The Garden: After [The Planting]

I hope you enjoyed yesterdays post – there was just far too much to share for one post so I’m continuing today with a bit more detail. :)

The design of the hard landscape of the garden is quite geometric which stemmed from the large square deck we had already built. All the angles and lines reflect that but the planting contrasts with the angles in that is is very soft and fluid with swaying grasses and cloud like groupings of wild looking flowers. The downside to this kind of planting is that is relies heavily on perennials – that is plants that die back every winter and grow again in summer  - so we needed some structure to provide a backbone. The box balls form part of that, are contemporary and also break up the expanse of grass which was my concession to Pete’s plans for the garden – he would have been very happy grassing the whole thing with a goal post at either end. ;)

The planting was inspired by Piet Oudolf who I have talked about here before. A Dutch plantsman who is one of the most influential designers of our time, he champions a natural style of garden based on wildflowers and prairie fields. He also wants us to see the beauty in all stages of a plants life from the first shoots in spring through the flowers in summer to the frost on seedpods and frozen strands of dead grass in winter. His popular public works include the High Line in New York which I was thrilled to visit in person on our trip earlier this month and he is famous for his use of grasses. I’m so happy with how our planting turned out.

I browsed a few of his books before choosing our plants and made sure I choose amongst my own favourites some key plants of his to ‘get the look’. Some of the key species included Stipa tenuissima (the golden grass you see here,) Echinacea (the tall daisy like flowers,) Sanguisorba (the burgundy ball-like flowers in the picture above,) and Verbena bonariensis, (tiny purple flowers that form a cloud above lower plants or grasses they are planted through.) You can find more suitable plant combinations here. The other important thing to do is to plant in swaths – to get this look you need groups of 7 or 11 plants rather than 3 or 5.

The patio area is where our garden gets the majority of the sun, and is quite exposed in that way so the pergola was designed to be a focal point but also to add shade. We planted 3 climbing plants at the corners to cover it and add dappled shade – a white Wisteria, a Passion flower and a scented jasmine closest to twhere our table is.

The borders extend to surround the patio and the idea is that as the flowers mature the dining area will be partially obscured, and feel slightly enclosed and more cosy for dinners outside. We eat outside a lot in summer so I can’t wait for this are to become even more magical than it feels already…

Back towards the house, we built raised beds to break up the drop from the deck down  to the garden and also to bring the garden to the deck, so to speak. They were built last summer when the deck was, but only filled when the garden was done.

The one above is west facing and gets the sun all day so it’s got some drought resistant plants in there along with some prarie style additions and some of my favourite cottage garden plants too. I aimed for height here so they were taller than the deck 50cm above the planting box and could be seen through the glass balustrade. On the other side, the other box is north facing and gets very little sun, only at the very end of the day as it drops so it looks very different with ferns (including a tiny tree fern!) Japanese anemones, Heuchera and Hostas for sculptural foliage and variety of colour in the leaves.

Of course, it’s still not finished. We didn’t completely clear some shrubs in one of the borders so there was some backdrop for the immature planting but we will be changing that this autumn and winter. There is also a flower bed I had planned to be quite cotremporary not he left side and not pictured really here, but I’m now undecided if thats what I really want, or if the plants I had picked were the right ones. I may give it a year or two to develop and think about it.

That’s what I love about gardening. Its never over, it’s never done and it can always be worked on, built and changed. Its probably the only area of my life that I take the long view on and as a result it’s so relaxing.

I hope you enjoyed the insight again and once again, the design was down to brilliant Iain from Outer Space Lansdcapes, with the planting by me. :)


The Garden: After

As the Autumn is in full swing, I thought I’d share the picture of my finished garden, probably as good as it’s going to get before everything starts to die off for the winter. As you can see if you look back at my last post, the plants have filled out dramatically.

I absolutely love it. If we left this house I would miss the garden more than anything I think.

Before we start, some obligatory before and after shots – the ‘before’s’ with the garage are from the beginning of May and the photos in this post were taken in mid September, so its has really changed massively in less than 5 short months.

I am SO glad we got rid of the garage. Of course we have the luxury of a cellar to store ‘stuff’ in but in all honesty it’s a few garden tools and a lawnmower. nothing a shed couldn’t have handled and it has been so worth it for the extra space in a small garden.

