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Use Garden Art to Refresh a Fading Space

Garden Sphere

Some clever use of garden art can bring new interest to an outdoor space, particularly at this time of year.

As we head toward autumn, many of your plants will have finished blooming and are starting to look tired. If you have a vegetable patch you might be busy harvesting your bounty. The temperature may have dipped, but the soil remains warm and weeds are still growing.

Keeping on top of weeds, dead heading plants, harvesting fruits and vegetables and removing debris can leave you with little to look at and enjoy. However, this kind of activity creates opportunities to use garden art to cover the receding and empty spaces left behind.

Consider using garden ornaments to fill gaps, add interest and keep your garden pleasing to the eye. Contemporary garden ornaments are usually weather and frost resistant, allowing you to enjoy them all year round. Garden ornaments can also be crafted from metal so depending on your garden’s style, there will be a garden ornament to suit anybody’s taste.

Similarly, garden decorations can be used to inject some much needed interest into the autumnal or winter garden. Depending on your garden’s theme, you could use a garden sphere to bring some rustic charm to your space. A fire pit would not only provide you with heat, but could also double up as a great piece of garden decor.

As your pots and containers begin to fade, garden wall art can be used to rejuvenate your patio or entertaining area. You could also use garden wall art to break the monotony of a fence or boundary wall, as the plants and foliage surrounding them will soon start to recede as autumn beings.

When searching for garden art, the golden rule is to buy pieces that compliment your garden’s style and avoid any clashes. Avoid clutter as less is in many cases more, and personally I prefer the subtle to the grand in the Autumnal garden. Whatever garden art you choose, remember that you will be making a statement about yourself.

Looking for further  garden art inspiration? Check out our comprehensive guide to garden art, or shop our range of garden ornaments and garden decorations.

Posted in September 2015

How To Enjoy Your Outdoor Space This Winter

robin-branch

If you are similar to me, then you will enjoy using your outdoor space all year round. As long as I can keep warm and dry, I see no reason why I shouldn’t continue enjoying the garden well beyond what the seasons normally dictate. Maybe it’s our tradition for Autumnal bonfires here in the UK, or our love of mulled wine and hot chocolate, but the garden in winter can be just as much fun as during any other time of the year.

We may be heading toward the shortest day of the year, and the coldest months of January and February are yet to arrive, but the garden is still an option when practical features and great design are incorporated into our outdoor spaces. By following these 3 tips you too can enjoy your space well into the winter.

Provide Shelter

While permanent structures such as pavilions, gazebos, porches and garden rooms are perfect for keeping warm this winter, you may not have the space or the budget to consider installing one. Instead, look for ingenious ways to provide shelter.

I’m a big fan of pergolas: not only are they great design features in themselves, but also provide the twin functions of shade in the summer and shelter in the winter. Simply hang some heavy curtains or other material and you have the ideal winter shelter. Pergolas need not be large and expensive; you can find a decent self-assembly model from around £300.

Alternatively, how about some inventive ways to use hardscape panels, such as corten steel? Perhaps even good old fashioned windbreakers, or some self-assembly awning? Again, it’s time to get creative and figure out what will work best for you space and budget. Making a den isn’t just for children!

If your space is small, why not consider a pop-up garden gazebo, like those used by campers? One of these would be perfect for a small patio, terrace or garden. Once winter is over, they can easily be dismantled and put into storage. Hang some heavyweight material as discussed before.

Planning a special occasion, or want something that goes that little bit extra for Christmas? Then maybe you should consider hiring a tipi or yurt for a weekend! I’m yet to try this, but have always found the thought of my very own yurt, shared with friends or family and snuggled with a wood burner as the perfect way to spend a winter weekend. Some sample Prices start at £315 to hire a tipi for the weekend, or £350 to hire a yurt.

However you decide to provide some shelter, think about how you will accessorise. Add a few comfort items such as throw blankets, an outdoor rug and some padded seating for extra insulation on those chilly evenings. Include some nice lanterns for lighting. You will soon have the perfect winter grotto at your disposal.

Garden Shelter in Winter

Provide a Source of Heat

Long John’s and thermal vests will only get you so far…to really enjoy your outdoor winter wonderland you need to provide a source of heat.

For me, one of my favourite ways to enjoy the garden is after dark, with a wood-burning fire providing the atmospherics. The rustic charm of a naked flame in a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace, shared with friends and a glass of wine, will tempt me outdoors regardless of what the weather is doing.

If you are going down the naked flame route, consider fashioning some kind of windbreak to encapsulate yourself against the chill of a raw breeze. Be sure to burn dried wood to minimise smoke and maximise heat and if you are planning on burning an open flame in a shelter, then ideally you should invest in a chiminea to prevent yourself from being smoked out. And marshmallows are essential!

If you decide that a naked flame won’t suit your space, then consider investing in a patio heater. These heaters run on either gas or electric and, with such a dazzling array of designs available, are very much a design feature themselves. To help you select the right heater for your space, we have created this guide to choosing a patio heater.

Fire Bowl

 

Lighting Your Outdoor Space

Whilst your fire will provide you with some light, you will also need some kind of portable light, or ‘task light’ to give the correct term. You may be tempted to use a standard battery torch, but for me there is only one type of task light for the winter…a good old fashioned hurricane lamp.

With a heritage stretching back over 200 years, a hurricane lamp is both highly functional and very desirable. Lamps such as these supplied light for homes for more than 100 years, before the invention of gas powered and modern electric lighting. Usually encased in toughened glass, these lamps burn oil and were created to withstand a strong breeze.

Hurricane Lamps

I find hurricane lamps just so damned romantic. I picture myself walking around the grounds of an 18th Century Manor House, hurricane lamp aloft, searching for the source of that strange noise I keep hearing. Even today, the hurricane lamp takes some beating as the ultimate outdoor light for the winter season.

Aside from task lights, winter is also a good time of year to experiment with different lighting effects. You can get creative with some accent lighting: a means to add drama by illuminating certain features in the garden. With the lack of foliage and leaves, try to draw out architectural features, or the branches of a tree. To understand different types of outdoor lighting and their effects, see our guide to outdoor lighting basics.

Having invested your time and money into your outdoor space, why limit your outdoor enjoyment to only six months per year? I hope by employing these three tips you will be able to savour the special atmosphere that winter brings to a garden. Keep yourself warm and dry and you will appreciate your garden and nature in a completely new context.

