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.

Awnings, Dakota Murphey, Garden Design

choosing the best awning

Awnings can add great style and some fantastic colour to your home’s patio. On hot sunny days, you can sit out and have a barbecue while enjoying the shade and the comfort they provide. There are many awning options available so it can be difficult to find the ideal fit for your patio. There are open awnings, full cassette awnings, pergola patio roof blinds and even rain awnings.

Because there are many things to consider when choosing the right awnings for your home, you need to be sure you’re making the right choice.

Which awning is right for you?

Retractable awnings

5m Full Cassette Manual Awning, Turquoise

Retractable awnings consist of a metal framework that’s covered with hard-wearing fabric. The framework is normally mounted directly to the brickwork of your house. These awnings can be opened and retracted either manually, with a hand crank or with an automatic electronic system. They provide instant shade, or can be conveniently rolled up when you don’t need them, and they’re not a permanent structure on your patio.

Awnings can be installed easily on most patios. The brackets are mounted to the frame that supports the weight of the awning. The structure is solid and will last a long time. There will be a space between the patio and the eaves and gutters, while an allowance is made for clearance from any light fittings and electric points.

Canopy awnings

Perfect for a patio, these fabric-roofed coverings are supported by a solid frame that’s bolted to the patio. The frame then becomes a permanent fixture, and you can choose to leave the fabric cover up all year round or remove it in the winter months. Canopy awning fabrics normally last around 15 years. The awnings come in pyramid roof style and hip roof style and you can choose from a wide range of colours.

Latina Aluminium Canopy H2.3m

Outdoor lighting can be installed on the framework. Canopy awnings are as good choice for full shading of smaller patios and the fabric won’t sag or tear. The structure is strong enough to withstand rain, strong winds and even hail and strong winds (although it’s a good idea to remove the cloth in high winds). And because it’s a permanent structure, the canopy has no moving parts that can jam or break.

Intelligent awnings

If you want to go really high-tech, then you might like to have ‘intelligent’ awnings installed. These have built in sun sensors and automatically open or close depending on whether the sun is out or hidden behind dark grey clouds. There are also wind sensors that automatically retract your awning in blowy conditions. This helps to avoid damage to the awning.

What about reliability?

Awnings are a big investment, so you need to know that the fabric, the frame and the electronic components are able to withstand the variable weather all year round. The fabric mustn’t fade and the frames mustn’t rust.

Synthetic yarns are a good choice as they’re strong and won’t tear. If you live in a location that has really bad weather conditions like heavy rains and winds you might want to invest in an awning that incorporates a top coat or laminate, as these are really strong. However, most of the fabrics on the market these days are hard-wearing, long-lasting and fade-resistant. The frames are constructed from stainless steel and powder-coated aluminium, so they are resilient and will remain free from rust.

… and value for money?

You pay for what you get! Buy the best quality patio awnings you can afford. There are cheap products out there but these won’t last as long as a top quality awning and frame. Most awnings come with a five-year guarantee.

Don’t forget to ask about optional extras like patio heaters and night lights, so you can enjoy evenings out on the patio in chilly weather.

Make sure you get satisfactory answers to these essential questions:

• What size awning do I require?
• Do I want the awning to provide shade throughout the day?
• Do I want a manual or a motorised awning?
• Which style of awning best suits my home?
• Which fabric should I choose?
• Will the awning be fully automatic?

Dakota Murphey an independent writer, working alongside blind specialists Aquarius Blinds, has come up with some useful questions to help you select the best awnings for your patio.

Decoration, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, Gardening, How To, Water Features, Zoe

It can be difficult to make the most of your space in a small garden without the effect feeling claustrophobic. There are a number of reasons your garden may feel small:
• High imposing walls or fences surrounding your garden
• Lack of natural light making the space feel dark and small
• No interesting colour incorporation to brighten the area
• Oversized garden furniture that overpowers the area
• Abundance of overgrown greenery
• Or simply a very small space to work with

This guide can help you with some space saving and trendy ideas that will help transform your small garden into a light and relaxing place to be, that still offers plenty of opportunity to test your gardening skills.

Mirrors

The use of mirrors in a small garden can really help to create a sense of space as the light reflects off the glass and into the outdoor area. There are many options to suit your individual style, whether it is a country garden or modern social space.
One way to incorporate mirrors is to have two identical mirrors facing each other; this will create the feel of an infinite garden and prov
ide a great opportunity to make the most of natural lighting.

 

Alternatively, you can use an ornate garden window mirror that adds character and charm. If you’re feeling crafty you could create this yourself with recycled window shutters!
The use of mini mirrors can incorporate light into the garden in a more subtle way, whilst creating a unique texture. The combination of outside fairy lights trailing along your mirrors can also create a lovely atmosphere in the evening.

If you want to learn more about the safety aspects of garden mirrors check out our previous blog post!

 

 

Stainless Steel Planters

If you’re not keen on using mirrors, stainless steel planters offer an excellent alternative. These will help to make the surrounding space seem bigger, and do not pose the same risks as mirrors do outside.
Try creating some depth in your small garden by adding plants of different heights in your planters, this will create a layered effect and also make the space appear larger.

Water

A water feature can be a great way to add some personality to your garden, and is a great tool to carry through a theme in your garden whether it is a classic country style, oriental theme or an ultra-modern layout.

However, the fantastic thing about water features in small gardens is the opportunity to incorporate light into a space, similarly to mirrors and stainless steel. The water from the feature will reflect the sky, and is a more natural way to reflect light into your garden. One bonus of this is that this may encourage wildlife too!

Trees

In a small garden the addition of trees can create the illusion of space. You can cleverly train certain trees to grow in a particular direction to help cover an ugly wall, and make the space seem less imposing. This may require a bit of patience in order to achieve the desired results however!

Vertical Planting

There are many other little ways you can make the most of your secluded spots through the use of vertical planting. This can be
achieved through Trellis’ and climbing plants, which will grow upwards and help hide walls.

However, for an easier option you could purchase a wall mounted planter that can attach easily to a wall and still optimise vertical space.

Screening

If you have dark walls or fencing surrounding your garden, this may be another reason the space feels so small. Sometimes the colours can have the effect of feeling gloomy or oppressive, but one easy way to brighten your garden is the addition of some screening.

This is easy to put up, and can also cover any broken brickwork or blemishes. There are a range of materials and colours to choose from, but a natural style bamboo screening could really help to boost the feeling of space by brightening the whole area and adding some personality.

Storage Solutions

If you’re short of space in your garden but still want to have a chill out area there are a range of storage solutions that can help you do that.
Seating with storage space built in is one particularly clever way to create more space in your garden as it is not visible. This gives you the option to have an area to relax but also be able to store away things such as blankets, cushions etc. when they are not needed!

You could also use coffee tables with storage built in as an alternative to bulky sheds and storage boxes, this would be a great addition to a social space so your guests can relax with a couple of drinks after you’ve stored away some of your garden necessities!

Hopefully this guide has inspired you to make the most of the space you have, and if you want to explore design tips for lighting your small garden be sure to read our advice on this too!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

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