This low-maintenance outdoor space is perfect for welcoming friends during the day – or after dark
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For the owners of this now-gorgeous garden, weekends are all about spending time with friends, so when they called on designer Lee Bestall of Bestall & Co to renovate their outdoor space, they knew exactly what they wanted. Their brief was for an outdoor room that was low on maintenance and maximised the time they could spend outside. The result? A garden with a cooking area, space to seat a crowd, an area for relaxing, a heat source, great lighting – plus beautiful greenery, of course.
Garden at a Glance
Who lives here A professional couple
Location North Yorkshire
Garden size 10m x 10m in an L- shape
Property A former coach house
Designer Lee Bestall of Bestall & Co
The garden actually looked like a builder’s yard when the project began, as it had been used as a dumping ground during an interior refurbishment. “The raised beds were there,” says Bestall, “but they were overgrown, and the old soil was infested with weeds and ivy so we took it out.” The black granite cobbles beyond the beds had also survived. “The owners wanted to keep them to add a bit of history,” says Bestall. They needed to be both relaid and repointed.
The paving in the ‘living room’ area of the garden is sawn and honed imported sandstone. “The garden is north-facing and dark paving would have made it darker,” says Bestall. “This paving has quite a bit of yellow in it, and that also helps it to blend with the yellowy stone of the building.”
As the owners wanted this garden to be all about entertaining, it features an outdoor ‘kitchen’ with a stainless-steel barbecue and work space either side. “People expect it to be like an indoor kitchen,” says Bestall, “but it’s not. The units get damp inside, so you can’t use it in the same way.” The cupboards, in fact, contain the gas bottle for the barbecue, and have space for gardening tools and the hose, plus the transformers for the lighting. “Basically, it’s instead of having a shed,” explains Bestall.
To stand up to life outside, the splashback is made from marine-grade stainless steel, the worktop is granite and the timber units are pressure treated.
“We fitted downlighters above the cooking area,” says Bestall. “There are also uplighters for the planting, for the water feature, and lighting in the walls to wash light across the paving.”
Barbecue, Grand Hall.
Shop for garden lighting
The raised beds were replanted with buxus (box balls) and yew balls, and underplanted with tiarella. “They’re low, grow in shade and flower in white for a long period of time,” says Bestall.
The plant beside the bifold doors is Acca sellowiana or Pineapple guava. “You can eat the petals of the flowers, which taste like pineapple,” says Bestall. “Because it’s a garden for entertaining, I thought it would be fun to grab petals and throw them onto food. The plant does fruit, but probably not well in the UK. It’s not tender, but it doesn’t like a lot of frost, so the owners bring it inside in the winter.”
The raised area above the cooking/dining space contains the water feature, which was in the garden before the makeover. “We had to clean and restore it and get it working again,” says Bestall.
The fountain was underplanted with more tiarella, as well as the shade-loving grass deschampsia.
How to introduce a water feature to any size of outdoor space
This is a garden fit for entertaining year-round, with the fire pit providing warmth on cool evenings. “The owners wanted the warm glow of flames,” says Bestall. “This is a gas version. It’s made from reclaimed York stone, and the stone contrasts beautifully with the sharp lines of the fencing and paving.”
Alongside the fire pit are Ilex aquifolium ‘JC van Tol’ lollipops underplanted with more tiarella. The planters were made by a local blacksmith from galvanised metal powder-coated in grey to match the house’s bifold doors.
The pleached prunus trees in the far corner are evergreen and were planted to provide privacy. The fencing is a contemporary horizontal design in tanalised timber. “You don’t have to do anything with it,” says Bestall – in keeping with the garden’s low-maintenance credentials.
What are your tips for a garden you can entertain in year-round? Share your photos and experiences in the Comments section.