From June to September, if we are lucky with the weather, I expect that many people who are not regular gardeners will spend their leisure time out in the garden. Whilst providing outdoor space and a lovely view all year round, it is in summer that the garden as a place for relaxing and entertaining comes into its own. So this month I am writing about the ‘hard landscaping’ features: terraces, patios or decks that make seating and dining areas.
The three key decisions for the planning phase are location, material and size. All these will be influenced by how exactly you want to use the area and to an extent the overall size of your garden. In a small plot you might be limited to one patio and that will most frequently be alongside the house and large enough for outdoor dining. Even in the UK though a south facing patio can be uncomfortably hot at midday so plan to provide shade, ideally either a permanent pergola over part of it or a roll-down canopy.
A family dining space for a table seating 4-6 needs to be large enough for chairs to be pushed back and people to walk around without tripping off the edge. I suggest 3m square or diameter as a realistic minimum. This may seem a huge part of a small garden but once the furniture is in place you will not be faced with a flat, blank expanse of paving. From autumn to spring if furniture is stored away, large pots will add colour and break up the space.
In many gardens you can find a spot for secondary seating – maybe to catch the early sun for breakfast or the last rays in the evening. This means noting the direction your garden faces and therefore where the sun falls through the day. Usually a smaller area, just enough for a couple of chairs and often less formal, such as a bench set onto gravel.
The material you choose will depend largely on the style of garden you want to create. Large paving slabs or slate tiles give a contemporary look whereas reclaimed bricks lend a cottagey effect. Decking become fashionable in the era of the TV makeover because it is quick to install. The practical use of decking is where a solid foundation for paving cannot be installed, if the ground drops away or tree roots prevent excavation.
However you create space for relaxing and entertaining in your garden this summer, even a few deckchairs temporarily set out on the lawn, do make time to sit and appreciate your green space and the plants and wildlife within it. Gardening can sometimes seem like a lot of hard work so make sure you enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Happy Gardening from Alison