The only thing that is different other than the planting in these pictures from the last post is that we finally finished off the decking with a glass and steel balcony to protect the edges. I think lots of people think we are mad having such a big open stepped area down but it was an integral part for me of keeping the deck a part of the garden, rather than two areas, and due to the cellars there would always be a drop from stepping out of the house, down to the garden. short of a ramp, nothing would have been ‘safe’ for Bea.

I have a ton of pictures to share so I’m going to split this post into two. There will be more tomorrow with the detail of the design and planting. Once again, the design and landscaping was all by Iain at Outer Space Lanscapes and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with him again – he was brilliant to work with, hardworking and did an amazing job. In fact we will be asking him to re-landscape the front garden in the future. I will just share the vegetable area of the garden today.

Some of you may remember we had an allotment before we moved and gave it up knowing the house would take up our time, that we planned a family and that we hoped to grow some veg in the new garden. I asked for some custom designed raised vegetable beds to be incorporated in to the design and space for a greenhouse, and I’m so glad we did. I love pottering in my working corner of the garden but it looks just as good as the rest of it!

I wanted a wooden greenhouse but they are so expensive and eventually we found this tiny one online. It was less than half the price of most as it is untreated, meaning we had to protect it with a stain and protect product but I wanted to Paint it anyway so it was not great loss. It’s also got plastic windows which I wasn’t that thrilled about, but painted up, I love it. It still has some of the green plastic film on the windows in these pictures and the inside needs painting still too, but it has been fab for growing in and we had our first tomatoes in there this year.

For the veg beds we concentrated on stuff we would use, that crops heavily and in a short space. 2 courgette plants kept us fed for the whole summer, we grew salad leaves, runner beans, peas and broad beans. And I had a corner of sweet peas solely for cutting.

Come back tomorrow for some more photos of the planting and detail :) Maybe I’ll periscope it when we get a sunny day!


The Garden: During and After

If you’d like to see how the garden looked before, then head on back to my first post here. We started ripping out the garage at the beginning of May and had it ‘sort of’ finished by mid-June. I hasten to say from the outset, we did not do this work ourselves! We had the amazingly good luck of stumbling across a brilliant garden designer and builder who was just a pleasure to work with – Iain from Outer Space Landscapes and his very capable sidekick, Shaun. I knew straight away from our first meeting when he asked me if I knew of Piet Oudolf, (you might remember me mentioning him as inspiration for the garden a while back,) that I was sure we were going to be able to work well together. These are all quite candid phone photos that I took as we went along. The finished ones are a bit glossier. ;)

This was the initial design on paper:

The first thing we had to do was knock the garage down. We actually listed it on eBay on the advice of our builder and unbelievably sold it (for less than £100 but it paid for one of the 3 skips we needed to complete the work so not bad,) when it would have cost us hundred more to have it dismantled. In the end it became clear that the people who bought it weren’t able to remove it fully and we got our usual builder to finish the job but it just goes to show, its amazing what will sell on eBay!

Of course it got a lot worse before it got better. The weather was against us (although the wet summer was later on a godsend for the new grass and plants.) One of the first things that were built were the raised vegetable beds at the side of the house, before the old grass was even taken up and the whole plot levelled.


When the border edging, grass and patio went in, it all started to take shape and I could see where the design was going. It all seemed very vast to finish with plants! I did a huge order at a local garden centre, (I chose all the plants myself and designed the planting scheme,) and you can see them delivered here on the steps to the deck.

As you can see, part of the design was these three large box balls in the lawn to give a sculptural element and I thought they would also be fun for kids to hide behind and jump over! ;)

The final part of the design was the modern pergola. Our patio is in full sun pretty much from sun up to about 5pm in the height of summer and as we planned to enjoy lazy lunches there we were going to need some shade. Eventually wisteria and other climbers will provide dappled shade over the whole structure.

I’m going to post some more pictures in the next week or two that show how the garden has changed again since these were taken at completion. The way it has filled out and matured already is amazing, but for now, this is what the process looked like. Please do ask any questions and if you’re looking for a garden makeover in and around Manchester I would recommend Iain at Outer Space Landscapes in a heartbeat – incredibly hardworking, knows his stuff and beautiful results.

I hope you like it readers! I can’t wait to show the more recent pictures – the difference is amazing!