Winter decorative lights

Posted in December 2014

Three Principles for Garden Art

garden ornaments on a lawn

Modern garden ornaments punctuating a lawn

I believe that some carefully curated Garden Art will enhance any outdoor space, and everybody should have at least one piece incorporated into your garden’s design.

With winter just around the corner and your garden retreating toward hibernation, some well-placed Garden Art will also bring some much needed visual appeal. You may not feel like investing in your garden after Summer, but Autumn is a great time for the garden.

I also recognise that for most people the notion of selecting art can be a little daunting, even intimidating. Nothing makes a stronger statement about your personal taste than your choice in home décor and particularly your artworks.

However, selecting your Garden Art shouldn’t be a source of stress. Follow these three basic principles and you will select those pieces which will add interest and aesthetic appeal to your outdoor space for years to come.

1. Understand How Garden Art Effects Your Space

It may sound obvious, but many people get this wrong, both inside and outside of the home. You really must understand your garden’s style. Cottage, urban, formal or natural…there are many styles of garden. Your Garden Art should complement your garden’s style and vice-versa.

For example, I just love contemporary garden design and would therefore be looking for contemporary / abstract pieces of Garden Art. Now imagine that piece in an English cottage garden…train wreck! Whilst it is very tempting to buy a piece based on a flattering image on the internet or some deft exhibiting skills at a garden show, think long and hard whether the piece will be an asset to your garden.

Snail in Contemporary Garden

This snail garden ornament works in a contemporary garden

2. Think Garden Art for Focal Points and Framing

Considering focal points and framing will help you to decide where to locate your new piece of Garden Art. Again, failure to understand these concepts, both inside and outside of the home, can lead to some pretty awful results.

Focal Points

Applied from elementary interior design principles, a focal point is where your attention is focused within the room, or garden in our case. Focal points are often thought of in terms of the ‘centrepiece’ or a statement piece placed prominently in the garden. Traditionally, these would be pieces such as sculptures, armillary or sundials.

Whilst I am an advocate of such pieces, you should be aware that more than one focal point in the average garden can lead to the space feeling confused and cluttered. As outdoor spaces are increasingly used for socialising, the focal point is often an entertaining area with the garden forming a backdrop. Of course, everything will depend on the style and dynamics of your space, but be careful not overwhelm the eye with multiple focal points.

Framing

Framing essentially describes how the artwork interacts with the elements surrounding it. For example, framing your art with plants can seamlessly blend the piece into the surrounding garden, if that is your desired effect. Alternatively, you may want your artwork to stand out from its surroundings. The classic way to achieve this effect would be to place the piece in front of tightly trimmed foliage, which would act as a non-distracting backdrop to your artwork.

You should also consider perspective and how and from where the artwork will be viewed. This is particularly important as we move toward winter; it’s nice to be able to see your artwork from indoors on those days when it’s just too fierce to step outside!

Cherries Garden Ornaments

These Cherry Garden Ornaments make great focal points

3. Make a Statement With Garden Art

I’m not suggesting that your Garden Art should be big and brash, but you should ensure that your art not only compliments your garden’s style but also you as a person.

So what kind of a person are you, and how do you enjoy using your outdoor space? Are you an extrovert who loves to entertain or perhaps your space is intended as an oasis of calm and contemplation? Your Garden Art needs to reflect the lifestyle for which the space intended. Is your space predominantly an activity area for the family, or would something risqué or erotic convey your personality?

Asking yourself these questions will steer you toward the selection of the perfect piece of art for your garden. For example, stone and slate would work well to promote a sense of calm, while colourful murals, glass or mosaics will have a much stronger visual impact. If you are still unsure on where to start, I suggest you read my article on types of garden art.

Above all, you should feel passionate about your Garden Art in the same way you do with your other favoured artworks. You are likely to own your art for many years, and you will find that your emotions attach to it in exactly the same way as your interior art and treasured possessions.

Hearts Garden Sphere

Pieces such as this heart shaped garden sphere can really convey your personality

Would you like to learn more about Garden Art? Please see our comprehensive guide to everything about garden art.

Posted in October 2014

How to Use Paint For an Instant Autumn Refresh

Painted Garden Shed

As we head towards winter, a splash of paint will instantly add some colour and interest to your outdoor space. I’m not much of a fan of the fallow garden (who is?) and try to use my garden all year round. But even if we are in the grips of a winter storm, it’s nice to look out of the window and see some colour, with the promise of better days ahead.

Whilst we can select plants that will bloom well into autumn (and even winter), an injection of man-made colour will brighten up any outdoor space. And with autumn already upon us, the perfect time to make a start is now.

Paint and the Autumnal Garden

Painting walls, structures or objects is a cost effective technique to refresh and add some much needed colour. A lick of paint or wood stain applied at this time of year will also serve to protect against the harsh weather conditions over the coming months. Time to get those brushes out!

Painting Walls

Your garden’s walls always act as the backdrop to your space and are an integral part of your garden’s design. During the summer months, strong, bold colours often compliment the surrounding foliage. Darker shades such as plum, and even black, give an amazing contemporary feel. But during the autumn and winter months such colours can make your space feel a little harsh.

Personally, I would be a little less bold and opt for safer, lighter hues such as creams, off white, or perhaps a lighter shade of orange or yellow. You should also consider the levels of natural light in your garden, and the positioning of the sun during the winter months. Painted Garden WallA plain whitewash might sound unoriginal but is the best colour for reflecting light. If you are stuck for inspiration, there’s a never ending resource of ideas on the web, or try this excellent guide to basic colour theory. Remember, you can always revert to a darker colour in spring!

If your walls have architectural interest, I would steer away from painting them altogether. Rough, flint type walls don’t take too kindly to paint and the effects of painting are of course irreversible. I would prefer to light them up, and have produced this guide to outdoor lighting basics if you are interested in doing the same.

When it comes to choosing the actual paint type, the key consideration is the type of wall you are painting. Textured masonry paint will give a strong, robust finish to a smoothly rendered wall, whilst for rough surfaces smoother masonry paint will be much easier to apply.

