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Blog
Simple garden ideas
Add value to your home
07 January 2021

Simple garden ideas

Rosie Hamilton
Writer & Researcher

Having access to a garden, patio, or balcony is one of the most sought after features for homeowners in the UK. In 2020, property portal Zoopla found that 'garden' was the most searched for term on their platform, and we found that the prices of homes near the UK's largest green spaces could be over 50% more than the average house price in the area.

Gardener and journalist, James Wong describes some of the appeal: 'To me, gardening is unique in that it combines all the activity and therapeutic benefits of a walk in the woods, with the thrill of creative expression.'

If you're lucky enough to have a garden of your own, how do you keep it looking nice? What sort of maintenance should you be doing to keep the space usable year round? We've found that the key is to find the a balance between style and effort.

In this article we look at some simple ways to keep your garden looking great regardless of its size.

Low maintenance; maximum impact garden ideas

If you’ve never really had the chance to work on a garden before, just knowing where to start can be intimidating. These simple ideas are designed to provide you with the inspiration (and knowledge) you need to take the first steps to creating your own perfect garden.

Plan out how you want your garden to look before you start

It’s easy to get carried away in a garden centre and buy much more than will actually fit in your outdoor space. So, whether it’s flagstones, patio furniture, or flowers, take the time to plan out your garden design before you get to the shop.

Not only will this mean you'll only get what you need, you'll save money too.

Pick the right sort of plants

Related to this is making sure you know what type of plants are suited to your garden. One of the most common mistakes beginners make is choosing based on look, rather than considering how well a plant might thrive in their garden.

The closer you can match your plants’ ideal conditions to your garden, the easier they will be to maintain - and the better their flower and foliage displays will be.

The best way to approach this is to first think about your garden. Ask yourself: how much sun does the space get? How often does it rain?

If you get a lot of shade, you’ll probably want to consider plants like hostas, begonias, ivy, or geraniums. On the other hand, lavender, verbena, aster, and petunias will thrive in sunny, drier conditions.

It’s also handy to think about whether you’re able to plant things into the ground, or if you’ll be relying on pots and containers. Some plants - like butternut squash - require a lot more space to grow than others - like bulbs, or succulents.

If you're unsure, the RHS has some great information on the sorts of plants and trees that thrive in different UK gardens.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions you’ll be able to narrow down your search to just those plants that will give the best displays in your garden.

Container gardening

Container gardening is when you use pots, window boxes, hanging baskets (or other less conventional vessels) for your plants, instead of planting directly into a flower bed.

Planting into containers gives you the flexibility to move your plants & flowers around to achieve different looks. For example, clustering groups of pots together is an easy way to quickly create a colourful display.

Pots and planters can also be used to line pathways, decorate doorways, or make a little vegetable patch - depending on what you’re after from your garden.

Containers are also a good option if you have limited space. You can pick pots that fit the area you have, and some can even be fixed to a wall or railing freeing up space on the ground.

DIY planters made out of pans, cans, or even old chimney pots can make an attractive and effective statement in your garden. However, if it’s your first time planting into containers, make sure you consider what material your pots are made from. Each type of pot comes with their own characteristics.

As a general rule:

  • Terracotta or clay pots dry out quickly, so are likely to need watering more often. They can also be vulnerable to cracking in frosty weather.

  • Metal pots are quite sensitive to temperature change. They’ll get very hot in summer, and very cold in winter, so they’re best to only be used for hardy plants that can handle the changes.

  • Plastic pots are probably the most versatile and hard wearing. But they don’t always have the aesthetic appeal of other containers.

Top Tip: Picking pots with multiple holes in the bottom (or drilling your own) will ensure the soil remains well-drained. This will keep your plants healthy and reduce the chance of root rot or mould.

Paint your garden fence black

When you think about transforming your garden, the fence might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, because fences and gates frame your garden, they can make a huge difference to the overall aesthetic of the space. And, making them look good takes very little effort.

