This is the time of year where we have the biggest chance of an al fresco edge to our lives. Susan Robertson speaks to some West End experts about how to make the most of our outside spaces.
Us Westenders are blessed to live in a leafy part of a beautiful city, with a wealth of parks and green spaces on our doorsteps to choose from. But, if you also have some outside space of your own, whether it’s a window box or shared patio, or a huge private garden, there are many great ways to make whatever you have work beautifully for you.
I spoke to two local professionals to get some advice about what you should consider to maximise your outside space. Michael Dumanski of North Hill Gardens gave me some great guidance. He explained, ‘Garden design is not only about planting but also hard landscaping, which adds texture, character and structure, leading the eye through the landscape. First, take into account your plot. Look at the size and shape and take into consideration the direction if faces, the style of your house it will be framing and the surrounding area. Achieving balance is a strong aspect of good garden design.’
Michael continued, ‘Then, think about what you need your garden to do for you. Do you wish you had somewhere to sit, relax, entertain or let the children play? Maybe you are just a little bored and want a garden design that is more colourful, varied or maintenance-friendly. Craft an attractive space to give you a beautiful environment and design a practical layout that allows you to use your garden how you want.’
Sometimes the hardest part of any process of change, or development, is where on earth to start. There is plenty of inspiration around the West End and Michael suggests, ‘Think about your taste. Take inspiration from visiting garden centres, public gardens, annual garden shows, even other people’s homes. Take a look at magazines or Pinterest which are filled with ideas for traditional gardens, modern gardens, family gardens and innovative ideas for gardens big or small.’
Any type of new design will benefit from a mood board, take your time to collate pictures and ideas to think about what environment really makes you happy. Account for elements such as scent and sound, do you want to hear water for example, would you like highly perfumed flowers, do you need to insulate from traffic sounds? And think of other practical considerations such as, what level of maintenance are you willing to do, do you want to encourage or discourage wildlife, how often do you want to see the colours in the garden change?
Our urban landscape brings some particular considerations, for example shared spaces are common, so ownership needs checked and consensus reached before any changes are made. We also often have limited outside space to work with. I asked Michael about the best approach here, he said, ‘Small gardens can often end up looking messy – the most common mistake when decorating them is that we buy too many ill-fitting accessories and plants that give the impression of chaos. In the city garden moderation and consistency do matter. When choosing plants, accessories or garden furniture, try to combine elements that have the same style, so that they form a single, harmonious whole. Colour consistency is very important – especially in small gardens where the accumulation of many colours is risky, this solution can overwhelm us, and certainly also hinders our leisure. We can also use such optical tricks as mirrors – placed on the wall or surrounding the garden. The mirror creates the illusion of enlarging the space, giving the impression of depth. In this sense, even a small water reservoir will work – the garden that surrounds it will optically expand our space. Furniture in a small urban garden must be functional and refer to the surroundings that we create.’
Michael summarises that ‘the main factor is surroundings – the architectural style of the building, materials and colours already used. And it’s also a matter of taste – some people love striking, lively colours, some prefer plain, elegant whites and pastels. We also use different shapes for different garden styles – more formal in modern gardens and informal in naturalistic ones. Having a good garden design in place doesn’t mean you need to build the garden straight away. You can base your work on the design and divide it into stages to transform your garden over the years.’
If you’re looking to enhance your flower beds or window boxes, there are also some great suppliers in the local area, one of these being the new West End Garden Centre. Its owner, Martin McCarron tells us that they offer a wide range of plants, compost, and increasingly – garden pottery, but plants are their speciality and they can offer some expert advice in this area.
When considering planting in the West End Martin advises to ‘always plan properly before you plant, particularly if you have a smaller space, so that you can maximise what’s available. Stick to locally-grown shrubs (the garden centre has a full Ayrshire range), this makes sure that they’re tough enough for our Scottish winters. Consider the position of your garden too, so that they receive the best sunlight and conditions to thrive.’
So we have everything that we need to create a beautiful outside space, here’s hoping that the weather will support us as we enjoy our alfresco elements.
With thanks to:
Northhill Gardens 0141 332 5533
West End Garden Centre 07964 672211
40-44 Peel Street G11 5LU