Brian Rees, Decoration, Garden Design, How To

When you have a standard fence, it might seem too staunch or generic next to your artistically designed home and lawn. To help your fence match your design ideals without building a new one, there are several amendments that can be made without using a lot of tools. Although some of these project ideas are more advanced than others, all of them are suggestions that can become the curb appeal solution you have been looking for.

Fence in garden design

Beyond a simple coat of paint

Although adding a fresh coat of white paint to any fence makes it look clean, the white color might not fit in as well with your overall curb appeal as well as another one. Instead, consider using an exterior paint that will provide contrast against your current house paint color. For solid wooden fences you can also create a mural effect by using each individual fence post as one solid canvas.

Using the power of zip ties and decorations

Many fences cannot withstand a lot of extra weight from items hanging on them without shifting over time. However, decorations can be placed on the ground and leaned against two fences with ease. To create some extra security, use zip ties to hold the decorations in place. Good examples are large wooden stars that are repeated in a pattern along a fence in order to provide decorations that are appropriate for the lawn.

Having fun with DIY molded concrete features

Decorating a brick, stone or masonry fence may not be easy until you get a taste of custom concrete lawn decorations. In many instances, molds can be purchased online, and making a small batch of concrete is easily done with a bucket and a stick. Once the concrete is poured into the mold and sets, the end result is a decoration you can use for your current stone fence. In addition to plain concrete finishes, you can also paint concrete.

Creating a false hedge or window

When you need a strong fence but hate the way it looks, putting something in front of it is often the best solution. For example, by soaking long twigs, you can weave them onto poles to completely conceal your current fence to create a look that resembles ordered bramble. Other ways to conceal a fence include using strips of canvas fabric to hang on the fence as if they were curtains hiding a large door or window.

Decorative screening rolls

In the same vein, you can also get rolls of decorative garden screening to attach to your fence. Simply fix them in place and your existing fencing will be hidden, replaced by something much more attractive. It’s great for quickly creating a different feel, such as using bamboo screening to enhance an oriental theme or willow for an English country garden.

bamboo screening

Using ropes to create decorative effects

If you want your fence to create a visual backdrop but do not have a lot of money to spend on something that will get stolen or will blow away, consider buying some rope and doing some macrame. While it might take some tinkering with cheaper nylon rope to get the design you want, there are many simple knots that can be beautiful decorations for fences when the right type of rope or silk cord is used. Along with making knots, other items can be used to cinch two pieces of rope together to create a netted or quilted effect. For a more dramatic effect, use a larger diameter of rope.

Choosing the right creeping plants

When you have a fence that is difficult to decorate and local neighborhood housing codes deny your ability to decorate your fence in the way you want, the only remaining option is to pick something that will grow into and over your fence. Instead of picking a typical rosebush or boxwood hedge, consider using other types of unexpected plants that give you the height you are looking for. Good choices include newer types of grasses as well as classics like bamboo or Bermuda grass.

Hanging baskets on fences with no plants

Do you have a fence that looks boring and also hangs out in the dark all night? You can kill two birds with one stone by decorating a fence with hanging baskets, a but instead of putting plants inside of them, strings of LED lights can be used. In addition to metal hanging baskets overflowing with LED lights, there are also larger rectangular planters with open framing that can allow for more creativity when filled with outdoor LED light strings.

Using bamboo poles to create curb appeal

One of the hardest fences to decorate is the chain-link fence. While some chain-link fences have decorative plastic woven into the metal frame, these pieces soon crack, fade or become displaced. A better and sturdier solution is to weave pieces of green or freshly cut bamboo into the chain-link fence. If weaving the bamboo is not working, using string to tie bamboo to the chain-link fence is often just as beautiful to onlookers.

Brian ReesBrian Rees is a media relations representative for Exterior Expressions. In his spare time, he enjoys writing, music, and spending time outside.

Dakota Murphey, Garden Design, Gardening, Plants

It’s ironic that one of the most influential men in English gardening history was actually Irish. William Robinson was born in 1838, and studied horticulture at the National Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin near Dublin. As a teenager, he worked at a grand garden in Waterford, then on the estate of an Irish peer, before moving to London in his early twenties.