Spotted: Bargain outdoor furniture from IKEA

A very quick post for you this morning readers… my latest bargain find from IKEA. As you know, we are doing the garden at the moment and it was finished last week (look out for a full post showing you the ‘after’ pictures soon!) but we were lacking in garden furniture to sit on and enjoy it. Typically, we were by now on a very tight budget, having spent the rest on the garden work. Any of you who have ever looked for garden furniture will know, cheap it usually isn’t. We looked everywhere but it was hard to find good quality, stylish furniture for a decent price. We actually found ourselves in exactly the same position last year when we finished the kitchen and deck and had no furniture to sit on it with, and we eventually spotted a rattan look sofa set in IKEA for £120. I remembered this and decided we should check out IKEA this time – their garden range is amazing, really well styled and made, with a good variety of classic, modern and vintage looking ranges, at great IKEA prices as always. I’ll let you guess what we went for. ;)

IKEA dining set with bench and chairs £235

IKEA table and white arm chairs £305

IKEA metal table and 2 chairs, £59

IKEA outdoor lounger £40

IKEA Rattan look modular outdoor corner sofa £500

So just in case you need some and thought you couldn’t stretch to a new set – make sure you have a look, although still costing a fair amount, all of this IKEA garden furniture is around 50% less than you would see in the usual high street stores I reckon.

Happy garden lounging!


The Garden: Before

Our garden has already been through a partial make-over as when we did the kitchen we also did the deck which the bifold doors open out onto and that made quite a change. It drastically altered our living space as it becomes an extension of the kitchen when the weather is nice (not yet this year then!) but other than when the doors are open, the bigger change was looking back at the house, rather than our view from it.

Lets start at the very beginning shall we?

When we moved in the garden was tidy and shall we say, ‘a mature low maintenance garden.’ There were a lot of shrubs, many of which were taking up a lot more space than they should in the name of ground cover, a lawn and an enormous double garage. This had been there since before the previous owners bought the house and was apparently built to house the previous owners classic car. Apart from having electricity to it, it was rather ramshackle, an eye sore and took up masses of space.

When we built the deck it seemed massive, and in the planning stages I worried that it was taking away too much of the garden, but in fact if you look back at the pictures it was built over some rather ugly paving and in the main a big hedge-like bush that we pulled out (with the yellow flowers in the picture above.)

Once the building work and kitchen was done we built the deck, using Ecodek, a composite decking material made from recycled tyres and finished the edges and steps with normal decking that was stained to match.

I really didn’t want the deck to feel like a separate entity to the garden, opening up the garden to the house was the whole point of all of our work so far, so we planned very wide steps. In the spaces either side of the steps we built huge raised beds to allow for planting to soften the deck and bring more garden up and around the deck, making it feel greener eventually.

Then we had Bea and everything came to a grinding halt!

These last pictures were taken this spring, before the garage was taken down. You can see the (still empty) boxes around the deck and not much else has changed, other than it all getting a bit untidy and unloved.

We knew the hard landscaping of a garden this size was beyond us so we looked for Garden designers and found Iain at Outer Space Landscapes who I spotted round the corner from us working on another garden. Once we got chatting I knew he was the right person for me to work with. I knew what kind of design we wanted and the planting style, so when he mentioned the designer Piet Oudolf, that I had been researching and who’s style I had been inspired by, I knew we’d found our man. He drew us this plan (the third draft) and is now well underway with bringing it to life for us!

The next pictures I show you should be of the finished garden and it should be almost completed this week, so hopefully you won’t have too much longer to wait!


Renovation Ruminations… The Garden

I have been ridiculously excited about our next renovation project for weeks, not least because it doesn’t involve my house being a complete mess! We decided this summer to tackle the garden, before another summer goes by with it a mess. Last year it was pretty much a building site and now we are home more with Bea, it’s the perfect time to get something done. It does however mean putting a hold on everything in the house for a few more months.

Napa Garden inspired by Piet Oudolf

Before I share the before’s, I thought I share a few of my inspiration pictures… Rome wasn’t built in a day and never were that statement more true than with a garden. Its going to be pretty bare at first and will take years to reach full maturity but we’re ready to play the long game and enjoy it as it grows :)

Italian Piet Oudolf Garden

A key factor in our re-design was the planting. I have fallen in love with modern prairie style planting which is very fashionable in gardens right now. Piet Oudolf is the guy behind the planting movement which involves mixing grasses with perennials and embracing plants for all their seasonal displays, particularly their structural form and autumn displays of seed pods and spires of dead flower heads.