Painting Structures and Objects

Painting structures such as fences or sheds, and objects such as benches and containers, are also a great way to instantly update and brighten the autumnal garden.

painted garden benchLet’s face it, garden fences tend to be boring and monotonous, which is why I’m such a big fan of using Corten Steel as an alternative. Similar to walls, fences for a backdrop to your garden and careful consideration should be given to how the colour of your fence interacts with the plants and shrubs closest to it. However, unlike walls, fences don’t take too kindly to strong colours so I would be tempted to keep any paints or stains close to the wood’s natural colour. Certainly avoid painting your fence white, as it is unlikely that the paint will take well without numerous coats, and will look dirty and ragged in no time.

Garden sheds, on the other hand, take kindly to the use of more daring colours. I think that a taupe or olive finish works very well for sheds, and is certainly on-trend at the moment. I’m not so keen on strong primary colours, which could leave your shed looking like a child’s playhouse.

When it comes to painting objects in your garden, you need to think carefully about how the object will be ‘framed’ by your plants. Again, strong colours can intensify the surrounding foliage, though darker colours may be a little overbearing during the winter months. Have fun and experiment – try spray painting some old containers!

Looking for further inspiration? Why not incorporate some garden ornaments or garden decor into your space?

Posted in October 2014

How to Choose a Patio Heater

Halogen Patio Heater

My recent guide to choosing a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace will have helped you to assess the options for heating your outdoor space. However, an open fire is not always practical, particularly for those living in tight urban areas. But you can easily swap the rustic charm of the naked flame for a little sophistication: enter the patio heater!

With so many designs, sizes and price points to consider, choosing the right patio heater for your outdoor space can be a little intimidating for the first-timer. Much will depend on your space, but with an understanding of how patio heaters operate, their intended use and an awareness of recent design trends, you will be halfway to making the right choice.

How do Patio Heaters Work?

Unlike open flame fires, where heat output is dedicated by how much fuel is burnt, patio heaters are designed to give a constant level of heat. Usually measured in BTU (British Thermal Units), a table top unit will produce around 10,000 BTU and a freestanding unit up to 40,000 BTU.

There are two ways in which patio heaters produce heat: either through burning gas or the heating of an electrical element. The heat source is then amplified via a reflector to warm a specific area. So far, so good…but not all heat is created equal.

Gas Patio Heaters

The most common form is the full size, freestanding unit which we are all familiar with. Their power output is between 7 and 15 KW and are effective within a radius of between 3 and 10 feet. To maximize their efficiency, these units should be centered in the area they are heating, though the reflector can often be adjusted to radiate in your chosen direction. Less common, but equally effective, are table top versions designed to heat the immediate vicinity of a patio table. They can also be wall / ceiling mounted, or mimic an ‘Olympic torch’ style open flame.

Electric Patio Heaters

If gas patio heaters are the heat-giving sun at the center of the patio universe, think of electric patio heaters as ‘spot heaters’ which radiate their heat with laser-guided like precision. Electric heaters will only heat the area in which they are directed, and thus work best to heat a specific area or enclosed / covered area. Electric heaters are less obtrusive than gas heaters, most commonly wall mounted and connected to your mains electricity.

Whether you choose gas or electric is dependent on the dynamics of your space and your desired effect. You should also consider purchase and running costs (the latter being dependent on your location), portability requirements and, of course, aesthetic appeal.

Patio Heater Trends

The Patio Heater arena has some of the most exciting, innovative operators in the outdoor living market. Many designs are incepted into the commercial sector – hotels, bars, restaurants – then adapted for residential use. Thus you can adopt a design feature from a style-savvy hotel straight onto your own patio or terrace!

The choices available have risen exponentially in recent years, with patio heaters available in an incredible number of designs and finishes. One particular trend has seen patio heaters incorporated into furniture and umbrellas, giving the heater some additional functionality.

As a case in point, admire this heater created by California based Kindle Living, which seamlessly integrates light and heat to stunning effect, and would create an amazing after-dark focal point…

Kindle Living Patio Heater

Image: kindleliving.com

Patio Heaters & The Environment

Finally, a word on the environment. Patio Heaters have long been the bane of the environmentally conscious, and at first glance it’s easy to see why. All that heat aimlessly radiating into the night sky…why not put on a sweater or go inside, huh?

But the truth is that patio heater design has come a long way since the days of clunky, stainless steel patio heaters pumping out the carbon dioxide. Today’s heaters are energy efficient and available in sustainable materials, while EU and US regulations have clamped down on large, inefficient burners.

With the average patio heater in use for only a couple of hours a day, or less, your patio heater represents only a fraction of your home’s total energy output. Recent innovations include eco-friendly heaters running on carbon fiber tubes, which claim to cut emissions and running costs by 50%. You can relax and enjoy the warmth of your heater without the guilt.

Posted in September 2014

Fire Pit, Chiminea or Outdoor Fireplace?

Fire Globe

With the evenings that bit colder, what better way to enjoy your outdoor space than with a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace? A burning fire is an assault on the senses , creates an amazing mood and ambience, and any of these three options will act as an anchor for your night-time gatherings.

But should you choose a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace? Luckily, we have prepared this guide to introduce you to the three options and highlight their relative merits and shortcomings.

What is a Fire Pit?

Fire Pits (or Fire Bowls) are available in a dazzling array of styles and sizes but are always open on all sides. This allows you and your guests to sit around the fire pit from any angle, warm your cockles and stare into the flames.

You can choose between traditional wood burning fire pits and fire bowls, or gas burning fire pits and fire tables, which burn either natural or propane gas. Design options abound, but the essentials remain the same.

Fire Pit Pros:

  • Wood burning fire pits can accommodate a grill, so you can cook a little snack or roast some marshmallows. Not recommended for gas fired fire pits though.
  • The rustic charm of an open fire. Folks have been staring into fire for millennia, and an open fire, accessible from all sides, offers the complete sensory experience. No touching though!
  • Too smoky for you tonight? You can easily position a fire pit where you like and come back to it later, or leave the fire to burn out in a corner away from the house.

Fire Pit Cons:

  • Burning wood equals smoke, and lots of it. You can minimize smoke by burning dried wood; the drier the better. Not very good for those who can’t stand smoke or have an inappropriate space. Less of a problem if you’re burning gas.
  • The potential for heat damage. Free standing firepits can easily scorch grass and decking. You can mitigate the effect by using a fire resistant mat, or use a fire table, where the firebox is safely enclosed within.
  • A firepit might not be appropriate for families with young children. Although you can use guards to cover the firepit to stop burning embers from leaping out, the firepit presents the greatest hazard potential of these three options.

