The Great Outdoors | Living North

The Great Outdoors

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Outdoor garden furniture
As more and more of us are trying to bring the inside out (and vice versa) we get some expert advice on making the most of our outdoor space

With luxury garden furniture outside and hanging plants covering every available space inside, the line between indoors and outdoors has never been more blurred. More and more of us take greater delight in our gardens all year round, with features such as chimeneas and insulated summer houses making it possible to enjoy our outdoor spaces even in cooler temperatures. Meanwhile, curating a veritable indoor jungle has never been a more popular pastime, with Instagram accounts full of bohemian homes with greenery trailing from every surface.

Whether you’re an amateur gardener who doesn’t yet know your clematis from your camellia, or a green-fingered veteran, our North East landscaping and garden design experts have useful advice on how to make the most of your outdoor space, and what trends are in store for 2019.

The first and most important thing to remember when planning your garden is to work with the space you have. South-facing gardens are a huge bonus for properties, but unfortunately not all homes can enjoy the sun all day. While you might despair initially at the prospect of a garden with a lot of shady spots, there is still a lot that can be done despite the shade. 

‘There are hundreds of plants that are happier in the shade than in full sunshine,’ says Mark Pendleton, landscape gardener with MP Gardening Services. ‘You plant for the conditions you have, it’s as simple as that. If your garden is in shade for most of the year then there’s no point planting sunflowers.’ Just a few examples of beautiful shade-loving plants include foxgloves, astilbe, and Japanese forest grass. 

Grasses are also the ideal option for anyone looking to create a low-maintenance garden. ‘If you’re coming home at six o’clock in the evening, the last thing you want to do is spend your weekend cutting back hedges and weeding,’ Mark says. ‘You can use a weed membrane with gravel on top (which suppresses the growth of weeds) and then plant low-maintenance plants such as grasses, ferns and bamboo. Raised beds with sleepers and bark mulches also help keep weeds to a minimum.’

Of course, the ultimate low-maintenance gardening tip is switching to an artificial lawn. ‘Extreme weather conditions are now a fact of life for us all,’ says Mark. ‘Last year I had tonnes of calls from concerned clients whose lawns had been scorched by the intense sunshine we experienced last summer. When we have problems with drought, artificial grass is a good choice as it will stay green 365 days a year, whatever the weather. Plus you don’t have to cut it, weed it, or feed it.’

Head Gardener at the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park, Phil Cormie, has some suggestions for drought-tolerant plants, if this summer is anything like last. ‘Some of my favourites include Oenothera lindheimeri, with its airy wands of white star-shaped flowers from May to September; sea holly, whose silvery blue, thistle-like flowers bloom right through summer and provide real winter interest; and Hylotelephium spectabile with fleshy, grey-green leaves with large heads of tiny star shaped flowers, it’s such a versatile border-filler and is a valuable source of nectar for bees late in the year.’

The changing weather and climate has also altered the way Peter Lister Cunliffe of Northumbrian Landscaping works. ‘More than ever, our customers are now more tuned in to the  environmental impact their choice of materials can have,’ he says. As a result of this, the use of single-use plastics has plummeted, and people are turning to recycled plastics, porcelain and ceramic paving as opposed to concrete (which all emit far less carbon dioxide when produced), and composite decking. 

‘Although composite decking has been around since the 1990s it simply did not look good enough for us to consider using,’ explains Peter. ‘When someone said “synthetic” we immediately thought of an ugly, low-quality imitation of natural materials. Now with modern advances in extrusion and printing, we see an almost limitless scope for design, with some of these materials now looking almost identical to their natural counterpart.’

For those of you wanting to enjoy your garden beyond the summer months, glass balustrades are something to consider. ‘Our systems allow you to snatch those extra hours in the garden before the chill sets in, as the glass helps give shelter from the wind, without hampering your view the way a more traditional fence might,’ explains Charlie Hill from Glass Balustrades North East. ‘It also helps frame and enhance your garden rather than detract from it, with the contemporary glass and steel combination adding greater depth to your outdoor space.’

Published in: May 2019

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