Fire Pits, Garden Design, How To, Make over, Nick Dickinson

Garden design

If you’ve ever sat down and tried to work out how you can redesign your garden but felt that it’s all too overwhelming, then you are in the right place.

What I’m going to take you through is a simple self help system that will give you the same tools that a professional garden designer uses that will result in a scheme for your garden that you will recognise as your own.

Most of the enquiries we receive at Elementa Design are from clients who have either inherited a layout from the previous owners that doesn’t suit them, or just feel that the garden they might have tinkered with is still lacking in interest, functionality and form. Their priority now is to put this right by engaging a designer to introduce the wow factor that shows a professional has been involved.

It occurred to us recently, after meeting with a new client who said that she wouldn’t know where to start designing her own garden, that I thought I should jot down what we actually do as designers to create these wonderful spaces.

There are of course years of experience, technical construction know how and confidence to produce that wow factor, but you can go a long way down the path of garden design yourself if you followed these simple steps.

1. Surveying the area

Everything starts with getting a better understanding of what you already have. You’ll have to establish what you can and can’t do in the context of the site you have. Call it site assessment.

Walk round the garden for a couple of minutes taking in a visual brief to remind yourself of those boggy or shady areas that plants struggle in. Are there any areas that might have rubble or old garden features below the soil that need avoiding? Where are the areas of shade or baking sun?

Now clear the kitchen table, make sure you have a little peace and quiet for an hour or so. Find a large piece of paper. An A3 sketchpad would do but otherwise improvise with the back of some Christmas wrapping paper, or something that gives you plenty of room to experiment. You’ll also need some basic tools such as a scale rule, a small set square, a pencil and a large eraser. You’ll then need to pace out the garden. Don’t worry at this stage about tape measures, remember that a good long stride is a metre, so as long as you get rough proportions correct along with the positions of the doors, windows and other major existing features then that’s good enough for the time being. At this stage only plot the items that are immovable. That’s the practical things complete. Now you can do the creative side.

2. The Brief

To take the brief I find it helps to take a sheet of paper and put a vertical line down the middle and another line intersecting that to form a cross, or four quadrants as in the example below.

Garden design brief

You’ll see that there are specific titles in the quadrants; the top half deals with the existing garden and the bottom half gives you an opportunity to list those items that you do or don’t wish to see introduced into your new garden. Be as obvious as you can with your observations of the existing layout.

The bottom left hand quadrant should list those items and features that you’d like to see featured in your new garden that aren’t already there. This can be a wish list containing such things as water features, seating areas, BBQ area, shade sails, wooden planters and so on. Conversely, in the bottom right hand quadrant should go all those features and items that you wouldn’t like to see featured in the new garden. These may be items such as a particular yellow flower, statuary or more pots or containers, more lawn than you already have.

Patio heater

A lot of clients in the summer months are looking to plan to have features that can stand out in the winter months. Interestingly enough a lot of our garden design in Gloucestershire projects have incorporated both fire pits and halogen heating lamps adjacent to the seating area to add that wow factor and ensure you can enjoy your garden without necessarily wearing 4 layers in those chilly winter months. These are two of the stand out products from Primrose that we incorporated into our projects this year.

Firebowl

3. The Design

Given that sitting in the garden is an enjoyable and popular pastime for most people, it’s important that the seating area is easily accessible. Garden furniture can bring a sense of comfort to a garden. One of our most popular products that we have recommended to clients this year has been a corner Rattan sofa set that often seamlessly fits into both a country or town house garden. If you require something a bit smaller that could perhaps be suited to a focal point in your garden then a pair of stunning sofa chairs can be the perfect while adding that bit of luxury to another part of your garden.

Rattan sofa set

4. The journey – or joining the dots

Every garden should have a flow, by that I mean if the terrace is near the house then the next feature should draw you to it via a path or strong visual link that takes you to the next position in the garden. Perhaps now it’s time to look at your list of features and garden design ideas that you’d like to see incorporated in your living space.

You may have for instance a swing seat, water feature, planters or just a small bistro type table and two chairs that you can linger at. We call these areas honeypots as they give you an opportunity to stop, sit and just take it all in. The idea is to be able to walk round the whole garden, however small, to enjoy and sample the various honeypots, perhaps with a cup of coffee or something stronger after work. Here are our ‘Top 2’ honeypots this summer which we have included in our projects and strongly believe you should too.

Pergola Swing Seat

Designed to offer you a chance to really relax in your garden, this two-seater swing seat has been a client favorite of ours as featured in this garden design in Cheltenham below.

Pergola swing seat

Stainless Steel Glass Water Cascade

Incorporated into our formal designs, this stainless steel water cascade is made from high-grade stainless steel and glass, which added that wow factor when placed alongside a curved planting area.

Glass water wall

5. Focal points

These are much talked about and they are important. By definition a focal point is a feature or item that draws the eye to a distant point, partially obscured to create mystery in some cases. These can be something as simple as a pot, a tree, a bright stainless steel water feature or even just a white metal bench in the distance inviting you to go and sit. It needs to send a strong message so choose carefully and make sure it’s large enough to be able to dominate that space so when viewed from a distance it has the proportion to do the job.

6. Keep it simple

I know it sounds obvious, but the keep it simple rule should be adopted everywhere. If the design of the garden is strong enough it doesn’t need over embellishment. The curves in the garden whether it be gravel or lawn, the shape of the flower beds, keep it bold. Be courageous with fingers of planting beds that come out mid garden creating strong shapes. Big sweeping curves work far better than little wiggles that can also be a nightmare for those having to do the mowing.

