The Ways to Smarten up Your Small Garden
Probably you don’t want to spend long hot days and balmy evenings in your bedroom, don’t you? Surely laying on a comfy primasleep mattress is relaxing but we all yearn for space outdoors where we can braai, read or simply relax and reflect.
The fact that your garden space is too small doesn’t mean it can’t be beautifully landscaped. Knowing how to contrast and complement structural elements, such as walls, paving, pillars, and groundcover, with softer elements, such as comfy cushions on an attractive bench and plant containers in various sizes, are all you need to create an inviting corner with a sense of sheer grandeur.
Design wise: Use your walls and floor as focal points to provide the perfect backdrop to your comfort zone. If classes walls are not an option, soften unsightly walls easily and quickly with a splash of paint; or go one better with a striking mural or trompe l’oeil to create a greater sense of space. Fragrant creepers will add a lush, romantic feel and, in time, also make for the perfect cover-up. Flagstones and pavers can lead the way to your little retreat, softened by groundcover and bedding plants. A comfortable bench or a freestanding, all-weather hammock – framed by a sizeable umbrella to shelter under – is all you’d need to forget your cares.
Bring in the braai
A summer without a braai is unthinkable in our glorious climate – no wonder it’s become a national tradition. For dedicated entertainers, a built-in braai on the stoep, within easy reach of the kitchen – and shelter from harsh sun and gusty winds – is ideal. Alternatively, freestanding or portable braais, which come in a large variety of shapes and sizes (available to suit every taste and pocket), will also do the trick. But the unit you choose will depend on whether you’ll be using it for straightforward grilling, making potjiekos, smoking meat or fish or simply as a cozy outdoor fireplace.
Design wise: Planning your braai area is fairly easy. It’s best located close to the kitchen, with a work surface and washbasin close by to make life even easier. Ensure adequate seating space so guests can sit down to enjoy the meal. If the chosen site is not sheltered, a large umbrella (or two) will come in handy to beat off the sun. Heavy winds can play havoc with your braai – so make sure you position it away from wind traps to prevent irritating smoke in the eyes. Home Fires stocks a wide variety of braais, ranging from built-in to freestanding units, ideal for small spaces. When shopping for the perfect braai, ensure that it is sturdy and, if it’s mobile, check that the wheels glide smoothly.
Not all of us have the time – or even the tendency – to maintain even a small garden. For a low-maintenance garden that will still inspire, structure comes to the fore. You may have to spend some time (and money) on the design and necessary elements, but the end result will be worth it: a durable, striking space that evokes a sigh of satisfaction.
Design wise: Low-maintenance doesn’t necessarily mean sparse. Once again, your choice of boundary walls – be it concrete, brick or hedging; ground cover (paving, grass, gravel or a mix) and rooftop options (pergola, arches or none) will determine the overall look of the space. Stone, brick, pavers, gravel and even tiles can easily and affordably set the tone for a serene look.
If you don’t have space for a cool, refreshing pool, try a calming oasis in your courtyard: a water feature has a wonderful soothing effect on the senses. It also doesn’t have to be huge to make an impact, as long as it fits into its environment. And with our limited water resources, the smaller the better. Water features create an illusion of coolness, add value to your property and often become the focal point in a garden. Nurseries and garden centers stock a wide variety of bowls, ponds, and interesting containers, and they’re usually easy to install. You can construct your own or buy one readymade – or even design the space around the one you’re installing; the possibilities are endless. All it takes is a bit of creative thinking to decide how you’d like to feature yours.
Design wise: If you’re considering installing a water feature, consider the location, size, style, safety and the type of plants you’d like to showcase in or around it. The style of your water feature should match your garden – for instance, circular and square ponds are ideal for a formal garden. Cut down on maintenance by keeping your water feature away from trees, or you’ll be fishing out leaves all autumn. And site it in a sheltered spot if your garden is exposed to strong winds. Most water features are sold with a water pump and this generally has a cable; if you want to extend the length, consult an electrician.
Did you know? A water feature has both aesthetic and functional appeal: any mass of water will cool the temperature of an area on a hot day by adding moisture to the air. A water feature can either be built into your courtyard or you can buy a freestanding one that fits into your garden design.
A well-designed boundary wall can add immeasurably to the impact of a garden – and it doesn’t have to be made of bricks or mortar, either: a hedge or grouping of plants can create an effective and attractive screen. Walls can also be clad in cut or raw stone.
Readymade frames and trellises can also be bought and nailed to brick walls for an instant solution, or you can ask a carpenter to make one to your own design; paint or varnish will add to its durability. Remember to mount trellises a little way away from the wall, so that plants can creep through them… and receive enough air, light, and rain. Custom-made wrought iron trellises can add a totally different dimension to a wall, or you can cover walls with green graphics, such as diamond-shaped ivy (Hedera helix).