Fire Bowl

What is a Chiminea?

With their origins in Mexico (chiminea being Spanish for ‘chimney’) the chiminea’s popularity has soared in recent years. Traditionally used for both cooking and warmth, the chiminea was originally intended for use inside their owner’s huts, with the long chimney allowing for smoke to be directed outside.

Chimineas are traditionally made from clay, a material that remains popular, though chimineas can also be made of copper, cast iron, steel or cast aluminium, and are enclosed on three sides. Although gas-fired chimineas are available on the market, the vast majority burn wood.

Chiminea Pros:

  • Less smoky than a fire pit, though cheaper chimineas are still prone to smokiness. Again, smoke can be limited by burning well-dried wood.
  • As the firebox is enclosed on three sides, chimineas are generally considered safer than fire pits. Just be sure that your chiminea is sturdy enough to avoid toppling over.
  • With a spectacular array of designs to choose from, there will be a chiminea to suit anybody’s taste. Traditional or contemporary, you will find one to compliment your space.

Chiminea Cons:

  • Depending on size, the fire may need to be fed fuel often. Likewise, a small chiminea might require you to chop lots of wood into small pieces.
  • A clay chiminea that has not been maintained properly will be prone to cracking, with the base eventually crumbling away. Do your homework, and avoid the cheapest on the market.
  • Whilst a chiminea will act as a focal point in your garden, they lack the charm and intrigue that an open fire gives in such abundance.

Chiminea

What is an Outdoor Fireplace?

Similar to the chiminea, outdoor fireplaces have seen a surge in popularity, particularly in the US. And it’s easy to see why…a full blown, permanent outdoor fireplace provides a centerpiece like no other. If you still need convincing, check out some of these images on houzz.com

There are three options for delivery and constructing an outdoor fireplace. Smaller units can be bought pre-assembled, larger units are modular and assembled on-site, whilst the high-end units are bespoke and designed to your own requirements. Again, fuel sources are either wood or gas.

Outdoor Fireplace Pros:

  • Even burning wood, an outdoor fireplace provides as close to a smokeless experience as you are likely to get. Wood burning fireplaces can also accommodate a grill, and some designs can even double up as a pizza oven.
  • As a self-contained unit, a fireplace can be considered safer than a fire pit, and is highly unlikely to topple or get knocked over like a chiminea might.
  • Bragging rights. Whether the design is straight from the 15th Century or ultra-contemporary, how many of your friends or neighbors have installed an outdoor fireplace?

Outdoor Fireplace Cons:

  • Out of the three options, an outdoor fireplace is clearly going to be the most expensive. Unless you build one yourself, expect to spend at least £1,000 for an entry level modular unit. A bespoke fireplace will cost a minimum £5,000.
  • Portability and installation. A permanently installed fireplace isn’t going anywhere soon, and you would be advised to check if there are any relevant building regulations in your area before going ahead with an installation.

Outdoor Fireplace

So which of the three options is ‘best’?

Unfortunately, I cannot answer that. The question should actually be ‘which is the most appropriate for my space and needs’? You will need to consider your neigbors, potential hazards, your preferred fuel source and of course your budget!

Personally, I believe the flame that wood produces is far superior than gas; burning hotter and connecting me to nature. As I enjoy camping trips, I’d like to be able to take the unit with me. For me, the fire pit/fire bowl makes complete sense.

Whether you chose a fire pit, chiminea or outdoor fireplace, I guarantee that your outdoor living space will be all the better for it.

Posted in September 2014

How To Incorporate Garden Art

 

Buddha in Shadows

Gardens and Art have enjoyed a close relationship for centuries, and there is a long running debate as to whether gardens themselves could be classified as art (I for one think they can).

Gardens are also a timeless source of inspiration for the artist. Flowers, plants, dramatic colours and light collide to provide the perfect artist’s muse, from fine art to abstract.

However, the use of art in the garden is an often overlooked aspect of garden design. But incorporating Garden Art into your outdoor living space will provide both aesthetic appeal and practical function.

Used as a focal point, Garden Art will add interest to your outdoor living space, either as a centrepiece or as a visual guide to a corner of your plot. Garden Art can also be used to add drama or to create a surprise… lurking around a corner waiting to be discovered.

Three Dimensional Garden Art

Sculpture, garden ornaments and garden decorations are usually the first mediums that comes to mind when considering Garden Art. Garden Sculpture and ornaments often work best as a ‘statement pieces’ and can provide a dramatic focal point in your garden. Garden Sculpture is usually representational, such as a human figure or animal, or of a modernist, abstract nature. Statues of Buddha and spherical shapes have been particularly popular in recent years.

Similarly, garden ornaments are usually representational along similar animal or nature themes. Derided in previous years by garden purists, garden ornaments have since made a come back and today there are some spectacular designs available.

Two Dimensional Garden Art

Garden Art is not limited to three-dimensional pieces. Why not try hanging some metal garden wall art? Canvas Garden Art, with resistant inks, is becoming increasingly popular. Such pieces can brighten a darkened corner, break up the monotony of a long, featureless fence or provide a focal point to an outdoor entertaining area.

Fences or screening can become artworks themselves with some lazer-cut Corten Steel. The use of decorative wrought iron gates or railings will add artistic interest to any garden, and stained glass or hung mirrors will give an arty, decorative feel.

Why not forgo a canvas or mirror and simply use an empty picture frame around your favourite planting arrangement? You can then move the frame around the garden as new flowers burst into colour!

Whilst I’m not suggesting that you turn your garden into an art gallery, a couple of well thought-out  pieces of Garden Art will compliment any garden. Time for you to get creative!

Interested in learning more about Garden Art? Then please see my comprehensive article on types of garden art and my guide to buying garden art

Posted in August 2014

Decorative Outdoor Lighting Basics

Garden Light Decor

Whether you are hosting some outdoor soirees this summer or simply want to extend the amount of time you spend in your outdoor space, you will need to procure some kind of outdoor decorative lighting. But where do you begin with your search for that funky decorative lighting, especially if you are a beginner?

