It’s been a real labour of love, but finally our garden makeover is finished and I can share some proper pictures. We have an odd, L-shaped garden and the bit we’ve focused on is an awkward area that runs along one side of the house. It’s a tricky space as a lot of it is shaded, plus it’s an access route through to the side gate, and it’s where we keep our dustbins. It also had dirty and broken concrete paving slabs, and a large and ugly 1970s concrete screen wall.
I guess I’d better show you what it looked like before, although every instinct I have is telling me not to admit how bad it really was…
We’ve never been sure what to do with this area – we built raised beds (in which we mainly grew weeds and nettles), we knocked up a mud kitchen for the kids (now relocated elsewhere in the garden), and to be honest, its main function seemed to be a dumping ground.
Our number one priority was to tackle that horrible 1970s wall. We couldn’t tear it down completely, so we’ve hidden it behind a fence panel constructed from rough planks of 100mm sawn treated timber. I prefer the clean lines made by the planks to a standard fence panel. I was determined it needed to be black (like our living room wall), and so we went for Nevermore from Valspar’s Garden Colours range. As soon as the paint went on, it totally transformed the space – I couldn’t stop gazing at it through the window. It immediately felt more considered, and really tied the exterior in with the interior.
We wanted to create a built-in seating area. Originally we planned for this to go by the black fence, but realised the opposite wall is a sunnier spot, so we switched the design around. Ben built this (similar to our DIY kitchen banquette) in 89mm planed softwood. Originally the top was square but the edge really dug into your back when you sat on it, so he took the top plank off the seat back, and angled it, which has made it much more comfortable. We’ve treated the planks with an oil treatment, but I’m not 100% happy with the colour so I think we may experiment with this a little more.
The meandering pathway has been constructed using short lengths cut from decking planks from B&Q (who’ve helped us out with this makeover from the start). I love the curves, and how it gently leads you out to the lawn and garden at the back of the house.
We have a fire pit! Again this was a DIY job – we picked up some old bricks on eBay, Ben sourced a untreated steel bowl from Amazon, and then he built the brick surround. The bowl kept filling up with water, so Ben drilled some holes in the bottom. All the camping we do has fostered a love of sitting around the fire in the evening, and now we have the perfect spot to do this at home.
I’m a total amateur gardener, so when it comes to plants I’ve kept it simple with ferns and architectural Astelia (Silver Shadow), which are hopefully hardy enough to require minimal maintenance, plus pots planted up with alpine succulents. I also got Ben to knock up a vertical herb garden (planted up with hardy herbs), which we’ve painted in Nevermore to match the fence. This is a couple of metres from our kitchen door, so I can pop out and grab whatever I need when I’m cooking. Don’t worry, the parsley has had a good water and is looking a lot happier now!
I’m a huge fan of festoon lights and have already amassed a rather large collection inside the house. That black fence was crying out for some lights, and they create the most lovely atmosphere when they’re on at night. We light them whether we’re outside or not, as we can see them twinkling through the window.
I chose white pebbles (mixed in with white cobbles) from B&Q to cover the ground because of the striking contrast with the black fence. They add a contemporary feel to the whole space, and also make it feel bright and welcoming.
The DIY log store has two functions – obviously we use it to store wood for the fire pit, but it also screens off the dustbins and recycling boxes so they aren’t an eyesore anymore. I didn’t plan on buying a eucalyptus but it’s my all-time favourite plant, and when I saw one in B&Q I couldn’t resist sneaking it onto my trolley.
Paint on fence: Nevermore by Valspar, available from B&Q
White pebbles and cobbles: B&Q
Festoon lights: Lights4Fun
Herbs: Wyevale and B&Q
Astelia, Eucalyptus and succulents: B&Q
Untreated steel bowl: Amazon