and are now more widely available than before. With their clean, sharp lines and neutral colours they connect well with indoor finishes, creating the sought-after “room outside” look. Easy-to-keep and non-slip tiles outdoors are definitely worth considering, while offering a great replacement for a collapsing deck.

For some people, however, natural stone is the still the only option, softer looking than modern tiles, natural granite, sandstone or limestone will add character and warmth to most gardens. Combined with well-chosen planting, it lends itself better to a more classic, traditional look. Re-using salvaged materials such as quarry tiles and cobbles blended with old paving is also a good choice and seeing a revival, the resulting finish being personal and more individual – exactly what we are all aiming for. Smaller areas of polished or sand-blasted concrete are a favourite with architects, somewhere for them to park the bicycle! Be realistic about size: how large an area of paving do you really need? I see a move away from larger terraces with homeowners increasingly choosing to keep hard surfaces to a minimum, just enough at the back door to step out, without cutting the garden off from the house, with the possibility of a second area further down the garden to catch the last of the evening sun – often referred to as “the gin terrace”.

If you can put a cover over the seating or dining area, even part of it, this will allow protection from the elements and increase its usefulness. The addition of an awning, if you have a suitable wall, or pergola with built-in heaters, means you might have difficulty getting guests to leave, not helped by hubby, who ignoring your furtive eye signals, insists on opening that unnecessary last bottle of wine, before he slopes off to bed.

Most gardens will also benefit from the addition of outdoor lighting in some form. How much depends on how much you want to highlight. Don’t be reticent, soft warm lights thoughtfully located extend the use and pleasure you get from the garden while also bringing the garden inside when the autumn draws in and throughout darker winter evenings.

Having somewhere for the barbecue is reason enough to make additions or improvements outside. Spending so much time cooking lately it is starting to wear a bit thin for some. No sooner has the lunch table being cleared when someone asks what’s for dinner? Finding recipes is easy but being bothered to shop for every ingredient not so straightforward anymore. We all started out like Jamie Oliver’s gorgeous clan, full of enthusiasm, but now not even with Yotam’s recipes posts and his dexterity with chickpeas, pomegranate molasses and an aubergine can motivate us for much longer. It is getting harder to remain so excited in the kitchen. Bringing the cooking outdoors and continuing to live as though you are on holidays might save the day.

Gardeners and landscapers need to brace themselves, the phones are already ringing.

Follow Martin on Instagram @martinbradygarden 

More from Martin next week ….


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