Piet Oudolf Gardens in Winter at RHS Wisley

I really wanted an outdoor eating area but with a cover to it. We already have the decking area outside the kitchen which is shaded most of the day but perfect for drinks and casual eating after about 4 when the sun hits it until up to 8 pm in the high summer. In the day time however, one corner of our garden gets the full sun from morning until about 4pm, perfect for day time BBQ’s. I don’t like to eat in full sun however and our BBQ area will be down here too, so I’m imagining string lights hanging from the trees and canopy with a big dining table for lots of impromptu entertaining.

Rustic long dining table // Modern pergola

We gave up our allotment when we moved into this house, as it has a reasonable sized garden, so we plan to have a designated area to grow vegetables and I would love a little greenhouse for pottering in and sowing seeds with Bea! Pete has requested a decent sized area of grass for kickabouts and playing in the garden with kids, but I want it to be child friendly in other ways… places to hide in and behind, paths to follow and cycle round, and places to sit and read.

Greenhouse // Piet Oudolf Border planting // Kitchen garden boxes

As we are taking down our garage which currently takes up at least a quarter of the garden and is HUGE, we are going to need some better screening at the back and some trees for privacy. I’ve been looking for varieties that won’t grow too big or spread, casting a shadow on our neighbours gardens, but that will work hard for their place in our small garden, with interesting form, beautiful leaves and colour, with seasonal interest like flowers in spring or fruits in autumn too.

Birches for screening

Work started last week so I’ll share some before pictures very soon and some ‘in progress’ and ‘after’ pics soon after that!


My (old) house garden…

Right now I am totally immersed in garden planning and I’ll be chatting about that soon, but first it occurred to me that I don’t think I ever shared my old garden, before we moved house. The new garden is a pretty decent size and unusually large for where we live. It’s nothing compared to some country dwellers, but for urban Manchester suburbs, its big. (London readers will relate!) The old house was a 3 up, 3 down, typical mid-terrace and had a yard at the back when we moved in. It was 4 metres square but we had patio doors going out onto it from the kitchen and it was South West facing. We had never had our own outdoor space before, so I was determined to make somewhere we could relax.

Image by Lawson Photography

It ended up being a relatively cheap and easy project. When we moved in the ‘yard’ was concreted over entirely and the developer we bought the house from had added a square deck kit over the top, directly out from the kitchen patio doors, which happened to be the shadiest part of the garden.) There were also some decking material planters with cheap bedding plants in them and it couldn’t have looked more hasty, ill considered or ugly. The pictures don’t give a great overall view (they were taken for the Good Homes magazine feature on my old home by Laura and Peter Lawson.) but you can get the gist here that we created a courtyard garden that still had room for growing plants and greenery.

Here is one of my own photos from above showing the layout:

Image by Rebecca @

What we did:

  • Paid someone to come and remove the decking and drill up the concrete yard.
  • Marked off an L shaped border at the back left and to the right of the gate for plants, edged with Victorian style terracotta rope edging.
  • Built two steps down from the back door with indian stone slabs and a simple brick layer to create the steps. (I’ve linked to B&Q but check your local builders yard for the best prices on garden hard landscaping.)
  • Laid an Indian stone patio in the sunniest corner of the garden, with stepping stones of indian stone straight out of the back door to the back gate and from the patio to the back gate.

Image by Lawson Photography

  • Laid weed supressing membrane and put golden gravel down over it.
  • Put in a trellis panel to hide the side return where our bins were stored.
  • Planted climbing plants to cover the walls (Left wall – shade loving Clibing hydrangea, Pyracantha for berries and where it got sunnier a Ceanothus for the stunning blue flowers; On the right side we had climbing roses and a Clematis Montana.)
  • Planted the borders and some pots for an overflowing look. These were cheap plants bought mostly in the supermarkets with a couple of David roses too

Image by Lawson Photography

It ended up being a kind of cottage garden meets Mediterranean garden, with the overflowing relaxed style of the cottage garden but with plants that withstood the dry heat microclimate that the walled courtyard created. We had an olive tree by the back door! The pictures here show it about 6 years after completion so it was maturing and the hard landscaping was blending in to look like it had always been there (along with some weeds creeping in, but hey, that’s life!)