Many of us, including me, seek inspiration from photos of beautiful gardens, such as those featured on Houzz.com and just love to paw over some Pinterest Porn. But beyond the images such resources offer little in the way of practical advice. So before you add an item to your shopping cart you need to think about what exactly you are seeking to achieve.

To help you make an informed choice, let me introduce you to some types of outdoor lighting, their effects, and the product categories they fall in to.

I’m not going to state the obvious and explain the benefits of lighting up your garden. But I can guarantee that some well thought out lighting will substantially increase the time that you spend outdoors.

Outdoor Lighting Categories

Before exploring the design effects and aesthetic qualities of decorative outdoor lighting, it’s important to recognise that all types of lighting are divided into three general categories:

  • Ambient Lighting – highly functional lights that provide overall illumination. Similar to ceiling lights in your lounge, ambient lighting can be used as the ‘main lights’ to illuminate an outdoor entertaining area…a great way to announce that the party is over!

 

  • Task Lighting – functional lights that serve a particular purpose. You’ll have to consider some sort of task lighting for food preparation, drinks, etc. Task lighting can be stationary or portable.

 

  • Accent Lighting – these pieces can add drama by illuminating certain features in your garden. For most, accent lighting is the fun part of outdoor lighting, allowing you to experiment and create different effects with your lighting arrangement.

For practical reasons, ambient lighting should be recessed. So unless you are thinking of installing a chandelier, we are primarily interested in task and accent lighting in the context of garden decor. With these two categories, not only can we manipulate the lighting effects but there is often an aesthetic appeal in the item’s design.

ambient, task and accent lighting

Ambient, Task & Accent Lighting

Creating Effect With Outdoor Lighting

Playing around with lighting effects is one of my favourite aspects of garden design. Experimenting with different techniques, creating other-worldly shapes and shadows is a great way to spend a late evening in your garden! Here are three basic techniques to get you started:

  • Up-Lighting – strategically place lighting at the bottom of a wall. Naturally, this will work best if the wall has architectural interest, so the texture of the wall is captured. Corten Steel makes a great subject for illumination. If you are lucky enough to have trees in your garden, you should definitely try up-lighting them!

 

  • Moonlighting – place lights high up to illuminate the area underneath. Again, if you have trees moonlighting can be used to dazzling effect, but experiment with whatever your outdoor space allows.

 

  • Shadowing – wash features such as a statue or large plants with light so that a shadow is cast on your wall or fence. The shadows created can be intriguing, especially if the object sways in a breeze.
Uplighting, Moonlighting & Shadowing Effects

Uplighting, Moonlighting & Shadowing Effects

Selecting Outdoor Lighting Pieces

Once you have a rough idea of your lighting requirements and the effects you are seeking to create, it’s time to seek out the pieces to make it happen. Let the games commence!

I don’t want to reel of a list of all the types of decorative lights available to you. The choices are endless, and trends spring up then disappear. However, when considering options for decorative outdoor lights, products can be divided into three general categories:

  • Garden Lanterns. These work well for task lighting. Available in a myriad of styles, the choices are mindboggling! Moroccan souk, Chinese lanterns, glowing orbs or tea-lights placed in a jar…boundaries are only defined by what designers can imagine. You can’t go wrong with a traditional hurricane lamp, and the intimacy of a candle lit table is hard to beat. Just make sure that your choice is instep with your overall garden design, and weighty enough to resist a strong breeze.

 

  • String Lights and Festoons. If their bulbs burn brightly enough, string lights / festoons are the best option for creating the moonlighting effect. They also work well with dimmer bulbs for a purely decorative effect. Just think through how they would fit into your garden design – string lights look amazing within a bohemian-styled garden, but will seriously detract from the sharp lines of a contemporary or minimalist garden.

 

  • Uplights and Spotlights. Use these to create shadowing and up-lighting effects. The aesthetic quality of the products is of less importance here; it’s all about the effect. However, you should definitely seek out quality products that can withstand the elements. LED bulbs are more expensive that halogen, but emit a superior quality of light and will last a lot longer. Battery powered is the way to go if you are reluctant to get an electrician round to install the wiring.

Lanterns, String Lights & Spotlights

So now it’s over to you. Trawl the web, hit the flea market and seek out that perfect piece of decorative outdoor lighting.

Happy hunting!

Posted in August 2014

Going Digital In The Garden

Man With Tablet

While it has always been possible to wheel a TV outside or catch up with some paperwork in the garden, our love affair with technology demands that we can access digital services when we like, where we like.

Whether you want to watch a live sports event, check out that new playlist or simply send an e-mail, this guide explores how we can adopt digital technology into our outdoor living spaces.

Outdoor Visual Systems

Summer brings a myriad of sporting and prestige events, and even on a sunny day there are certain occasions when you simply have to be in front of a television screen.  But fear not – there’s no need to sacrifice one for the other. Modern technology ensures that you can enjoy both the sunshine and whichever event is simply compulsive viewing for you.

The big challenge for the TV Industry is produce significant volumes of wireless enabled, internet connected television sets. When that day arrives it will be a game-changer, though we still have some way to go. Until then, we have two options to facilitate that alfresco screening session:

Wireless technology can help you out a lot here, allowing you to access your indoor cable or satellite feed, DVD player or even your games console. You will need a digital sender attached to your indoor equipment, and a wireless enabled TV.

Alternatively, if you are happy with terrestrial TV channels, simply attach the TV to a portable digital aerial / receiver set up. Perfect for Wimbledon on the BBC!

When it comes to your actual television set, carrying your indoor TV outside might appear to be the easiest option, but you can do some serious damage to your gogglebox.  Television in GardenNot only is there a likelihood of exposure to moisture, but also damage caused by excessive heat and sunlight. Indoor TV’s just aren’t designed for the range of temperatures you will experience in your garden.

If you are serious about enjoying some screen time in your outdoor living space, you should consider investing in a proper outdoor television. Costing from around £2,000 upward, these might not be cheap but can handle pretty much anything the elements can throw at them…or whatever you throw as you watch your team crash out on penalties.

Here in the UK, the leading supplier is Aqualite Outdoor. Keep your eyes peeled for special offers.

Outdoor Audio Systems

Garden SpeakersSure, you can connect your laptop, tablet or smartphone to a small portable speaker. However, these should be used as intended…in the hotel room, the camping trip. If you are going to entertain in your outdoor living space, you need a decent outdoor audio system.

