Buy stone from a local quarry to help ensure that you blend the materials into the space. If you have spare bricks or can match some from your house, these can also make a tumbledown-style wall. As long as they’re well-mortared, the ends can be made to look as if the wall had been left to fall at some point.
Position an arbor over a straight or curving path, leading the eye through the space. Create planting areas at the base of the uprights for climbers and fruit trees that can be trained to grow up them. An arbor or a pergola can also be placed against a wall for an enclosed seating area. You can opt for a rustic or a modern look to complement your space.
A lot of people shy away from mixing paving types, but sticking to one kind can be overpowering, even in a small space. Breaking up large areas of paving, either by changing the pattern or by introducing a complementary product, can become a design feature in its own right. Paving can guide you to another area, help you change direction or introduce a new element to the hardscaping.
When buying paving, be aware that natural stone has many color variations and that one piece can look very different from the next. Do some research and, if possible, get more than one sample to try at home.
Make your shed part of the garden by building a brick path up to it. At minimum, plan for a bit of hardscaping at the entrance to avoid that soggy, muddy grassy area so often found in front of sheds.
Place planted pots on both sides of the door and add a birdhouse to encourage nesting birds. Think about training sweet peas up the side for the summer, or plant a nonvigorous climber for color and greenery.
Gates of any style, whether wooden or iron, help create an entrance, divide areas and provide spaces on each side for plants. Any break in a wall where you can put gates or an old wooden door will make the space beyond feel like a secret hideaway and encourage the feeling of a private world further on.
When planning to hang a gate, you may need to fix it to posts too, so allow extra room when measuring.
Some trees are beautiful in their own right and have a well-shaped canopy. But if yours lacks a good form or is beautiful but looks a bit lost, try to turn it into a main feature, either by creating a path around it and underplanting, as shown, or by having a handmade wooden seat built around the base.
Trees look wonderful lit at night too, and if you’ve made a feature of your tree, why not show it off with some uplights?
Even an old greenhouse or shed can be adapted for such a use. If the greenhouse frame lacks glass, you could buy sailcloth to transform it into an outdoor tent.
Safety is key: Make sure anything you build or renovate is structurally sound and isn’t in danger of tumbling down while you’re sitting under it. If in any doubt, seek professional advice.
Positioning a water feature, as with any new garden element, will open up new possibilities around it. In a very formal design, you can organize the areas surrounding it in a more traditional layout, perhaps choosing low, topiary-style hedging and hardscaping. With designs that are less formal, let your imagination run, and create a wildflower meadow or a lush planting.
Another idea for a wall is to use it for an outdoor fireplace, which makes for cozy outdoor days and evenings during cooler months of the year. If you’re unable to burn wood and can’t put in a chimney to vent smoke, you can get bioethanol liquid and gel for outdoor use, which create flames but not smoke.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to create a fireplace, a fire pit or an outdoor pizza oven, then again use the areas to the side of this feature for plants. Nestle your heat source into a space so that it looks as if it has always been there.
In this example in the wild area of a garden in Sussex, England, old stained-glass windows, a dovecote and locally sourced pieces of wood have been assembled to create this lovely little rustic building, with rolls of brushwood screening for the roof.
Your project doesn’t have to be as large in scale — it could be a sweet lean-to for children to play inside or a simple screen to add interest to the route through your garden. The options are limitless; it just depends on what you have at hand.
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