Gravetye Manor Hotel
Photo by Nigel Freeman

His job at Regent’s Park – looking after hardy plants and wildflowers – must have had a major influence on his gardening predisposition, and Robinson soon became a vociferous opponent of mixed herbaceous borders of hardy perennial plants and the strict, formalised Victorian gardens of planted-out bedding arrangements.

At 29, Robinson began working for the influential magazine, The Gardener’s Chronicle, and in 1871, he launched his own magazine, The Garden. He also started writing gardening books, of which The Wild Garden (1871) and The English Flower Garden were the most successful. First published in 1883, The English Flower Garden went on to become one of the world’s best-selling gardening books of all time.

William Robinson changed the face of English gardens, turning his back on the rigidity of flower garden design at a time which had, he noted, ‘thousands of plants set out in formal and geometrical array, the result, a bad carpet’. His ideas about growing hardy perennials in mixed borders to create a more natural look were radical at the time and were directly opposed to the Victorian practice of planting numerous annuals in large formal blocks. Robinson even criticised the Garden of Versailles, calling it ‘terrible’!

Robinson was most vocal against ‘pretend’ Italian and French gardens, standard roses, and other ‘tricks’ common in garden design at the time. He preferred, instead, to use close-packed plantings of perennials and groundcovers that expose no bare soil; alpine plants in rock gardens; and the liberal use of native plants and hardy perennials. These ‘wild’ plantings furthered Robinson’s ideas of a garden being one that blends into the larger landscape of the water’s edge, the meadow and the woodland.

In 1884, using income and royalties from the magazine and his books, together with money from some property deals, Robinson bought Gravetye Manor, an Elizabethan house and farmland near East Grinstead in West Sussex. This is where he lived until his death, planting, experimenting, writing and acquiring more land – eventually he owned more than 400 hectares.

Much of the estate had been managed as a coppiced woodland in which Robinson planted huge drifts of cyclamen, scilla and narcissus (in 1897 alone, he planted somewhere in the region of 100,000 narcissi). On the edges of the woods, and in cleared spaces, he oversaw plantings of lily, Japanese anemone, pampas grass and acanthus, together with hundreds of shrubs such as stewartia, nyssa, and fothergilla.

In flower beds closer to the main house, he planted red valerian, which he allowed to spread naturally around paving stones and staircases. Under the trees that surround the lake, he planted thousands of daffodils that in spring present a truly amazing sight.

William Robinson
Photo courtesy Gravetye Manor Hotel and Restaurant

In the first chapter of The English Flower Garden, Robinson compared gardening to art, and wrote: ‘The gardener must follow the true artist, however modestly, in his respect for things as they are, in delight in natural form and beauty of flower and tree, if we are to be free from barren geometry, and if our gardens are ever to be true pictures. And, as the artist’s work is to see for us and preserve in pictures some of the beauty of landscape, tree, or flower, so the gardeners’ should be to keep for us, as far as may be, the living things themselves.’

In 1899, Robinson extended the house, adding stone walls which were the perfect backing for perennial beds and a formal garden. A short distance below the house, he created a wildflower meadow and also planted hundreds of trees. Among these is a handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrata), which is one of the oldest and largest in Britain.

The extraordinary walled vegetable garden he created is oval-shaped, south-facing, and covers an area of nearly 1 hectare. Walled gardens are known to be substantially warmer than the ground outside and at Gravetye the difference is around 3-4 degrees Celsius.

Unfortunately, when Robinson died in 1935 at the extraordinary age of 96, the gardens were neglected until the 1950s, when Gravetye Manor was opened as a hotel by Peter Herbert, who worked on renovating the garden until his retirement in 2004.

The new head gardener, Tom Coward, is following in Robinson’s footsteps, ensuring colour and ‘wildness’ in the formal and informal flower beds from late March until the end of October, and overseeing some much-needed restoration projects.

Garden enthusiast, Dakota Murphey, wrote this article. Working alongside one of the UK’s leading garden designers, Andy Sturgeon.

Animals, Garden Design, Jorge, Water Features

john-constable-water-feature

With the psychological benefits associated with water, it is no wonder water features are an integral part of garden design. Since at least the eighteenth century, doctors have prescribed trips to the seaside to improve their patients’ well-being. Britain’s love affair with water stretches all the way to Aquae Sulis, located in what is today Bath; there both Briton and Roman alike would seek relaxation in its natural hot springs.

