To Grass Or Not To Grass, That Is The Tarmac.

So I thought I’d just give you a quick update on where we are up to with the mid century inspired garden.  It’s been a long couple of months trying to get the tectonic plates into place that will allow us to get to the final stages but over the course of the next 72 hours we will finally have our pergola installed and a lawn.  The latter of these two has probably caused us the greatest consternation as my partner was fully subscribed to the concept of astro turf whereas I mostly wasn’t. 

 The day we moved in.  That concrete car crash you can see behind you is what we laughingly referred to as our garden at the time.
The day we moved in.  That concrete car crash you can see behind you is what we laughingly referred to as our garden at the time.

The background to this is that the plot was originally a carpark (if you haven’t been following the blog you can see all the original images of the space in earlier entries).  The main question was how do you lift and dispose of asphalt and what do you then do with what this exposes? The simplest solution was to buy fake grass and almost treat it like a big rug that we lay over the problem.  For me however I’d know that it was still there underneath it all and that would jar with me.

So off I merrily went to get quotes to remove the asphalt and have it disposed of, assuming that this would involve several men, digger machines and skips.  Little did I know that actually the entire process could in theory be done with just a pickaxe and crowbar.  This realisation dawned on me when the first gentleman that came to quote gently tapped on the asphalt to test it and a clump just popped up and clean off.  One quote for £460.00 later, a quick trip to the local DIY store and £20.00 lighter I was merrily hacking away at my driveway like a demented lunatic. 

 Not an easy job, but surely worth the effort right?
Not an easy job, but surely worth the effort right?

I’d say in total it took me about 8 hours to lift and remove 25 square metres of the stuff.  Add to this the cost of the sandy loam, which is a preparatory soil mix that you lay before turf, and the turf itself, the total cost of the lawn will come in at £181.60.  Of course there will then be upkeep to consider, which you don’t have with fake grass but then I feel there is a deep value in using authentic materials and honest design resolution which I don’t feel I would have achieved using the other route. At any rate, we’re already quids in as the fake stuff was likely to cost in the region of £700.00 before fitting.  We may treat ourselves to an automatic grass cutter with the savings!

 I've added some bamboo and twisted willow to the kitchen terrace to create some structure and define the area.  Also to make it feel like less of a stage!  We are quite looked over by neighbours currently.
I’ve added some bamboo and twisted willow to the kitchen terrace to create some structure and define the area.  Also to make it feel like less of a stage!  We are quite looked over by neighbours currently.

 

My last blog focused on sourcing appropriate, well priced containers and some of the pieces I pointed towards are on there way to me as I type.  One thing did occur to me however when revisiting the garden design and that was that I didn’t want to end up with a container heavy area, but do need space for the gunnera, banana trees and other giant species to spread their roots. For this reason I decided to be resourceful which is code for make things for free. 

 I've gone bamboo bonkers with the patio furniture featuring it in each of the seating areas.
I’ve gone bamboo bonkers with the patio furniture featuring it in each of the seating areas.

 

One of the benefits of having a mid sized van is that you can stop off whenever you see some good wood in a skip and recently I lucked out with a collection of roof joists. Creating raised beds out of them along the perimeters of the plot will allow me to train some of that fabulous evergreen Clematis over the fencing and hopefully soften the blow of our boundaries, but will also give me that much needed planting space for some of the larger specimens whilst keeping the over all design relatively clean.  These beds are yet to be stained to tie in with those of the kitchen terrace.

 I think this raised bed will be home to the banana trees.
I think this raised bed will be home to the banana trees.
 Made from reclaimed timber, this bed literally cost £2.00 and I think will be used to home the gunnera.  As they like it boggy I have lined it with thick plastic.
Made from reclaimed timber, this bed literally cost £2.00 and I think will be used to home the gunnera.  As they like it boggy I have lined it with thick plastic.

I have moved the poly tunnel also as it was literally in darkness for most of the day as well as being constantly hit by wind coming down the side of the house.  In it’s new position I rarely even hear the rustle of plastic, and It gets the benefit of early morning sunlight right through to about 3pm. Ultimately my aim is to replace this structure with an Eco Dome – ideally one that I build myself, however that’s a WHOLE other set of blogs!  At £55.00 delivered, this 4 metre by 2 metre giant will do just fine in the meantime!

 The view from the southern perimeter.  Basically it just looks like a big mess currently doesn't it!
The view from the southern perimeter.  Basically it just looks like a big mess currently doesn’t it!

 

So what do you think? Can you see Improvements? It’s so difficult when you’re working on it day by day to stand back and notice change!  All your advice so far has been invaluable and has and will continue to influence the outcomes of the area so please do comment and get involved.

Finding & Creating Mid Century Influenced Planters

So I’m at that stage where I need to begin sourcing containers for the ridiculously large amount of seeds that I have been propagating and I’ve been astounded at how difficult it is to find reasonably priced, aesthetically pleasing planters that fit my remit.  Basically I want clean lines, with interesting textures at a price that won’t make eyes water.  

One thing that running a mid century furniture store has taught me is that a genuine outdoors planter that has survived the past 60+ years is as rare as a hens tooth. For this reason I’ll be blending new with old in our outside space. 

If you’re prepared to spend upwards of 400 quid per effing planter then I’ve got very good news for you; the UK market is awash with companies that are more than prepared to extort you of your cash. Literally the general price for large plastic pots is in the region of £450.00.  For plastic pots. Plastic. Pots.

Rant over. So I have been beavering away on the net trying to find an interesting array of pieces that will both add to the architecture of the outside space by varying in height, width and texture and also provide stimulation in the winter months when mostly everything organic effectively either looks dead or has had to be protected in the polytunnel (damn my intense desire to try and create a tropical garden in freezing Manchester).

