Not all of us can call ourselves green-fingered. While we might enjoy sitting outdoors sipping a glass of something, we might not know the latin names of plants or how to stop them dying.
Colourful borders and beautiful lawns bring so much to domestic gardens. But there are other aspects to think about which you don’t have to grow from seed.
Architectural elements can offer wow factor and practical usage. They can divide gardens into sections, making them functional for everyone.
If you’re looking to spend some time or money sprucing up your backyard, here are some of things to consider that think outside the plant box.
1. Outdoor living room
The health benefits of spending more time outdoors are undeniable. But sometimes we’d appreciate sitting on the sofa while we’re at it.
Making part of your garden into an outdoor living room can make your new nature-filled lifestyle feel very luxurious indeed.
Install comfortable outdoor sofas in natural but hard-wearing materials, like this set from Wayfair, £529.99.
2. Bench planters
Raised beds are brilliant. You can use them to add structure and shape to your garden, while keeping your plants away from lawn or paving. Better still, you can use them for seating, too.
If you’re considering making some raised beds, why not build benches into your design? They can be added to one side to create convenient nooks for sitting and chatting.
You can then add some cushions, blankets and other bits and pieces to make them feel cosy. Plus, your beds are perfect for planting big shrubs and grasses to create shady corners.
Talk to a carpenter for bespoke designs, or check out ready-made varieties from Woodblocx, starting prices from £475.
3. Play areas
Homes with children are sometimes given over to explosions of plastic and colours that don’t fit in with the decor. But, kids’ stuff can add a lot to gardens.
As well as creating a space for the little ones to be happy in, creating a zone to place a sandpit, a wooden house, a swing set and a mud kitchen can look charming.
It frees up the rest of your garden for more grown up pursuits, while giving the kids an area to express themselves and run riot.
Why not use blackboard paint on the side of a shed or playhouse and make sure there are plenty of colourful chalks to draw with?
Pick play equipment in natural materials. You’ll find good quality stuff others have outgrown on eBay and GumTree.
4. Magical lighting
It’s all very well having a brilliant garden, but if you can’t see your hand in front of your face come nightfall you’re probably going to have to go inside.
Installing stunning and discreet electric lighting can help you to make the most of your garden all year-round.
“The right design will help to highlight the architecture of your home and provide a soft glow across your backyard or seating area,” says Peter Legg of där lighting.
“You don’t always need to wire in your outdoor lighting. Rechargeable lamps can add ambience to your tablescaping, or set them around the dining area to frame the space.
“Solar powered post lights are very effective for guiding you down into the garden or as a welcoming gleam from the driveway to the front door. They're both eco-friendly and economical.”
5. Perfect pergolas
If you’ve got a sunny spot that needs some cover or a corner that needs livening up, consider building a pergola.
Usually built in wood with slatted roofs, these structures are perfect for plants to climb up, and even more perfect for you to sit and relax under.
You can design and build your own simple version, invest in a special pergola kit or get one made for you by a carpenter.
It can take a few years for vines and clematis to cover the wood, but you can hang canvas or other fabric to create shade in the meantime.
Check out some ideas here.
Another way to add interest, a social zone and differing heights in your garden is to invest in decking.
You know your garden better than anyone, so identify the spots that get the sun in the morning and late afternoon - and decide whether you want to sip your morning coffee or early evening cocktails basking in those rays.
You don’t have to deck a huge area to get the benefits. It just needs to fit a table and seating.
And the good thing about decking is that it can be done on both small and large budgets.
If you’re on a tight budget, check out these decking squares for £25 from Argos.
Or if you have a bit more cash to splash, these options at Millboard might just fit the bill.
7. Living walls
Got a boring shed or a wall that isn’t up to much? Consider turning your gardening prowess vertical by installing a living wall.
You can buy eco-friendly stackable planters to fill with soil and plants of your choice, such as these from Living Walls UK.
Other options include nailing up vertical wall hanging pockets, like this one from £3.99 from Woodside.
If you’d like a more DIY approach, why not find a way to fix an assortment of hanging pots, baskets and other unneeded receptacles (try teapots and old watering cans) to your wall or shed.
Once planted up, your living wall will become a riot of colour, texture and interest.
8. Garden kitchen
If you’re into dining al fresco, then cooking outdoors could be a priority in your garden.
Consider building a dedicated food preparation area near to your preferred seating. You can install a fire pit, a barbeque, a pizza oven and any other cooking apparatus you want.
Some people go the whole hog and install a gas oven, water supply and electric fridge. But when you’re so close to home, this isn’t necessary.
A compromise might be this Premium Outdoor BBQ Kitchen from Aldi for £649.99.
Having a nice seating area, a good surface to prepare food on and a chiminea (take a look at these ones from Argos) can achieve the same vibe at a fraction of the cost.
But if you take your BBQ-ing super seriously, consider a ready-made outdoor kitchen like this Whistler number from Primecookout.
9. Garden office
Having a garden and the squeeze on space in our homes means more of us are investing in office “pods”.
These rooms can be installed in our gardens, offering vital working and living space without having to get planning permission or spend tens of thousands on home renovations.
Home offices are a good practical solution for many people, but they can also be a fantastic design feature for your garden.
“Garden rooms, particularly in smaller urban gardens, are huge features and can take up a lot of space - clever design is key to integrating them into your garden,” says garden designer Harry Holding.
“From charred timber cladding to covering the structure with climbing plants and green roofs, the design of the architectural structure itself is essential.
“It’s a good idea to take cues from the house and design style of the wider garden. Beyond the design of the structure, the overall garden design and how it sits within the space is vital.”
Here are some tips from Harry to make sure home offices look their best in your garden:
Create a journey - setting out the space so that it's a magical experience to move from the house to the garden room is something we love to do. Be it a meandering path or an unexpected route, by taking you through the garden you can enhance the experience and really create a sense of destination.
Layers of planting - deep planting beds in front of the garden room that are billowing with beautiful layers of planting is a great way to make the garden room feel grounded within its location.
Tie the structure into the boundaries - having unity between the garden boundaries and the garden room can be a great way of giving them a sense of place.
Create a second hub - making the garden room a secondary hub within the garden can really enhance it as a destination. An adjoining deck, space to dine or sit out and read or simply a nearby hammock will allow you to get the most out of the space.