The best way to get your fences looking great is to paint them. You might decide you like a natural wood effect, or a white wash. But, for a low maintenance, high impact option, many gardeners swear that black is the best paint colour for a garden fence.

It might seem like a dramatic style choice, but black is actually the perfect backdrop for greenery. It’s also much longer wearing than a coloured or white fence, because any dirt and damage doesn't show up as obviously.

Read more about how a low maintenance garden can improve your home's value.

Garden ideas for those looking for extra living space

Perhaps one of the main benefits of having outdoor space is the extra room to play, entertain, relax, and even work. Any excuse to use the garden more is a positive.

It’s well researched that time spent outside improves well being and health. And, given the continuing need to stay home more, having a garden is a welcome escape for many home owners.

Outdoor seating

Undoubtedly, adding a seating area is the easiest way to instantly make your garden feel like an extra 'room'.

The key to picking the best outdoor seating is to balance style with durability. It’s important to find something that's weather resistant and robust - particularly if you don’t have space to store it over winter.

If you’re able to invest a little more, look around for furniture made from heavier materials like metals, stone, or solid wood.

However, if you do have somewhere to store furniture over the winter months (or during rainy periods), you have a bit more flexibility. Consider foldable or stackable chairs and tables for easy storage.

Soft furnishings aren’t just for inside

Don’t be afraid of making your outdoor seating area more comfortable with cushions, blankets, and even outdoor rugs.

There are now many weather resistant soft furnishings options that’ll make your garden a more comfortable place to relax. Though many of these items will last longer if they’re stored in a dry place over the colder months.

Adding soft furnishings can also give your garden a boost of personality. Opt for a design that reflects your personal style. Maybe that's bold colours and patterns, or perhaps you'd rather embrace your natural minimalism with neutral tones. Or, if you can't decide: switch it up with the seasons.

Outdoor mirrors

If you're looking to make a bigger statement with your garden design, an outdoor mirror could be the perfect option.

Not only do mirrors provide a focal point for your garden - just like a fireplace or television might in your living room - they also reflect the space, making it look larger and greener. On sunny days a mirror will reflect the light around your garden too.

Top Tip: to make your garden look its biggest, put a mirror in the darkest corner.

Season-proof your garden

It goes without saying that it's much easier to spend time outside when its warmer and lighter. But, with the addition of a heat and light source your garden can be an inviting extra living space all year round.

For gardens that are large enough, the classic favourite is a firepit. Firepits can come in a range of shapes and materials, from traditional brick fire circles, to contemporary large metal bowls. There are even table top firepit options for those with a small garden too.

If you're thinking about cooking on your fire pit, double check that it's safe to do so first. Some gas or gel powered fire pits produce fumes that are unhealthy to cook on.

If you have children or pets it may be more practical to get an electric heater. There are many powerful and attractive varieties available. Some even come with in-built protection mechanisms in case they are accidentally knocked over.

Small garden ideas

With a little bit of innovative design, a small garden can become just as beautiful and usable as a large lawn or patio.

Some popular, simple ideas for small gardens include:

String lights

Because fairy lights, or string lights are hung up or attached to walls, they don't take up any room that you might otherwise use in your garden.

Depending on the colour of the lights, they can also create different moods in your garden. Softer paler colours create an intimate or romantic feel, whereas multi-coloured or twinkly lights can create the perfect party atmosphere.

Storage solutions

Garden sheds or garages aren't the only options for garden storage.

Shelves are a great space saving option, and offer a stylish way to display plants, or store gardening tools.

You could choose to get a free-standing set, or attach shelves directly to your exterior wall.

Planting

If you have room for plant pots or beds in your small garden, aim for height rather than density. Opting for climbing plants, like sweet peas, jasmine, or ivy, rather than lots of little pots of herbs or bedding plants is a simple way to make your small garden look more green and full of life.

If you have a juliette balcony, hanging baskets or window planters are ideal for getting some flowers into your outdoor area.

Top Tip: Old colanders can make pretty hanging baskets. Planting them with flowers, or even vegetables, can be a great activity for nature-loving children too.

Read more about how to make the most of your small garden here.

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