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Great Outdoor Ideas From Some of 2017’s Most Popular Garden Tours

As gardening season approaches, we look back to last year for a roundup of some of the best ideas to steal

Houzz UK deputy editor. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for the… More

Starting to think about getting your outdoor space in shape ready for the warmer weather? Let these projects, in gardens of varying sizes, get your creativity flowing.

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Choose jungly rather than tall plants for privacy
This narrow urban garden was previously very exposed to the surrounding houses. Rather than choosing large trees, tall bamboo or towering trellises, designer Fiona Green of Green Tree Garden Design got clever with some lush, evergreen foliage.

The tropical theme of the structural planting – inspired by homeowner Malcolm’s travels – already gives the garden a real “haven” feel. And even though the plants don’t top the boundary fencing, their abundance helps the space to feel tucked away among them. The plants are a mix of those that love shade and those that need sun, and include: Butia capitata (jelly palm); Trachycarpus fortunei (Chinese windmill palm); Dryopteris affinis; Fatsia japonica and Panicum virgatum.

Says Green of the finished garden: “I had a cup of tea with Malcolm a couple of times, sitting on the patio at the back, and you could barely make out the neighbouring houses. In this space, you really feel as if you’re somewhere tropical and faraway.”

Check out the before photos and see more of this outdoor space

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Go large on lighting
The trend for turning our gardens into an extension of our interiors continues to grow. And lighting is a key part in giving a room the right atmosphere. Here, garden designer Kate Gould created a living room-like patio for her garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, featuring a giant, weatherproof Anglepoise lamp to illuminate it after dark, as well as to brighten it up during the day.

There’s plenty of indoor-style lighting for outdoor spaces on the market, from table lamps to pendants and floor lamps like this one. It’s a small but effective addition that can dramatically transform the feel of a garden.

See the rest of this show garden, which includes other clever design ideas that give it an indoors feel

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Take trellis to the next level
Trellis is a common feature in many of our gardens, topping fences or fixed at the back of a flower bed for a climber or two. Here, The Garden Trellis Company, who designed this townhouse rooftop, have used it, far less sparingly, as the boundary for the entire space, hiding the existing low-level iron fencing.

The brief was to create more privacy for the homeowners as well as making it a relaxing spot. To echo the garden’s urban location, the trellis is painted a cool, contemporary grey and the design and scale of the structure was chosen specifically for the needs of this design.

“Trellis has a variety of uses,” project manager James Gee explains. “It’s typically available in either a square or diamond design and a wide range of sizes, including that of the gaps between the slats. Trellis with smaller apertures [a tighter mesh] is good for adding security and privacy to a fence or wall. A wider, more open gap is useful when growing climbers, as it allows them to wind between the slats.”

See the whole rooftop

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Create an outdoor kitchen (and double it up as a shed)
If you’ve ever wondered about the practicality of an outdoor kitchen – how does it work, how much of a kitchen is it really? – this design may answer some questions.

“People expect it to be like an indoor kitchen,” says Lee Bestall of Bestall & Co, “but it’s not. The units get damp inside, so you can’t use it in the same way.” The cupboards here, 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,” he explains.

But in the mix is a stylish focal point for an entertaining area, with an easy-to-light gas barbecue, stainless steel splashback and granite worktops to make the whole outdoor cooking experience more enjoyable and practical.

Get the full picture and read more about the design

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Tuck in a gazebo (especially if you have a messy tree)
The messy tree, in this instance, is a lime with a protection order on it. If you have one in or overhanging your garden, you’ll know how majestic these popular street trees are, but also, depending on the variety, how much of a pain it can be having to clear up the sticky mess it will leave on your lawn, patio, flowerbeds and garden furniture. (If it overhangs your car, consider adapting the following idea for your driveway or front garden, if you have space.)

The sticky stuff is, in fact, honeydew and is caused by aphids, so there’s not a lot you can do about it, but this garden, attached to a Victorian terrace, shows off a good solution.

Designer Claire Burrage of Clara Bee built a large pergola with a solid roof that has a sedum bed planted on top of it and a dining area beneath it. “Now when the sap falls, it goes onto the roof and doesn’t affect the garden,” says Burrage.

See more of this garden

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Opt for unusual lighting
The living room lighting idea is one way to go, but here’s another. Again, it’s a design-forward approach: rather than the usual uplighters on paths or spiked into beds, or even outdoor festoon lights (all of which can look lovely), designer Stefano Marinaz created 6cm-wide lighting strips that stretch approximately 4m around the garden walls in this small courtyard.

The strips are made from a product called Rimex, which has a bronze-like finish. It ensures the wonderful living walls remain a feature after dark.

Take the tour

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Give drainage the natural touch
The redesign of this previously uninspiring front garden/driveway has to be seen in full to be appreciated (so do check it out in the link below).

There are many fantastic ideas to spark your own, but this one is a nice yet simple touch. Drainage was required on the driveway part of the design to remove the risk of water runoff and flooding. Rather than a standard slim steel grille, designer Simon Orchard instead created pebble channels to add interest and break up the big expanse of paving.

It’s an idea that could be replicated in back gardens, in drainage-requiring patios or even to mask unsightly drains at the ends of guttering as a quick DIY job (just top with a few handfuls of pebbles – simple).

See before and after photos of the whole project

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Let curves expand your space
The before photos of this garden are what will really show you just how smart an idea it was to create circles in a rectangular plot.

It perhaps seems counterintuitive, but breaking up what had been a long – 19m – angular space and cutting into it with curved paths and lawns has created a garden that feels bigger.

Designer Fiona Green, of Green Tree Garden Design, created three round lawns bordered by winding paths, which were created with sandstone sets mortared into place. The paths encourage slow progress through the garden, helping visitors to meander and look at the pretty planting as they go.

“I think what works in the garden is the combination of its strong shape and the planting,” says Green. “The planting would still be pretty on its own, but the winding path really makes the space seem so much bigger.”

Check out the transformation in full

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Counter an encroaching kitchen extension
It’s a common story: house with small kitchen gets a lovely new extension – but the garden shrinks a little to make space for it.

In this example, the effect was particularly pronounced, as the garden was already on the petite side. Designer Antonia Schofield‘s solution? To give the extension and the garden a seamless connection, so the reduced dimensions became less noticeable thanks to the garden feeling more prominent.

Pots filled with fig trees, palms and exotic climbers help to blend the boundary between the house and the garden, especially when the bifold doors are open. “You get a real sense of it being all one space,” says Schofield.

See it all

Tell us…
Can you imagine using any of these ideas in your own garden this year? Let us know which ones – or share more tips in the Comments section.
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