Working With New Garden Structure; The Pergola Is Up.

So in my last blog we made the decision to give the fake grass a wide birth and went for the more back braking option of lifting a relatively large driveway in order to make room for some of the real deal.  The week after that the pergola began to be built, and we got our first glimpse of what this space could end up feeling like.

It’s now been two weeks since the structure has been in place and I’m starting to get a feel for the space that it has created.  It seems odd to say, but I’m finding having this new structure to be a little bit like when you get a new house and are not quite sure where to hang your pictures. Things I thought I was sure about, I am now second guessing.  I’ve decided to give myself another few weeks to get used to the space before committing to any further moves with the over all plan. 

The dining area I am more or less happy with, although I do have a rectangular dining table to bring to the space later this week, which will work far better with the shape of the area and give us the room we need for family visiting etc.

 

The central space is currently a muddle, perhaps even a dumping area.  This is basically because we are in two minds as to what direction to take it in. I’m seeing a living wall along the rear end of it that will host our salad leaves, herbs and spices followed by white stones and a water feature creating a sort of zen area. The other half sees a massive hot tub.  We’ll have to see how this one pans out!

Laughingly referred to as the ‘gin terrace’, this space gets the last of the evening sun and so I want to have quite a cozy area for that certain time of the evening.  You may be spotting a trend with the furniture by now.  I’m a bit bamboo crazy.  On this set, which I got for the bargainous price of £20.00, I plan to stain the bamboo the same shade as the pergola and recover the seats in some kind of, yet to be discovered, jungle fabric.  Watch this space on that one!

 

The grass seems to have settled in well.  We are on to our third week with it and there are no significant areas to panic about that I can see.  It seems to be draining away just fine when we have heavy rain, so that’s a relief.

In terms of planting so far all I have done is to purchase a phormium ‘gold sword'(10 years old and only £16.00 second hand!), and bring my Chinese windmill plant, and eucalyptus round from the front garden. Otherwise, I am living with the space and holding fire with committing to where new greenery, and planters should go.  It’s likely that the plants you see in tubs currently, apart from the twisted hazel and central one yet to be clad in metal will be removed to another area.

Coming from the car park that we had when this project began It’s difficult to imagine that this is the same space. I hope that by mid summer this same picture will be framed by the giant frond leaves of banana trees, and the vibrancy of that fence will be broken up by some of the vigorous climbers that I am cultivating in the polytunnel at the moment.

 

What do you think then? Hot tub or zen garden?  Yes or no to bamboo furniture? Yes or no in general?  I love being able to check in from time to time with these blogs and get your opinions. Next time I check in with you, I’ll be looking specifically at creating the right planting in those massive raised beds that I created.

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!

 

 

 

The Fence Is Up! The Work Has Begun

Well it has been a long time coming, but finally last weekend we defined the boundaries of our garden area and were quite surprised to see that it was significantly larger than we had ever thought or prepared for.  In total in measures 70 square metres.

 

In an ideal world, this feather edged fencing would have been a breeze block wall rendered in a light duck egg blue, staggered to create shadows as the sun moves round.  In a ideal world I would be rich; I’m working on that – check out the stock we have for sale currently!

 

I resolved in the end that it’s not the medium you use to create your boundaries, but what you then do to pull the look together.  Speaking of which, what the absolute hell was I going to do with an area 10 metres by 7?  The largest space I had contended with previously was postage stamp sized. Now I was dealing with a vast empty terrain to the back of the property, an allotment to the side and 48 square metre front garden also chucked into the mix.

 

My main plan has always been, as you know, to go all MCM on it’s ass. But after much taking of advice, deliberating cogitating and digesting, something didn’t sit well with this notion to me and I couldn’t put my finger on why. It did take a few months of mulling it over for me to put my finger on it. Finally it did click; all my research into this project pointed towards the same main themes in MCM gardens.  They were covered in clean lines, minimalism, stark – sometimes almost brutalist – features and a ‘less is more’ approach to planting.  

 Fabulous.  Not me, but fabulous.
Fabulous.  Not me, but fabulous.

 

This isn’t me.  This isn’t what goes on in my brain.  What goes on in my brain is a bit more like walking through a ticker tape calvalcade of pyschadelic clowns with one person in the corner screaming for everyone to ‘try and keep it down’.  You can share my dilemma, I’m sure.  So how do I match my greatest love with the scratch and sniff of crazy that I really am underneath it all.  Well, like all good ideas, the answer came to me in the shower.  Jungle.  Mid century jungle!

 This image formed part of my inspiration for our final theme.
This image formed part of my inspiration for our final theme.

 

Hurrah.  Everything has slotted into place.  Like one big unbelievable game of Tetris. So I have split the garden into quadrangles to make it easier to deal with. Below I have shared my very naïve drawing of where I am going with it all now.  

 

Essentially, there is a tropical area directly outside the french windows from the kitchen filled with the likes of Musa Yunnanensis, Voodoo lily sauromatum vernosus, Alocasia calidora, Gunnera manicatia and Tibouchina urvilleana – for that utterly nuts jungle feeling.  Interspersed in this area there will be a wicker hanging chair, and some kind of marble table.  The flooring will be purple slate chips which will absorb the heat that we have throughout the day and release it throughout the night back to the warmth loving foliage. I want to raise the plants out of the ground so will use repurposed concrete drainage pipes in a nod back to those fabulous atomic age curves.

 

Next time, I’ll be looking at options for greenhouses.  As always, your comments are invaluable to me and how I perceive this operation!