Access to water is known to both alleviate stress and promote serenity. For example, psychologists from the ‘Blue Gym’ project found that people have preference for images with water than those with none. Interestingly, the same project found that images with both blue and green garnered the most favourable response (an interesting tip for those designing their garden).

So why is this the case? Why do humans love blue and green? It is probable that our love for water is hard-coded in our genes to ensure our survival. It is a hangover from when humans were hunters and gatherers, when the colours of blue and green signalled a resource rich environment that was conducive to your long term survival. To our savannah-dwellings ancestors, habitat selection was of paramount importance, and lush grasslands and clumps of trees provided evidence of abundant wildlife and a good supply of water.

john-constable-river

It is not incidental that rivers, lakes and seas are blue, and plant life green. Only a combination of both could ensure survival and a view of both signalled the jackpot. It is from this that humans have developed a sense of pleasure when we witness such a view. While now such a view is not necessary for survival, the genetic heritage remains as evolution takes place over extremely long periods, far beyond the 20,000 odd years humans have been living in permanent settlements.

Humans’ preferences for certain habitats have been confirmed in a number of surveys. In one, people from around the world were all shown standardised photos of five landscapes – deciduous forest, tropical forest, open savannah with trees, coniferous forest, and desert – and no category stood out, except that of the desert, which had a slightly negative response. (It is, unsurprisingly, an environment that is both hostile to human life and resource scarce.) When the experiment was extended to young children, they expressed a marked preference for the savannah (where early human evolution took place) as well as landscapes with water, trees, game animals, and cloud patterns among others, which offer opportunities for both food and water.

savannah-environmental-preferences

In another survey, a professional polling organisation conducted a poll of art preferences in ten countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, and found that blue was the most popular colour, followed by green. And again, there was a marked preference for water, plants, and large animals, both wild and domestic, among others.

Indeed, it is likely that such colours also provide animals a rudimentary pleasure as such environments sustain the majority of life on earth, provided they in fact see in colour. Indeed, animals with comparatively low sentience may find it hard to enjoy anything else.

roman-aqueduct
The Pont du Gard, the most famous Roman aqueduct in existence – it was modified in the 1740s to carry a wide road.  Emanuele  (2007)  licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Now, when do man-made water features pop up in human history? Famously, the Romans built a system of aqueducts to supply the city of Rome with water, which was necessary to feed the expanding metropolis. These aqueducts utilised gravity to transport water from the surrounding hills, which was then stored in large cisterns. From these cisterns, the water would then travel through pipes to public distribution points and individual’s houses where there might be fountains. To power these fountains, the Romans again utilised gravity, as because a foot of height generates 0.43 pounds per square inch of water pressure, even a small cistern could power a fountain. As a sidenote, the Romans were not the first to use gravity to power fountains as even such primitive societies such as the Maya did so.

The power of gravity could be utilised in other ways to power fountains. Jumping forward to the 18th century, King Louis XIV’s fountain complex at Versailles was powered by the river Seine. It utilised an convoluted system of 14 huge water wheels to power pistons for over 200 water pumps. The water was transferred through a system of reservoirs up the hill into an aqueduct, which then distributed the water to the various fountains on the grounds. In the intervening years between the romans and Versailles, fountains would find their greatest popularity in the Islamic world (in the famous paradise gardens), and later renaissance Italy. It was in these two golden ages that saw the emergence of such artists and engineers that could enable their construction. The surviving examples from these periods are still highly popular today.

renaissance-water-fountain
The Fontana Masini in the Piazza del Popolo in Cesena, completed in 1591. It was designed by Cesena Francesco Masini and built by the stonemason Montevecchio Domenico and his assistants.