If you only make one purchase for your audio pleasure, make it a pair of decent outdoor speakers. If your indoor audio system has wireless functionality you are free to leave your sensitive system components safely indoors and transmit the sound to weather resistant speakers. Alternatively, you will need to consider a hard wired system. I recommend you read this guide to outdoor speakers.

Just be careful not to upset your neighbours!

The Internet Enabled Garden

With all this recent good weather, we all like to relax in our gardens with a good book or newspaper, or maybe catch up with some work . We’re also all aware that the book or newspaper is being replaced by your laptop or other device. Yet our enjoyment can be blighted by patchy wi-fi coverage, and constant service drop-offs can be as frustrating as a freak hailstorm at your birthday barbecue. You therefore need to ensure your setup is fully optimised.

Most wi-fi routers claim to operate at a range of up to 100 meters, provided there are no obstacles for the signal to pass through. However, with outdoor living spaces, this is rarely the case. These obstacles, and the distance between the router and garden, will determine the strength of your connection.

But even if your wi-fi has to pass through numerous internal and external walls, there is still plenty you can do to power that greased lightning connection into your garden.

The first and most obvious course of action is to clear as many obstacles as possible. This could mean opening interior doors or moving your router higher to clear items of furniture. Don’t forget to leave any windows or patio doors open!

If you’re happy getting a bit technical, you can try altering the actual settings on your router. Have a look at your instruction manual for details of how to log in to your router. Once logged in, try changing the channel which your broadband is broadcasting on. When new, most routers automatically choose their channel.  However, your router could be competing for airspace with other nearby devices on that channel, such as a neighbour’s router. Try selecting a different one to see if performance improves; Wireless Repeaterchannels 1, 6 and 11 tend to offer the best performance.

If you are still experiencing problems, or want to extend your router’s range further, invest in a wireless repeater. These act as a relay between your router and device. Repeaters are inexpensive – prices start from around £20 – and simple to install. Just plug the device into a spare socket somewhere between your outer and garden. Problem solved!

Thanks to digital technology, you have all the outdoor entertainment and work options you need. In fact, you may never want to leave…even with Typhoon Tony baring down on you.

Posted in July 2014

Six Types of Garden Art

With Garden Art becoming increasingly popular, you may be wondering how you can incorporate a piece into your outdoor living space. Garden Art not only looks great, but can also provide a focal point, brighten an unloved corner or break the monotony of a fence, wall or screen.

But as with any discipline within home and garden design, fashions change. So here are Six Garden Art trends for today’s contemporary outdoor living spaces.

Garden Ornaments

Once derided by garden purists as cliche, garden ornaments have made a comeback in recent years. This could be due to the abundance of designs that are available today, which offer ornaments to suit all styles and tastes. With gardens generally decreasing in size and frequently given over to hardscaping, garden ornaments also give the opportunity to quickly make an impact in the garden.

The key when selecting garden ornaments is to only select pieces that compliment your garden’s style, and seek to avoid any clashes.

Garden Sculpture

The British have a love affair with garden sculpture spanning three centuries, and traditional statuary, displayed in a grand garden, is stunning and timeless. Garden Sculpture is also where the big money is spent in the garden art world, with pieces by recognised sculptors often priced in five figures or higher.

If you want to make a statement with your garden art, you should definitely consider saying it with a sculpture. Abstract pieces are always popular, and I’m particularly fond of figurative and spherical designs.

Chris Webb Garden Art

The Garden Buddha

My original intention was to include The Garden Buddha in the above Garden Sculpture section, but such is their ubiquity they deserve a special mention. The Garden Buddha is definitely having a moment!

Usually crafted from stone, wood or resin, The Garden Buddha can add a feeling of Zen to your garden. Buddha is often associated with feelings of calm and spirituality, so it’s easy to see why these are popular pieces of Garden Art.

If you are thinking of curating a Buddha for your garden, you should be aware of the meanings of Buddha poses and postures.

Garden Decorations

You can use garden decorations as ‘accent pieces’ to harmonize and compliment your garden’s theme. For example, metal garden spheres work very well in a rustic styled garden. Alternatively, some use of garden wall art can embolden a drab fence or garden wall. A fire pit will not only provide you with heat but often have a strong architectural feel and look great if when not in use!

Meanwhile, the trend for Corten Steel  continues unabated!

Stained Glass & Mirrors

Stained / Colored Glass glistens, reflects and sparkles… making it easy to brighten your outdoor space.

In Britain, references to the use of Stained Glass date back to the 7th Century. The use of contemporary Stained Glass in your garden will give a nod to an art-form that’s been around for well over 1,000 years….I kinda like that! Among others, you can choose from glass panels, suncatchers or glass sculpture.

It is well known in interior design circles that a mirror in an enclosed space gives the illusion of a larger space. So consider installing a mirror to your patio, terrace or yard if space is at a premium.

Stained Glass Garden Art

Wooden Garden Art

The most accessible type of garden art, wooden pieces are also the most popular with DIYers.

Pieces are often carved by hand, and once again animal and plant themes are popular! Totems, mushrooms, driftwood…the choices are many. Wooden Garden Art can also be functional: interestingly desgined benches, seating and signage are available everywhere. For something more original consider commissioning your own chainsaw sculpture!

Garden Fence Art

Enjoy this post? Then please take a look at my previous article on how to buy garden art

Posted in July 2014

The Enduring Appeal of Corten Steel

 

Corten Steel Screening

Anybody with an interest in garden design will not have escaped the liberal usage of Corten Steel in recent years.

But why all this attraction to what is basically rusty metal, and how can you incorporate the look into your outdoor living space?

The answer to this question is a simple one…it looks amazing! Corten will lend any garden a contemporary, rustic look that will compliment most planting schemes. Those rich, earthy tones also give a strong architectural look, which have become a firm favourite amongst landscape designers, sculptors and architects.

Best of all, Corten will change colour tone, both over time and in different lighting conditions. Corten is also known as weathering steel, not only because it resists the weather, but also because appearance improves with exposure to the elements.

So let’s look at a brief history of this incredible material, before exploring how we can incorporate the look into our gardens.

Glowing Corten Steel

What is Corten Steel?

