There’s something about January that prompts many of us to reflect on the year gone by and anticipate what the months ahead might bring. It’s exactly the same in our garden design-and-build business at this time of year; we look back over the bespoke projects we’ve worked on over the last 12 months, identify the themes that have developed and predict what dream gardens our clients are likely to be imagining in the year ahead. If you are looking for some design inspiration for your own garden in 2022, this blog post is for you.
What has the impact of Covid been?
It’s very clear that since Covid began, people have been connecting more closely to their gardens and outdoor spaces. It was heartwarming to see this interest develop following lockdown and the ‘enforced’ time that people have spent at home. According to a recent ONS survey, the pandemic also forced people to interact with familiar surroundings in new ways. ‘While bedrooms have become offices, gardens – and the areas within walking distance of home – have become wildlife-watching spots and gyms. Nature has been a source of solace for many, as lockdown rules have heightened our appreciation for local parks and green spaces’.
The report concludes that ‘Lockdown has disrupted our relationship with nature … Shifts in personal behaviour and corporate attitudes could mean that the UK, post-lockdown, will value and interact with nature on a much greater scale than before the pandemic. What we do not yet know is whether the changes brought on by lockdown will be a temporary trend, or a new way of life’. Our emphasis in bold – we don’t know yet whether this is a temporary trend. But our prediction is that people will continue to recognize the benefits of being outdoors and (for those with gardens), spending their time in more varied and creative ways. We wrote about this last year in our blog post on ways to enjoy your garden – from actual gardening(!), to dining outdoors, garden games, pet training, growing your own fruit and vegetables and meditating.
Two broad trends
We have noticed that when our clients start thinking about changing their gardens, they are following two broad – and very different – paths. Some long for a beautiful haven where they can immerse themselves in nature, relax with friends and family and – often – share the space with wildlife. In contrast, others are inspired to extend the look and feel of their stylish homes into a boutique hotel experience in the garden, recreating the holiday feeling that has been missing for most of us during the pandemic. Naturally, our designers and builders are happy to deliver the high-quality of design thinking and landscaping craftmanship required for either of these bespoke, handcrafted experiences. Our aim in all cases is to create dream gardens with enduring meaning that transform an underused space into a much-loved one.
If you are thinking about a garden project this year, here are some thoughts about these contrasting trends. We hope to help you identify what your priorities are for your own dream garden.
1 The garden as a sanctuary
It is not surprising that over the last year, many of our clients have dreamed of seeking sanctuary and retreat in their gardens. People often mention the mental health benefits of being outside in nature. Some practise mindfulness and meditation, others simply like to sit and relax or do some gentle gardening. Often this goes hand in hand with a keen interest in the environment. There may be a desire to bring rewilding and biodiversity to the space.
Such naturalistic gardens are dynamic and often created in ‘layers’, with native planting selections overlaying strictly geometric schemes. There can be a lovely relationship between the designed elements and the shapes and forms that occur in nature. Soft-edged pathways wander through the space. Places for you to rest and enjoy the space appear unexpectedly. Beautiful havens are provided for birds, butterflies, pollinators and other beneficial wildlife. A wildlife pond can be a wonderful addition. Sensory gardens go even further in making sure that there is a feeling of complete immersion in the space.
Leonard Cohen summed up naturalistic design when he wrote: “Forget your perfect offering/There’s a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” In a naturalistic landscape, the imperfection is the point and the source of much of the garden’s beauty. Naturalistic gardens reflect the natural landscape that surrounds them. Often in the UK, such garden design inspiration is drawn from woodlands, meadows or forests for planting styles and colour palettes.
Our role with this type of brief is to bring design expertise which ensures a greater proportion of softscaping and carefully selected plants and trees. It’s easy to assume that a naturalistic garden is easier to design than something more formal. Actually, very careful thinking is still required to achieve a balance of function and aesthetics. The end-result however can be a little easier to manage. Many of our clients are time-poor and dream of a low-maintenance garden.
2 The ‘boutique hotel’ garden
In contrast, we have noticed another strong trend which is to extend the interior design of the home into the garden, creating more of a ‘boutique hotel’ look and feel. This often includes outdoor kitchens, swimming pools and comfortable seating areas. Budget and space have to be considered of course. There’s something about arriving at a boutique hotel that makes you feel instantly special. The stylish touches and details – the ambience – make the whole experience very glamorous and ‘Instagrammable’. Our clients have realised that they don’t have to travel far to experience this ‘5-star’ feeling. They can create it themselves at home and elevate it with some professional garden design inspiration too.
A boutique hotel is a luxury experience which ‘blurs the line between traditional residential and commercial spaces’ according to interior designer Kelly Wearstler. When clients dream of extending this look and feel to their outdoor spaces, the impact on the landscape design includes scaling up wherever possible with large, bold design strokes. Attention to detail and craftmanship remains essential. This includes beautiful finishing edges to the lawn and flower borders, stone paving that feels good enough to walk on barefoot. Gorgeous garden furniture and colourful planting schemes that will look good all year round are part of the brief too.
Such stylish gardens are very appealing. Our lovely clients tell us that they transform the way they use their outdoor space. Clients, their families and friends gain enormous pleasure from cooking together, dining outside, playing/swimming or just relaxing in beautiful surroundings. It can feel just like a holiday! Some of the most popular features (e.g. outdoor kitchens, swimming pools) can require quite high energy usage of course. We always try to steer our clients towards the most sustainable solutions.
Over the last year, we have found that people are truly engaging with their gardens and connecting with them in more varied ways. This could be a temporary trend. But we believe that it runs deeper than that. It could be a permanent change of mindset about the role our gardens can play in our everyday lives. In addition, many people are turning more towards naturalistic gardens. They recognise them as a sanctuary and retreat from the stresses and strains of daily life. Conversely, others have decided to recreate a holiday feel in their gardens. These clients are taking the opportunity to create a ‘5-star’ boutique hotel experience at home.
If you are planning ahead for a garden transformation project this year, or simply some garden improvements, then we hope this has helped you to consider what is most important to you. What has the lockdown experience taught you about how you like to engage with your garden? What new ways did you find to make use of your outdoor space? And – stylistically – are you looking for a naturalistic retreat or an extension of your home’s interior design? What sources of garden design inspiration have you discovered for yourself? Of course, it’s possible to blend a number of different design influences together, creating a bespoke dream garden that is just right for you.
At The Garden Company we recognise that it can be difficult to know where to start with a garden transformation project. We provide an end-to-end design and landscaping service that supports our clients every step of the way. This begins with ideas full of garden design inspiration and following through with landscaping craftmanship. Our aim is to make the process of transforming underused spaces into much-loved dream gardens both simple and rewarding. We embrace the challenge of working with gardens of all sizes. We believe that what unites them all is an authentic feel that effortlessly ties the spaces we transform to the home and its surroundings. All completed gardens shown were designed and built by James Scott/The Garden Company.