3 ideas to enhance your garden

Since lockdown, it certainly seems that our outdoor spaces have become more important to us than ever. With this in mind, I was delighted to be invited recently by The Gardening with Disabilities Trust to share some ideas about enhancing gardens. With this post, first published on their website, my aim is to outline 3 ideas to enhance your garden.  Each can be implemented quite simply – and have a big impact.

Water Features & Ponds
Water feature in a sensory garden

The first of our garden ideas – adding a water feature or pond – is hard to beat for providing a focal point to a garden and enhancing the use of the space. A well-chosen water feature adds sound and light while bringing in beneficial wildlife too. Even a bird bath can make a huge difference. As nearly 70 percent of ponds have been lost from the UK countryside in the last century, water features and ponds are more important to wildlife than ever. Ponds develop fast because many of their inhabitants are highly mobile.  Within a short time after installation, your garden will attract birds, amphibians, insects, mammals and plenty of ‘mini-beasts’ you might never otherwise see. Watching a pond attract wildlife is very rewarding – as the poem goes, ‘What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare ….’.

Research has shown that being near, in, on or under water can lower stress and increase our sense of well-being. This peaceful, meditative state has been termed the ‘blue mind’ by marine biologist Wallace Nichols. It is the opposite of the overloaded, busy ‘red mind’ that affects so many of us in our everyday lives. To quote Nichols: ‘Water is medicine for those who need it most…and everyone else’.  So adding water to your garden really can boost your mental health as well as your overall enjoyment of the space..

Fire Pits and Bowls
Family time in the fire pit

Many of us have good memories of camping trips.  Happy times were spent sitting by the fire telling stories, enjoying tasty food and warming drinks. The good news is that if you add a fire pit (or a simple fire bowl) to your garden, you can easily recreate those memories. There’s something about a fire pit that encourages great conversation too. From my own experience, they create a wonderful social space for family and friends to spend time together. Another excellent reason to instal a fire pit is that it allows you to enjoy the seasons for longer. Since it offers both warmth and beauty, you will be able to enjoy your garden early in the spring season and later into autumn.

According to anthropologist Christopher Lynn, fires are a multisensory experience owing to their ‘flickering light, crackling sounds, warmth, and a distinctive smell’. Lynn points out that for early humans, fire likely extended the day, provided heat, helped with hunting, warded off predators and insects, illuminated dark places, and facilitated cooking. Open air fires may also have provided social connections and relaxation effects.  Recent studies have shown that relaxing near an open fire can lower blood pressure, providing a physical health benefit as well as a mental health ‘bonus’.

Edible Gardening

Over recent years, we have had more and more clients ask us for our edible garden ideas. Pottering about in your own kitchen garden and selecting a few home-grown herbs or vegetables is a wonderful way to spend time outdoors. If you are short on space, easy-care herbs are also a natural fit for a vertical garden. All you need is a way to hang containers or contain soil on a vertical surface. For example, a ladder planter fixed against the wall is an option. You can add a single large container as an accent piece, or several smaller pots grouped together in an attractive arrangement. Installing raised beds to grow your own fruit and vegetables offers a number of advantages, from the practical (longer growing season, less back-ache) to the aesthetic (they look good!).

Raised beds offer several advantages

According to The Vegan Society, growing your own fruit and vegetables is time well spent in terms of both physical and mental health benefits. ‘Gardening is a great way to combat stress and anxiety … the various tasks involved in producing greens for your kitchen table, from planting seeds to harvesting vegetables, are sure to increase your daily activity.’   Personally, I find it  hugely rewarding to nurture a plant ‘from garden to table’ . If you create enough food to share with your neighbours, friends and family, then you also help to spread a love of plastic-free food with a low carbon footprint.


One of the many joys of gardens and gardening is to appreciate a garden’s journey over the years.  There is no end-point when you nurture a garden.  In any case your own needs and requirements are likely to change over time.  I hope that the suggestions here have been good ‘prompts’ as you think about your own outdoor space.  And that whatever you do gives you even more enjoyment from your time outdoors over the coming months and beyond.  For more garden ideas, do browse our residential garden case studies or follow me on Twitter @gardencomp.

This post first appeared as a guest blog on The Gardening with Disabilities Trust’s website.


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