One thing that I am passionate about is repurposing items when and where I can.  I grow all my veg in troughs made from free pallets. Recently I got my hands on an epic 1 metre square pallet box for free which made me very happy. My plan for it is to buy some interesting sheet metal and cover the piece in it.  This will be my first foray into cutting sheet metal so that should be interesting if not highly dangerous!

 I’ll most likely use Cortex to create this interesting array of shades that will grow as the garden does over the years.
I’ll most likely use Cortex to create this interesting array of shades that will grow as the garden does over the years.

 

 

Without further ado now, I introduce you to my top choices for mid century influenced planters, that are reasonably priced and not vile. If you click on the images, the wonder of modern technology will show you where you can source them.

I’m a bit in love with this bamboo influenced pot which for us will marry up our bamboo floor with the outdoors.  At any rate, it’s a reasonably priced aesthetically pleasing piece to my eyes.

Again, another interesting texture and nice clean lines that will draw the eye to the main feature whilst contributing to the architecture of the area.

For a splash of psychadelic realness how about these fun pots for the very underrated Homebase?  Could they be any cheaper!?

Lets be clear, if you can manage to get your hands on one of these puppies I will hate you.  I have spent several months traveling like a gypsy from store to store in vain hope. Come on Homebase – MAKE MORE!

Adding height to the arrangement, this metal planter is ideal for creating year round light in the garden and also with all that battered surface unlikely to be something that slugs will want to traverse.

 

 

Creeping slight up the price scale, but still affordable is the Palmo bowl. Ideal for acheiving that LA cool feel and such a fantastic colour.

There’s no escaping that larger will mean more expensive, but at under 150 quid, the Lince Dove Grey pot is excellent value for money and definitely a purchase I’m making.

The Daniel bowl is so reminiscent of that atomic era obsession with all things UFO shaped, and with it’s wide floor coverage it’s a piece that will add real depth to your arrangement.

So there we have it folks, these are my top contenders for planting vessels in the outdoor area.  I’d love to hear about your finds!

 

 

 

Creating the Right Structure for the Mid Century Inspired Garden

Spring is around the corner, or so I tell myself every day when I open the curtains and am greeted by yet more cold and drizzle.  I’ve been busy planting oodles of seeds from an array of sunflowers, gazanias and lobelia to the fodder for our newly erected poly tunnel.  Courgettes, 6 varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, two types of peas, broad beans, cayenne, bell peppers, sweetcorn, coriander, spinach and rocket will start us off this year. 

Effectively however I suspect that the attention I have been spending on the poly tunnel has in part been due to my ambivalence over getting the structure of our mid century inspired garden right. If you haven’t been following the blog, we are basically creating a garden out of what was a tarmac car park. However, after some further work on decking this past weekend, and in-depth discussions over time, I think I’ve cracked it finally.

It felt really to me like there was always some key aspect to my plans missing in the designs I was coming up with for our garden and I think this was reflected in the height that I was hoping to achieve though the planting that I aimed to have.  Standing back from the project with fresh eyes over the winter season it became clear that actually we have an opportunity to create quite a striking architectural feature along the rear end of the garden.  

This will have several different functions, firstly it will bring together the three distinct areas that have been created and guide you through the design in stages, but also it will provide that consistency to the look of the area as the seasons change and the bountiful summer gives way to the barren land that winter provides.  This structure aims to clearly define each area against the back wall almost as a distinct room, but then also from a distance speak a language that tips the cap in a very humble way towards the Huf Haus or the work of Miles van Der Rohe. 

At 10 metres in length by 3 in depth, it’s not going to be a diminutive structure, and adding to this that I plan to paint the entire thing black this is the kind of thing that will either make or break the design. EEEK!

Currently this is where the garden stands in terms of progress.  

 

The new decking that was laid over the weekend will be treated but remain pretty much the shade that it currently is.

  This area will have a hanging chair, like the one available in our online store currently and this bargainous set of garden furniture available now in Asda, U.K. for under £90.00 in the teal blue.

  The central area will have a 3 metre long waist height herb planter along the boundary wall with either white pebbles on the floor or potentially a tiled area.  In front of this the plan is to place a water feature of some description, but the court’s still out on that one!

 The aim within this area is to create a corridor between the dining area and the evening terrace that will be multi sensory with trickling water and heady herb scents.
The aim within this area is to create a corridor between the dining area and the evening terrace that will be multi sensory with trickling water and heady herb scents.

 

The dining area is all but complete now, although still requires the brickwork to be secured.  The bricks you see here are actually the ones I salvaged from the removal of our dining room wall.

 The current furniture is our stop gap stuff.  I fancy getting my hands on a large slab of marble for the final table.
The current furniture is our stop gap stuff.  I fancy getting my hands on a large slab of marble for the final table.

 

So what will this towering mega structure look like that effectively will house our social area, well similar in style and feel to this. 

 

Quite a minimalist pergola using a chunky enough timber that the over all sense is of strength but not so much as to over power the delicacy of the Wisteria and grape vine that will eventually meander their way across it.

 

The final design of this structure is in negotiation, however I aim for it to be in place ideally by April in order to also create the lawn area where you can currently see rubble and the poly tunnel (which will be repositioned to the side of the property). 

 I like the angles and feel of this structure over head.
I like the angles and feel of this structure over head.

 

Alongside the plans I have for this structure, I’m finding one other key area of tension and that’s sourcing aesthetically pleasing minimalist, reasonably priced, planters.  Big planters that can host my Gunnera Manicata, Banana Tree and Alocasia Calidora.  So far I have turned my attention elsewhere in order to source suitable vessels and this includes salvaging a pallet tub and a bed frame both of which I hope to clad in sheet metal. I’ll look further into my progress with these in future blogs.

 

As always your comments are very much welcomed.