I’ll spare you the science, but you should know that Corten is a steel alloy which was developed to eliminate the need for painting. The rust-like layer that will form on the surface of the steel gives protection against the elements. With further exposure, this layer will regenerate and protect the material for up to 600 years! This is also how dynamic Corten achieves that changing, weathered look.Angel of The North

Corten has been used for over 50 years in a variety of building and engineering projects, but really caught the public’s imagination when adopted by sculptors and artists.

One of the most famous examples of the use of Corten by sculptors (certainly here in the UK) is Antony Gormley’s ‘The Angel of The North’. This huge sculpture is seen by 90,000 drivers a day!

So how can we use Corten in our gardens?

  1. Corten Steel for Landscaping

In terms of landscaping, Corten can be used for screening, steps, fencing, water-walls…there really are too many applications to mention! Highly verstile, Corten can be cut into any shape or size. You can also have patterns cut into the steel, giving a nice arty feel. Due to its minimal thickness, Corten would make a great alternative to a built brick wall that might otherwise look out of place, encroach or be otherwise difficult to access.

The use of Corten for landscaping is a task best suited to the professionals, who will consider issues such as load bearing and drainage.

Corten Steel Pergola

  1. Corten Steel for Garden Décor

A far more modest way to bring the Corten look to your outdoor living space. Consider Corten containers, fire pits, raised beds or garden art. But by no means is this list exclusive, as an increasing amount of Corten items come on to the market.

The real bonus with such pieces is that, due to the weathering process, each piece will change appearance over time. So not only do you have something that is durable and fabulous, but also totally unique to you!

Corten Steel is one trend that isn’t going to leave us anytime soon. So be bold, make a statement and add some contemporary style to your outdoor living space.

Corten Steel Wall Planters

Posted in June 2014

3 Design Essentials for Outdoor Living Spaces

3 Design EssentialsWhether you are creating an entirely new space or updating what you already have, great design will help to maximise the potential of your outdoor living space. Incorporate these 3 essentials into your outdoor living space design and you will be on your way to creating something truly unique:

1. Define a Focal Point:

A basic principle of interior design, a focal point demands the attention of someone who enters the room. Creating a focal point in your garden not only draws immediate attention toward the finest features but also encourages you to think about how the rest of the garden can be used.

The kitchen has traditionally been the focal point for gatherings indoors, so why not bring the concept outdoors? But let’s move beyond that stand-alone barbecue grill, a temporary table and a splattering of weathered garden chairs. Perhaps you can build around your grill to provide some stone worktops…or go the whole distance and create a kitchen island with a sink and a fridge!

Fully functioning outdoor kitchens have proved increasingly popular in the US in recent years, and now the trend is starting to gain traction in the UK. As you can see from the photo, they look incredible and will serve you well over time. Creating a permanent structure will also bring your home some of that important ‘wow factor’ and add value to you property.

With a myriad of materials, shapes and price-points, choosing garden furniture for you outdoor living space is a potential minefield. Think long and hard about how you want to use your furniture and, if you can, spend a little extra…it will certainly be worth it in terms of comfort and longevity.

I’m particularly fond of contemporary synthetic weave (rattan) pieces, which are highly durable, lightweight and increasingly affordable. Steer clear of cheap plastic resin…it’s prone to snapping, needs constant cleaning and looks quite nasty!

Outdoor Kitchen

2. Create Ambience:

One of my favourite ways to enjoy a garden is to sit out until after darkness has fallen, glass of wine to hand. Once the sun has faded, your garden can take on a different character and you have the opportunity to add some atmosphere to the proceedings!

There’s certainly no need to retreat indoors when your outdoor living space has ambient lighting. Solar powered lights are popular as they are low maintenance and portable, but quality is generally poor and will only glow rather than emit any usable light.

A better option would be to use light strings and lanterns, which are not only more practical but also function as décor; creating a far better ambience and allowing you to give your garden personality.

If you are really serious about your outdoor living space you can also install hard wiring. You then have the option of wall mounted lights, decking uplighters…perhaps even a chandelier!

Fire can add drama and also act as a focal point once the sun has gone down, the food has been eaten and drinks are being served. Consider a fire pit, fire bowl or a decent quality chiminea, which will prevent you from being smoked out.  Currently there’s a trend for fire tables, which can make a stunning centrepiece for a night-time gathering.

Amazing Firepit

3. Deploy Décor

Just as inside your home, those finishing touches are what will make your outdoor living space truly unique. Here you have the opportunity to really show your style and personality! Just remember, when selecting décor the key is to make it feel as comfortable and intimate as possible.

Thanks to a surge in availability of weather resistant fabrics, soft furnishings can now take the brunt of nature’s elements in a way your lounge furniture never could. A brief shower, a spilled glass of wine or a long day in full sun is no longer a cause for panic. Go as bold as you dare with colours: save the muted colour schemes for the indoors!

Also, why not consider a garden rug? These can be highly durable to handle the foot traffic and potential for mildew, and sometimes reversible to allow for a change in your look.

Recent years have also seen a surge of interest in garden art, and you should certainly consider investing in some pieces for your garden. Some contemporary garden ornaments will make a modern style statement. Hanging a weather resistant canvas, featuring a digitally printed image, can help to break up the monotony of a long fence or brighten up a corner of your garden. Metal garden art also looks great, and improves as it weathers. Just please, please stay away from tacky animal themes and terracotta plaques!

For garden sculpture, my recent article should help you to discover how to buy garden art.

And garden décor need not end with furnishings and art. You can also consider how to incorporate dinnerware, a mirror, a clock, flags, bunting…the possibilities are limitless.

garden-wall-art

Posted in June 2014

The Garden Art Sweet Spot

Chris Webb Garden Sculpture

The last couple of years have seen an explosion of interest in garden art, and you might well be interested in curating a piece or two for your outdoor living space.

Whilst it is certainly true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, how do you know if what you are buying is garden art, or pure naff? And where on earth can you buy it?

In his recent Telegraph article on The Chelsea Flower Show, Ed Cumming highlights the extremes between the high-end, expensive garden art on display and the more budget friendly delights on offer. Armed with Ed’s observations I decided to do my own research during my inaugural visit to the show.

It would certainly appear that Chelsea is as much about the artefacts and garden products as it is about the flowers. The stands toward the Royal Hospital are at the epitome of the garden art world…with prices to match. It’s no surprise that the biggest gasps I heard all day were for these price tags rather than the flower displays in the Grand Pavilion.

