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Six new garden features to consider

Laura

It’s catalogues galore now isn’t it! Sarah Raven, Mr Fothergills, Parkers – just so tempting. But remember a garden is not created by plants alone. A garden needs to have paths and seating at the very least, possibly steps and walls, and ideally some tasteful artefacts placed around it (a hot tub is, of course, only for people like Caroline).

So whilst we’re waiting for the weather to warm up so the proper gardening can start, we three have come up with six new garden features you could have a crack at now.

1. A dry stone wall. Despite aspersions being cast by E and C over the gap between ambition and ability, we built ourselves a dry stone wall during the first lockdown (our feature picture this week) and there is no reason why you couldn’t have a bash at one too.

There was a bit of preparation required in sorting out the stones which was covered in a blog last spring (link at the end) before we got onto the construction phase.

Dry stone wall
Against the odds and my sisters’ predictions, a dry stone wall is perfectly achievable by an amateur with a ‘can do’ attitude

2. Chimney pots. We all have a few pots in our gardens, but if you’re looking for a bit of height and don’t want to pay the eye-watering sums charged for a really huge pot, try looking on eBay for an old chimney pot. I don’t fill the whole thing with soil, just choose a suitably size pot to drop into the top. Ferns work particularly well.

Chimney pots
Cheaper than equivalent size pots but making a striking statement

Elaine

Hmmm, Laura – I know we’re all desperate for projects to fill our lockdown days, but building a full-blown drystone wall, lovely as it is, is quite an extreme way of filling the time between breakfast and wine o’clock. How about something a little less dramatic?
3. Mirrors. The etymology of ‘garden’ is from Anglo-French and then back to the Frankish word ‘gard/gart’ meaning an enclosure or compound (how appropriate at the moment!), and that carries with it the sense that the space has had human intervention in the form of boundaries.

These boundaries ‘define’ the space. Much is said and written these days about disguising or blurring these garden edges, ‘borrowing’ wider landscapes, making your ‘enclosure’ feel larger etc. You might clothe the fences with trees and climbers, or erect or plant a ‘screen’ halfway down the garden, so you don’t see all of the garden at once from the house. It’s only natural to want to see what’s round the corner! Another ruse I use here is to install mirrors next to the wall, to give the illusion that the path carries on beyond it.

Where does the path end? A mirror blurs the edges of the garden

There are a few things to say, if you fancy having a go at this:

a. Think about what you are reflecting – soft foliage is much more ‘simpatico’ than the washing line or you in your nightie………………I expect!

b. Fix a mirror firmly and don’t put it up so high that it will interfere with bird’s flightpaths. Ours are low, but we sometimes have to cover them up for a couple of weeks in spring if a little male bird becomes fixated on attacking his reflection rather than finding a missus…

c. Put the mirror in a shady position – reflecting the sun can be a fire hazard or a danger to folks’ eyesight.

4. Add a reference point. If mirrors are not your bag, then consider adding some inanimate objects as points of reference among your plants or at the end of a path.

A little birdbath among the plants for a point of reference

Trellis, metal or wooden tripods, sculptural pieces, a birdbath, stepping stones, a large pot – choose things that you like and that match the style of your patch. They can all make a garden more personal and the journey around it more interesting and satisfying.

A sculpture at the end of a path can add drama and interest.

Caroline

And the connoisseur on this topic brings up the rear as usual. After touring gazillions of OPGs (Other People’s Gardens) on Sunday afternoons, I can tell you most of us don’t yearn for sandstone walls or busts of Aphrodite. After the mandatory 10 years of accommodating childrens’ slides and trampolines most of us move swiftly, and with gratitude, to creating outdoor drinking spaces. And we’re happy with these for the next four decades. 

If you don’t have any, or enough, now is the time to get planning. You need somewhere quite close to the kitchen (supplies), flat and preferably incorporating a little solid structure upon which your bowl of crisps could sit. Please don’t imagine you have to build one of Laura’s walls to achieve this. It’s why God gave us:

5. Gabions. Big wire mesh baskets you can get online and fill with stones or pretty much any dross you have in the garden – magically it looks quite presentable when tidied into a bounded rectangle. 

You don’t have to buy swanky looking stones to fill gabions, you could just have a garage clear out.

One of our blogging contemporaries Lee Burkhill, aka Gardnen Ninja, created a video on how to construct them, I’ve included the link at the end.

6 Wooden block constructions. If this sort of adult lego is up your street, please also consider the merits of getting to grips WoodBlocX, based five miles from my home in the Scottish Highlands. Raised flower beds, planters, retaining walls, ponds you can literally build an entire adventure playground from their products, block by block. They got the thumbs up from Dragons Den and I keep hoping I might bump into Peter Jones at the local petrol station but no such luck yet.

NB Louise has tips for creating stunning natural garden features that look good all winter long, click on Great Plants this Month box below to find out how she does it

NB If you’d like a bit more gardening chit-chat from the3growbags just enter your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning

Let’s see just how ambitious we were with our drystone wall last February

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

4 replies on “Six new garden features to consider”

Your ideas for a winter project are rejuvenating me! No room for walls but I do have neglected chimney pots; AND I have that fern which is in Laura’s chimney pot. In fact I have 4 of them since I divided it last year BUT it has never thrived as I would wish. Please can you tell me what it is (so I can look it up) and please tell me, how did you do it??

Hello Liz, Laura here and thanks very much for getting in touch. I love my ferns! They’re a species of the rabbits foot fern (because the new growth on the rhizomes looks very like a rabbits paw) genus Davallia. Mine is actually Davallia canariensis, which I was given by the Botanical Gardens of Madeira to be part of a Chelsea Flower Show display on the endemic flora of Macronesia about 20 years ago, when I was running a conservation project there.They are very slow growing, and in the wild grow epiphytically on trees, so don’t mind being pot bound. I used to keep mine in a frost free greenhouse all year round, but stood them outside in a shady place this summer and they loved it, producing beautiful new fronds. I have read that this species is hardy down to -5 but mine are too precious to me to risk it so I brought them back in this autumn.
Glad you have found some old chimney pots to re-purpose, it’ll be a great upcycling project for you! Best wishes Laura

Thanks again ladies, always food for thought and of course Elaine, filling time between breakfast and ‘drink’-o’clock (lunchtime+-). And Caroline, gabons – I’ve always loved those things. Unfortunately, my garden in Devon is too long and narrow to facilitate some of those even though it’s on a south-facing slope – lucky me. And to fill them with any flotsam-and-jetsam, particularly from my man-shed is something I could turn my thoughts to this summer. Hey ho, that’s what your site is all about. Cheeeers, Scott

Thanks for writing in, Scott, Elaine here. Yes, I really like gabions too – though obviously don’t tell Caroline that she actually wrote about something I totally approve of, for once! Your garden in Devon might be too narrow to accommodate such features, but I bet you can grow some lovely tender things that the rest of us can only dream about. Hope you have a great time with both the garden AND the man-shed this year, and continue to enjoy our musings.

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