Other more complicated methods of pumping water emerged in time such as hydraulic rams and steam engines. The former is not too dissimilar to the water wheel in that it requires no power other than the kinetic energy of flowing water. The device, in effect, takes in water at one height, and outputs water at another higher height. It was invented in 1796 by Joseph Michel Montgolfier, who is otherwise famous as one of the inventors of the hot air balloon. The steam pump, and its successor the electric pump, would prove revolutionary and greatly increase the power of fountains, enabling such fountains as the King Fahd’s Fountain that produces the largest water jets on earth, possibly surpassing a 1,000 feet.

largest-fountain-on-earth
King Fahd’s Fountain, located in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Now, returning to the original question, a water feature is likely to signal a plentiful supply of water, and allow one to feel relaxed, and at home. Even better, the sound of running water will allow such relaxation when in earshot. Then, once placed in the greenery of the garden, it provides the perfect environment for a human to relax. Now thanks to advances in technology, you can use solar energy to power your feature, allowing one to both save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Dakota Murphey, Garden Design, How To

After all the weeks of planning, builders and tradesmen trampling across your lawn carrying roof tiles, lengths of timber, and panes of glass, your beautiful new summerhouse is finally complete. The paint inside and out has dried nicely, the sliding glass doors open and close effortlessly, the patio decking can’t wait to be walked on, and the wood burner works like a charm.

But there’s one more important thing you need to do and that’s furnish and decorate it. So let’s take a look at some creative décor ideas so that your garden building looks terrific and will be the envy of all your friends.

A garden building is very different to rooms in your home

Stamford Summerhouse 16 x 10

Let’s start with the obvious: a garden building, or summerhouse, is a lot different from other rooms in your house. For one, it’s detached and is probably found at the end of your garden. Because it can be rather hot and humid in summer, many garden buildings have large windows and are built with sliding doors that open onto a patio deck, keeping everyone cool. Windows and glass doors also offer lots of natural light and bring the greenery of the garden into the space.

In winter, unless you’ve had the foresight of fitting insulation and heating, your summerhouse can be a little on the chilly side. That’s why it’s called a summerhouse! When decorating, the trick is to select furniture with these conditions in mind. Modern patio furniture works well together with a mix of chic warm-coloured furnishings.

Choosing the right furniture for your garden room

Before choosing any furniture, it’s a good idea to measure your floor area, making allowance for walkways and doorways. Although there’s a wide variety of easy chairs, sofa suites and occasional tables available, it’s best to keep the interior simple and uncluttered so the room looks bigger than it is.

As there’s such a great choice of stylish garden furniture on the market, you could use some of these to furnish the inside. A small two-seater couch, a traditional cane chair, some small circular tables or a low coffee table are an option. Throw one or two bold, colourful rugs on the floor, match the colours of these in your curtains and you’re well on your way to creating a warm welcoming space.

Access is also very important, so plan beforehand, as you may need to buy furniture that can be assembled inside the summerhouse. If you only have a small garden room and space is limited, avoid over cluttering – try to keep the room feeling light and bright and as spacious as possible.

Traditional or contemporary?

Carmen Wooden Pavilion H2.2m

There are literally hundreds of different styles and designs of furniture, and these range from traditional cane conservatory-style pieces to the more chic, contemporary rattan weave. If your summerhouse is modern and modular, look for pieces that are chunky but not overbearing, sleek, stylish and classic in look and feel.

Popular choices of furniture include: cane, wicker, rattan, seagrass, willow as well as classic Lloyd Loom furniture. Stone, marble-topped or mosaic-tiled coffee tables are very much in vogue, and metal furniture such as cast aluminium or wrought iron and glass are also popular choices. A small, brightly-coloured upholstered sofa in a garden building also works well.

Furnishings and fabrics

Once you’ve decided on the furniture, you need to choose your soft furnishings. These range from traditional floral prints to bold and modern neutral fabrics. Here, it’s all down to personal taste. If you decide to play it bold, then our advice is to go all the way, don’t hold back. Make the room as colourful and bright and as happy as you can. If, on the other hand, you’d rather play it safe, go with muted earthy colours and soft pastels and let the simplicity and beauty of your summerhouse do the talking.

In summer, you’re bound to find yourself entertaining lots of friends and relatives who’ll all enjoy the summerhouse and the barbecues on the deck. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to make sure all your seat cushions, covers, rugs and other soft furnishings can be removed easily for washing. Chairs, sofas and rugs can get a little grubby with all that food, wine and beer you’ll be serving up!

Be creative. Be bold. Incorporate new ideas, different materials and styles of furniture, then sit back and enjoy your lovely summerhouse.

Dakota Murphey, independent content writer & home improvement specialist working alongside Hortons UK Log Cabins to bring you this article.

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