Here’s a short video clip from Chelsea, discussing some of the statutory on display:

I was particularly impressed with the sculpture by fellow Westcountry man Chris Webb and would have one of these pieces in my garden in a heartbeat… if I had up to £20,000 to invest. During conversation I enquire whether any had found a new home. “A couple,” comes the poker faced response.

David Haber Sphere

David Harber – who wouldn’t want this?

At the other end of the garden art spectrum, the Artisan Gardens are the place to peruse Garden Art for the everyman. Or are they?

Whilst I admit that I didn’t inspect every stall or item on offer, there appeared to be a standardised offering of metal wire twisted into animal shapes, bronzed wall lizards, and various adornments on the general animal theme. A modern take on the garden gnome, perhaps? The hot item of the day was some kind of metal spiral wind spinner, judging by the amount of people I saw carrying one, like some kind of Gandalf from the Lord of The Rings movies.

Back home from Chelsea, I continue my search through the usual retail channels. Those online Goliaths Ebay and Amazon have the usual animal themed metal wall pieces, cheap sundials and similar objects at rock bottom prices. I suspect they were ordered en masse from China. Sure, you might get lucky and find an auction for a genuine, desirable piece but generally it’s tack of the highest order.

Large online garden retailers fair little better than your average bricks and mortar garden centre. Speaking of which, unless you live in a particularly affluent location or you are willing to travel, traditional garden centres are generally woeful for garden art and best avoided.

Where to Buy Garden Art?

Fortunately, there are some great places and resources out there to help you find that perfect piece of garden art. You’ll have to do your research and you may have to travel, but these are excellent places to start and should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

Affordable Art Fairs. These take place all around the country – check local media for anything happening in your area. Two of the best are the annual Affordable Garden Art Exhibition at Showborough House in Gloucestershire which takes place every May, and promises pieces from under £100 right up to £4,000. September in Manchester sees the Buy Art Fair, which has reported a growing demand for Garden Art.

Of course, you are more than welcome to explore our products! We specialize in hard to find garden ornaments and garden decorations.

So, there’s my little expose of the British Garden Art scene. Keep an eye out for future posts on the subject and I hope you are considering a piece of art for your own outdoor living spaces!

Posted in May 2014

Why Are Gardens Important?

 

Friends Enjoying GardenLike most people, my first experiences with gardens came as a child. My parents owned a retirement home in Devon, which was blessed with over an acre of mature gardens. There were terraces and lawns, greenhouses, various gazebos and an incredible rose garden. Specimen shrubs and trees abounded, including two giant Monkey Puzzles which were unfortunately lost in the Great Storm of 1987.

Idyllic childhood days were spent playing in the garden with my brother, friends or my own imagination. Trees were climbed and play houses built. We organised football games on the main lawn, which to my young eyes looked the size of Wembley Stadium. I think the garden must have been purpose built for a game of hide and seek.

Naturally, as the house was a retirement home, children weren’t the only ones enjoying the garden. Pleasant spring and summer days would invite some of the residents outside to savour the gardens too.  Residents enjoyed taking afternoon tea on the terrace whilst the active could take a leisurely stroll around the garden pathways. I remember one resident who was keen on dead-heading the roses, usually before the heads were actually dead! She seemed to enjoy the activity so much we were reluctant to stop her.

This is the crux of why gardens are important to us. It doesn’t matter if you are young, old or somewhere in between, gardens are vital to our lives. Gardens provide a connection to nature – an essential part of our spiritual existence. As our lives get increasingly busier and our world relentlessly connected, we simply must make the time to switch off and ‘just be’. Our gardens provide this opportunity.

As I grew into adolescence, my parents realised I was a good source of cheap labour and I was given household duties to perform. These duties were often centred on the garden: sweeping up leaves, mowing the lawns, trimming the hedges. But the truth was I rarely viewed these duties as a chore…I actually quite enjoyed them. Feedback was often instant. I took something and made it look better, stood back and enjoyed my work. In my recent career, working in finance for an insurance company, the millionaire founder told me that he was at his happiest with a rake in hand, clearing leaves from his garden. It’s as if your garden demands that you slow down and relax.

There is something primeval about growing plants which appeals to our very sense of being human.  Not long back into history we survived through subsistence farming – we grew the food that we ate. Sowing, planting, and watching our crops grow…our gardens replicate this process. Similarly our parental instincts lead us to nurture our families.

I think that gardening is embedded in our DNA.

Posted in May 2014

What is Outdoor Living?

Outdoor Living AreaThere’s a revolution going on. The way in which we enjoy our gardens is changing.

No longer the preserve of retirees with a broad knowledge of horticulture, today we want our gardens to be an extension of our homes.

In short, we want to bring the inside outside.

Although established in the US, Australia and enclaves around the world for sometime, the Outdoor Living phenomenon is a relatively recent arrival to Britain. We have been inspired by homeowners who have extended their homes into their gardens, creating amazing spaces to relax, play and entertain.

A myriad of products have arrived in recent years to provide the functionality your gardens needs to facilitate this lifestyle, and the ensure you can use your garden beyond what the seasons usually dictate.

And we’re not just talking a weathered picnic table, a few directors chairs and a rusty charcoal barbecue. Homeowners at the forefront of this revolution have been installing inviting entertaining areas, outdoor kitchens, and even weatherproofed audio/visual equipment! There has been a surge of interest in garden art and modern garden ornaments. Practically anything you might find inside the house can now be adapted for the garden.

Contrary to popular belief, gardening is not just for those lucky people with plenty of time, money, and space to pour into their garden project. You don’t need a large country garden. If the space is outdoors and within your property’s boundaries you can create something amazing…garden, terrace, patio or yard!

Neither should gardening be seen as some kind of chore, to be included in your housekeeping schedule. You can create an amazing low maintenance garden or treat your garden as a permanent ongoing project…the choice is yours. 

With some inspiration, and a good deal of planning, you too can join the revolution.

Consider planning your garden in the same way as you would any other room: what goes on the floor, ceiling and walls? What furniture will I need? How will I decorate? You will need to consider your budget but remember that, as with any area of your home, the garden is a sound investment that will increase the value of your home. Perhaps the next owners will want to buy into the lifestyle that you have created?

Posted in May 2014