We’re all busy. Check. We all want a nice living environment. Check. That nice living environment would include a garden as well as the soapstone worktop sourced in Nepal. Check. We all want a nice garden but nobody wants to do any maintenance. Hmm, I’d love a car that never needed to be serviced. Where could I get such a thing? They don’t exist mate.
So, busy, busy, busy. The garden for the busy family; year-round immersion and stimulation for the kids, something to show off and throw the odd summer soirée for the adults.
How do you it? How do you balance everyone’s requirements, incorporate the practical needs, create something unique, original and eye catching and something that is not going to consume every available weekend in drudge maintenance and upkeep? How do you do it? With great deliberation is the answer.
Anyone can design a house, anyone can design a garden. Give a six-year old a pencil and a piece of A4 paper and they will divide up the rectangular space that they see into a series of smaller spaces. That’s the grass, that’s the deck, that’s the path and this triangle left over here, well, let’s call that the flower bed. Anyone can do that.
As in most walks of life, it’s harder to do something good. So, what do you have to bear in mind, to what do you have to keep referring if you are to produce anything worthwhile?
The occupants and their schedules and priorities. The choice of materials; natural materials promote longer periods of engagement for children. Are there pets in the household? What features can be incorporated to keep them stimulated and prevent them from eating your furniture and plants? What’s your worldview vis a vis neighbours; seclusion or inclusion?
This is Ireland so remember how the garden will look from the inside, through the inevitable glass double door, as the rain teems down 335 days of the year.
I’m big on pan generational design right now, futureproofing is never a bad thing. Can you incorporate versatile elements which could be redeployed and adapted over time?
How do you feel about water? What’s the essence, the vibe, the ambience, the theme? The garden needs to have an identity which all the elements and plants then work towards reinforcing. Is the space small enough to create a courtyard feel, is it expansive enough to embody a rural theme or is it somewhere in between?
Have you ever seen the American TV show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition? Well on that show the designers really like to zone in on a slice of a person’s personality and squeeze it for all its worth. A kid who likes Egyptology ended up with a bedroom not unlike the tomb of Tutankhamun. Being too literal will strangle everything.
What’s your planting palette? We are all about the herbaceous now. Because we know that herbaceous planting lends itself more to the evocation of mood and atmosphere and can subtly provide those suggested paths of movement and flow. Remember your theme and plant to reinforce it.
Don’t forget about height and bringing the eye upwards. Often, we step into a space and our gaze never deviates from eye level, we need something to entice us upwards to consider the infinite space above.
And what about the vernacular, how much do you know about it or how interested are you in it? The vernacular is making a comeback thanks to the ‘auld zeitgeist and new found concerns about the provenance and footprint of materials we consume. Where’s all that Celtic Tiger Indian Sandstone gone? Sitting on pallets in a big old stone yard in India, that’s where.
Turns out we have stone every bit as good in Clare, Meath, Wicklow, Donegal and Roscommon. Who knew? It’s a Brave New World.
I will be delivering a talk on everything garden and design related at the frighteningly good upcycled and recycled interiors store of fellow Newbridgian Edward Donnelly, Home Street Home, on Harold’s Cross Road in Dublin on April 13th at 7.30 pm. Please come if you can. There will be cake.