Image by Lawson Photography

It really was like my personal oasis and because the walls held the heat we were able to eat out there most dry nights in the summer. I can’t wait to create something equally cosy and inviting but on a grander scale in this house!

Image by Lawson Photography

It seemed timely to talk about Gardens now as everyone is thinking about getting outside… have you got any garden plans this year?


#JanuaryJoy – Plan a project

Good morning readers!

I’ve left some of the prompts for this years #JanuaryJoy deliberately vague to allow as many people to join in as possible and whilst this particular prompt could encompass many things, for me it will be a house project. We’ve got quite a few things planned this year, big and small, from whole rooms to finishing touches. I’m keeping it small for now as I want to enjoy the remainder of my maternity leave dust and stress free, so I thought I’d share a couple of the projects I have in mind for this month.

Alcove storage // Peach and grey alcove

A Nursery wardrobe.
When we planned the nursery (which I will share soon, I promise!) I was convinced I was having a boy and didn’t give any thought to wardrobe space. We have a huge chest of drawers in there but since having a girl I’ve realised I need hanging space for dresses. The best place for the storage is in an alcove to the side of the chimney breast but it’s proving difficult to find a pice of furniture as it’s an oddly sized 66cms wide, so I’m having to think outside the box. I love the idea of being able to see Bea’s tiny clothes and so I thought some kind of open storage might work and hopefully won’t look too untidy as she doesn’t have that many clothes and I can still keep the majority folded in the drawers. Or do I do some kind of IKEA hack with something like this?

Garden design by Tom Stuart-Smith.

Deck planting.
When we built our deck outside the kitchen last year we added some raised beds made of sleepers, half the height of the deck. They’re pretty big and the idea is to plant them with tall perennials that will surround the deck with foliage so it doesn’t seem separate from the garden. So the first job is to order some topsoil to fill them as they have stood empty since we built them, and secondly to plant them up with appropriate plants. I’m going for delicate drifting styles, in shade loving plants for one of the boxes on the north facing side and pretty flowers for the other west facing side which gets lots of sun.

Bathroom via

Bathroom revamp.
Our bathroom is perfectly adequate and not on the agenda for change for quite some time… if we did change it, it would be part of quite a major reconfiguration of the first floor so we need to give that serious thought. In the meantime, I think I can make it a lot more us, with some simple additions. A new mirror, new light fittings, a bit of paint and some new hooks should make a big difference and it’ll be fun to change a room without all hell breaking loose in the house for a change. ;)

So what projects are you planning this January readers? (It doesn’t have to be house related!)


Triple temptation: Garden Furniture

As the completion of our kitchen comes to an end, the outside space is also getting underway. As our kitchen is above full height cellars, the ground floor level is about 1m above the garden. So we can step directly out instead of going up and down stairs, we are building a deck that the bifold doors open onto and I’m keeping all my fingers and toes crossed that it is finished this week.

IKEA Harmano Garden suite, £179 // John Lewis Madrid outdoor furniture £1475 (for what is pictured) // Palermo right-hand corner sofa, Next £699

Having spent so much money on everything else, garden furniture just isn’t in the budget right now, but I’m loathe to have an empty deck, or be unable to enjoy the rest of the summer months (hello maternity leave!) after working so hard on this space. I had been browsing at outdoor seating options for this area but they are all so expensive – we are looking for a sofa style seating solution, as our main outdoor dining area is planned for further down the garden. I was on the point of saying blow it (with another maxed out credit card flashing before my eyes,) as I fell in love with the NEXT Palermo range, then Pete spotted this IKEA set when we were there buying a spare bed. We couldn’t believe the price and snapped it up – The cushions are a bit thin, but I’ll simply buy some different foam pads and perhaps recover them. For the price, we couldn’t say no and it doesn’t matter if it’s not a long term option.


Triple Temptation: Festoon lights

Seletti Bella Vista Outdoor light, £85 Heals // Auva string lights (50 lights) £29.98 B&Q // Pink festoon lights, £85 Out there interiors

Last year I wrote a post about festoon lighting and listed some sources available at the time. You can still read that post here and see for yourself if they are still available, but the trend is going nowhere and thankfully the strings of globe lights with a soft glow perfect for pretty outdoor illumination are getting more widely available. I’ve spotted 3 in the last couple of weeks and thought I’d share them in case anyone is still looking for them. Do let me know if you have spotted any too! (The B&Q set looks like great value.)