Winter is drawing to a close, and everyone is breathing a little easier knowing that they’ve done their part by staying home and staying safe. However, now we’re all desperate for a bit of fresh air, sunshine, and socialising.
Boris Johnson’s announcement that lockdown restrictions will be fully rolled back by June 21st means that we can finally start laying plans for the summer. After a year of parks and woodland walks, many are looking forward to opening their homes to friends and family but after this weekend’s taster of the summer sun, who wants to spend June indoors?
The benefits of a patio garden
Fortunately, entering March means we have plenty of time to consider the design of our gardens to tailor them for social events. Patio designs hold a lot of potential for such occasions since they can effectively extend your indoor spaces.
The ability to create an ‘outdoor room’ like this is particularly appealing if you’re planning to host others. Outdoor furniture, ornaments, and cooking ranges continue to advance both in practical value and aesthetic appeal. This means you can effectively turn part or all of your garden into a dining room or living space unto itself.
Patio design priorities like these also lend themselves to gardeners that like to “grow their own”. Imagine being able to pluck tomatoes and cucumbers for your guests and prepare them before their eyes prior to serving!
As a side note to families, having your own food crops is a great way to get kids interested in the natural world since they can associate the pleasure of home cooking with work in the garden. It might save you some labour in later years too!
Deciding your design priorities
Now we know what’s possible for a patio garden, let’s think about what your limitations are. These are varied, but the big ones include the dimensions of your property, its orientation relative to the sun – this will dictate what plants you’re able to grow and what you’ll most often be using the patio for.
Obviously, the more you want an outdoor space to include the comforts, the greater the consideration for resources like electricity and heat. You should also take into account how many shelters you’ll need given the famous inconsistency of British summers.
Here are a few of the most popular concepts for outdoor social spaces:
The addition of a permanent fireplace or pit is one of the simplest yet most effective ways to create an outdoor social space. It creates a centrepiece that can be appreciated from any direction and is both cost-effective and requires little maintenance to upkeep.
There are a few considerations; however, first of all, you obviously don’t want open flames sat beneath a large canopy. If such a canopy is present, then it must be removed before using the fire.
You’ll also want to consult your neighbours since smoke wafting over the garden fence could make you unpopular. However, it’s worth mentioning that smokeless fuel is available in most DIY shops if you want to be extra conscientious.
Dining in Nature
If you’re looking for something a little more practical and with more creature comfort, consider investing in an outdoor dining space. The beauty of a patio garden is that it can give you solid surfaces that warrant the money spent on beautiful furniture and decorations without worrying about them becoming ruined.
A dining table, chairs, a couple of sofas, and a cooking station means that you can take your barbeques to the next level this year and not even worry about being rained off.
One popular patio design is to create an open-walled structure with solid rain cover, a bridge between your home and the great outdoors.
The Movie Star
Definitely one for those warm nights under the stars, a hot tub – particularly in concert with wooden decking – can give a real sense of escapism. We typically don’t associate outdoor swimming with relaxation in England, and for a very good reason – it’s too bloody cold!
The fairest of the seasons
While you’re deciding what type of patio garden you want for the summer, it’s best to also consider which plants and trees you’d like to include. If your garden faces south then you’ll have a greater variety of flowering plants at your disposal since they’ll have ready access to sunlight.
However, if your garden is in a different orientation, then do not despair. British flora is rich and varied and you can still create a beautiful picture on your canvas with shade-loving plants.
The other major consideration is timing, to ensure that your garden is at its best when summer rolls around we’ve put together two lists of plants that want to be going in the ground now.
Fruits and Vegetables for March planting
- Bare-root fruit trees and those grown in containers
- Cold-stored strawberry runners.
- Plant cranberries and lingonberries.
- Onions, shallots, and garlic
- Tubers like Jerusalem artichoke
- Asparagus crowns
For the indoor farmers, now is the time to sow seeds for tomatoes, cucumbers, and sweet peppers.
Flowers for March planting
It is important to note that there’s a large range of hardiness in the list below and we’ve marked our choices as appropriate to their needs.
Perennials which must be sown under glass
Annuals which can be sown where they are to flower – ground should be thoroughly tilled beforehand for weeds
- Eschscholzia (Californian Poppies)
- Centaurea (Cornflowers)
- Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ (Poppy)
While patio gardens are only one of the myriad choices you have when designing your outdoor space, they are perhaps the one best suited to the rediscovered social freedom we’ll be able to enjoy this summer. As such, we hope we’ve opened your heart to the variety that’s possible when approaching such shared, yet individual, space.