7. The review

Hopefully by now you’ll have the features that you want dotted around the garden, some obscured from each other if you have the space and bold profiles defining the margin between planting and the central areas. You’ll see that it then all begins to make sense and with luck you’ll recognise it as something resembling what you wanted to achieve.

Now you can produce a fair copy of your sketch and put a little bit more definition and discipline into the design. You could then take your piece of paper out into the garden on a dry day and mark the positions of the main features with sand or marker paint. You can then ‘walk through’ the new shapes and see how it feels. Begin to select your garden furniture if you’re not using your existing furniture and walk around so that you feel you have enough space on the seating area. Sit at the end of the garden and see how the shapes work there as well.

The most extraordinary and magical process is yet to be enjoyed. The garden that has come from within through this process of design will then be brought to life in front of you and will continue to mature and bring years of enjoyment. There is nothing more magical and satisfying.

Nick Dickinson

Nick Dickinson of Elementa Design has been creating beautiful gardens for four decades now. Nick is an award winning garden designer who is able to take a brief, however sketchy, and transform your garden into something that will really stimulate the senses.

Alex, Chimeneas, Fire Pits, Garden Design, Garden Furniture, How To

What’s small, Mexican and made of clay? A chiminea! Well, although this is true, these days there are almost as many different types of chimineas as there are ways of spelling the word itself. All this choice can be a little confusing so we have prepared a guide to help you make often the first decision: Which material will be perfect for you garden?

Clay Chiminea

Clay

Clay chimineas are our most popular type with many of our customers enjoying the authentic feel that they create. Historically, fired clay was used as an inexpensive material used to create these fire pits which were an essential for both cooking and heating back in 17th century Mexico. The chimney directed smoke outside meaning that it could be used inside without filling your home with smoke and the design also funnelled fresh air in to fuel a hot, clean fire. This was useful for providing more heat for the home whilst meaning that there was less ash left behind as a more complete combustion took place.

Clay Chimenea
In more recent times, clay chimineas are more often used in the garden and offer both aesthetic appeal and functionality. The authentic look provided by clay lends itself effortlessly to rustic design and these chimineas seem to blend in perfectly with any background. They also add a little foreign charm to a garden, especially the models with Mexican or Italian designs. For guidance on how to prepare and look after your clay chiminea, visit our page full of handy tips.

 

 

Cast Iron

Cast iron chimineas burst on to the scene later than clay, providing a different option for consumers. The different material has several advantages over clay in some areas, but also some drawbacks, it really does depend on what is more important to you and what you plan on using your fire pit for.
One of the main plus points is that unlike clay versions, you won’t have to cure before use; it’s ready to go straight away. Cast iron is a more durable material, less susceptible to damage caused by temperature change, and should outlive even the best quality clay chimineas.

Cast iron Chimenea
In addition, they are less likely to be damaged accidently. Cast iron versions are not easily knocked or blown over as they are heavy and so more stable. This makes them ideal for cooking, and many of our cast iron versions come with a grill included.
Cast iron fire pits come in stylish colours such as bronze and black and can help create a more modern look if that coincides with the theme you wish to create in your garden. They are also easily re-paintable, whether you are looking to give it a fresh coat after it has faded over the years or after a change in colour to give an entirely new feel to your fire pit.

 

One slight downside is that being metal; they are prone to getting rather hot. You will need to consider where you place the fire pit. Ensure it is not pushed up against anything that may be affected by the heat and that it is placed on top of a fireproof surface. It is also wise to consider keeping it in an area where it is not likely to be bumped into when in use, especially with children around, and extra care must be taken when operating to ensure that you don’t accidently touch the hot metal.

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Alex

Alex works in the Primrose marketing team, mainly on online marketing.

As a psychology graduate it is ironic that he understands plants better than people but a benefit for the purpose of writing this blog.

An enthusiastic gardener, all he needs now is a garden and he’ll be on the path to greatness. Alex’s special talents include superior planter knowledge and the ability to put a gardening twist on any current affairs story.

See all of Alex’s posts.

Cat, Chimeneas, Fire Pits, Fireplaces, Heated Clothing, Newsletter, Outdoor Heating, Patio Heaters

Primrose Heated Clothing from £3.95

Warmawear 2 in 1 Heated Hat and ScarfWinter’s here!

We’ve got temperatures as low as -4°C coming up this weekend.

Keep warm with our huge range of over 60 heated clothing items including:
Warmawear Mens Heated Waistcoat Jacket

“An excellent buy. Recommended.”

How about heating your patio and looking after your plants’ needs?

Outdoor Heating from £32.95
Frost Protection from £2.95

Keep Warm with Primrose!

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

Cat, Chimeneas, Decoration, Fire Pits, Gazebos, LED Candles, Lighting, Newsletter, Outdoor Heating, Patio Heaters, Solar Lighting

Bonfire Night!

Halloween is almost over, but exciting autumnal festivities continue. Time to put away the pumpkins and reignite your festive mood for Bonfire Night! Celebrate in style and warmth with our garden heating and lighting ideas!

Here’s the recipe for your stylish Bonfire Night:

Fire Bowls and Fire Pits from £27.95!

wedding-meCat works in the marketing team and is responsible for online marketing, social media and the newsletter.

She spends most of her time reading about a variety of interesting facts, such as oddly named Canadian towns, obscure holidays and unusual gardening.

She mostly writes about Primrose news and current events.

See all of Cat’s posts.

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