How to make the most of your garden

Get the best from your garden by making simple, but powerful changes, says Geoff Stonebanks.

Night lighting at Driftwood

The summer months, when we hope to get plenty of sunshine, can have a magnetic effect on us, drawing us out into our gardens like moths to a light bulb. So, why not spruce up your outdoor space to make it as welcoming and homely as possible? That way, on the perfect weather days, you and your garden will both be ready for action.

At this time of year, you can’t help but want to enjoy your outdoor setting to such an extent that it becomes a natural extension of your living space. So, making your garden feel like another room in the home is a powerful, but relatively easy way to do so.

Outdoor seating at Driftwood
Extend your living space into the garden. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

The most obvious way of doing this is to literally extend your home out into the garden. There are various ways that you can do this, from a simple lean-to or conservatory style extension to something a little more grand and larger scale. Obviously, we all have different budgets and must seek out what meets our needs and purse. But you don’t have to spend a fortune, or start building, there are some simple things you can do too.

Eat and entertain outdoors

One thing we try and do in the summer months, especially in the early evening when there are no visitors, is to eat outdoors. If you can’t physically make the space into a dining room, then make it feel like one instead. Try and make eating outdoors a regular thing, assuming the weather is on your side. Get some nice garden furniture, and carefully arrange it as an outdoor dining room on your deck, patio or rear garden. If you’re having visitors around, maybe add some blankets, so that you can sit out there well after the sun goes down.

2 ladies enjoying lunch at Driftwood
Friends enjoying tea in the new patio area. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

The creation of the new patio at Driftwood, back in 2021, has made this much easier to achieve, as the area is now more accessible to my 96 year old mother who lives with us. The area is perfect for friends who may pop in for tea and cake too. The area at the top of the garden by the summer house is perfect for entertaining as well.

Friends enjoying lunch at Driftwood
More friends enjoying lunch by the summer house. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

An integral part of the outdoor look is the use of pretty garden furniture carefully arranged on your decking, patio area or rear garden. This all gives you a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your creativity.

Light things up

While the summer days are quite long, you can also stretch them a bit more by installing some atmospheric outdoor lighting. This can be done with either solar powered lights or, as I have done in my own garden, with mains power fittings. The uplighters on the upright railway sleepers work really well and draw you into the space as you can see. It becomes the perfect outdoor space in the right weather!

Night lighting at Driftwood
Uplighters on the railway sleepers. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Lighting also helps inject some much-needed cosiness to outdoor spaces. Whether it’s fairy lights you love, the brighter glow of solar spotlights, or the warm flicker of a fire pit, lighting is a great way to add personality to your garden.

I’ve just installed lighting in the new area I’ve created this year, by the shed, with the corten steel raised pond and Indian sandstone circle. It will come into its own this summer.

Night lighting at Driftwood
New lighting near the corten steel raised pond. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Although the garden is obviously located outside, it is still very easy to make it feel like a natural extension of your interior by these simple lighting ideas. Try and make dining outside a regular thing during the summer months and invite a few friends over for some delicious treats straight off the barbecue if that’s your thing, or just enjoy tea and cakes out there. Children will particularly love eating outside.

Design techniques

Another off the wall idea is to decorate a wall! We think nothing of decorating an interior wall, but why do we hesitate to decorate an outside wall? Make an outdoor room really attractive by choosing things that are easy to bring in and protect from the elements or that are weatherproof or that look good even after being exposed to the elements. I always describe my garden as an eclectic mix of rubbish with a few plants. For me, my garden comes alive with the ever-changing mix of objets d’art and ephemera throughout the plot, like the hare or the wall mirror. Elegant wall pots hang on the side of the shed too.

Wall pot at Driftwood
Wall pot hanging from the side of the shed. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Another idea I’ve recently applied is to mirror the new Indian sandstone circles across the area near the house, there are 3 of them now. 

Wall mirror at Driftwood
One of 3 wall mirrors in the Indian sandstone circle. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

Our homes use colour to reflect our personalities and lifestyles, so why not do the same in the garden? Add some brightly coloured and patterned cushions for a pop of colour to add that homely feel.

metal hare sculpture at Driftwood
Decorate your space with something fun and quirky, and personal to you. Image: Geoff Stonebanks

With your furniture and lighting sorted, add some accessories and planters to give the space the personality that makes a house feel like a home. Trellises and obelisks give plants somewhere to climb and are a great way to break up plain walls and fences. You could also invest in a herb planter to keep your kitchen ingredients on hand at all times. Alternatively go for something a bit quirkier? Garden ornaments and gnomes are a great way to inject some fun into your garden and guarantee a smile on the face of anyone that spots one.

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