Ever wondered how to make your outdoor space even more relaxing? Then some thought about design could be the key. We caught up with Ana Sanchez-Martin from Germinate Design for some professional tips…
Why do you believe good design to be an important part of a residential garden?
A well designed and thought through garden will make the best use of the space and increase the enjoyment and use of the garden. The most common compliment I get is how much more the clients use the garden after having it re-designed.
What are the key things people should consider when creating their garden?
Aspect: how does the sun move round the garden; this helps, for example, determine the best place for al fresco eating or where to place which plants.
Function: how are you going to use the garden: relaxation, entertaining, a space to grow plants, a place for kids to play, etc?
Timescale: have you got time for the garden to evolve and grow or are you looking for a quick result?
Maintenance: are you a green fingered wizard who can’t wait to get outside and get their hands dirty or a white gloved goddess who doesn’t want to mess their manicured hands? Or, most likely, something in between?
In our gardens, fruit and veg are as important as flowers and lawns. Any tips for incorporating a veg patch into a garden design?
I think the old idea of the cottage garden, where kitchen and ornamental plants co-exist, is very attractive, and helps against pest and diseases. Not everybody likes that relaxed, slightly chaotic look. So, if you want a separate veg/growing area, I’d say don’t immediately assume it should go at the back of the garden. If you do that you are less likely to look after it and I guarantee you’ll end up neglecting it, plus you won’t get the enjoyment of looking at all those great looking veg borders!. I’d say, give them pride of place where you can easily reach them. I also like to put most herbs in large planters by the kitchen. I also like to place soft fruits such as raspberries in odd narrow spaces where not much else can be fitted in; their vertical grow habit fits in nicely in those odd spaces and they won’t run into rest of garden. Fruit trees I regularly use as main focal points in the garden or fan/espaliered trained against walls and fences.
Are there any veg you find especially aesthetically pleasing within a residential garden?
Why not grow runner beans up your wigmam instead of purely ornamental sweet peas? Or interplant ruby coloured swiss chard with your burgundy astrantias? Jerusalem artichokes are a great plant to use as a visual screen in the growing season. I don’t know if you count herbs as veg but I use rosemary as specimen plants in a border or as hedging. I also tend to use sage and thyme as front of border plant, to soften edges between planting and hard landscaping or lawns. Oregano in flower is a thing to behold too!
We like to unwind in the garden of an evening with a few of our home made alcohol beverages. What structures or planting schemes would you recommend for an ideal drinking environment?
I’m very very fond of fire at night, it creates a magical atmosphere and people are instinctively attracted to it. A firepit would create a great focal point into the evening and chatting into the wee hours in front of a fire with endless top-ups will definitely send you to bed nice and warm! In terms of planting, I’d go for plants which release scent in the evening: Nicotiana, phlox and honeysuckles would come top of the list.
Do you have any pet hates that people do to their gardens?
Excessive hard landscaping/paving and unjustifiable use of artificial grass where you could grow a lawn perfectly well but just can’t be bothered to mow it. If you are going to pave the garden over, you don’t deserve a garden! I’m a bit hardcore in this but I think a garden is a long term asset for humanity/planet earth and for us to destroy them for short term convenience or fashion is a bit of a crime. We need to cherish these green spaces and allow them to become natural habitats for all the creatures great and small, without which we wouldn’t be here.
If there’s one thing above all others you would recommend to improve a small garden, what would it be?
Plant up your boundaries, don’t leave them bare: plant some shrubs, evergreen and deciduous, train climbers up trellising or put in wall shrubs tightly trained against your fence/wall. You will blur the boundaries and make garden seem larger and also the birds are more likely to come to your garden as they will have spaces to hide.
And, finally, describe your dream garden and what you would use it for.
My dream garden already exists and it’s called Sticky Wicket in Dorset and is the creation of Pam Lewis. It is a very natural, relaxed garden where plants and wildlife reign supreme; there’s hardly any hard landscaping, mainly paths to access the various areas: the large, experimental meadow, the round garden with gorgeous purple/lilac planting, the white garden, the pond garden, etc. There are also home made benches and seating structures strategically placed to sit and enjoy the views, bird feeders, etc. all made using materials found on site. These could have ended up looking a bit tacky but it’s all done with such an artistic sensibility that the overall result is to me a masterpiece. It is a garden as much for people as for nature, all in perfect balance.
For more information on Ana’s great garden designs visit www.germinatedesign.com