At the start of spring, when the more awful of the winter weather has finally swanned off elsewhere, it can be very tempting to whizz out and buy up any old patio set for the garden. There are so many mismatched suites gumming up the space that should be as neat and elegant as the front of house styling. There are many suppliers of the cheaper plastic sets – these are fine for everyday when the children are haring about knocking things over but if you want to entertain in a more upmarket manner, cocktails at the yardarm and all that, then the better sets of seating are called for. One is judged by guests if the wrong set up is visible. There are a couple of truly awesome online sites that supply all manner of patio corner suites and table sets – they come in cane, teak, polypropelene – being unbreakable, they can withstand some fairly hefty treatment too.
When we talk about home interiors it is usually the design, colour scheme or the furnishing ensemble that takes much of our interet. We are bombarded by television and magazine advertising campaigns to visit this store or that and to have these windows or that furniture. There are millions and millions of pounds spent every year to entice us to do a bit of updating and as a nation, we do tend to follow that urge.
What we tend not to do very often is to look long and hard at the efficiency of the houses we live in – how much is it costing to run the house. There are the mandatory outgoings such as council tax, water rates, energy supplies, before we even open an eyelid each day. The latter could be greatly reduced if we also engaged the services of efficient interior design and lighting specialists to help us get the best out of our homes for now and the future.
There are many things about modern living that differ greatly from when I was growing up. In those days we were expected to eek out Dad’s income by growing all our own fruit and vegestables. This was quite normal for many families anyway – there being far less shops available, we would have gone pretty hungry without the home grown produce. We had a nice grassy patch to play on and a few paving slabs arranged outside the back door. My parents would put out their deck chairs on high days and hiolidays. The patio table was in fact an upturned orange or potato box with a tea towel over it. My how much more sophisticated things are today. With really lovely patio sets and to set off a warm autumnal evening, we can have lighting schemes to enhance the shrubbery. Professional installation is critical to ensure safety – cutting corners is never a good idea.
When you open your garden for local village neighbours to visit for a fund raiser, it is critical to include somewhere for your patrons to sit and while away the odd few minutes with that all essential cup of tea and selection of home made cakes. Having toured a set of gardens recently, I was struck by the care and attention to detail that some owners showed. The tea tents varied between simple large parasol shaped shelters to full gazebo affairs. The chairs and tables were all substantial, whether the much derided plastic sets or the full blown teak patio tables and matching chairs. Once the oil cloth table covers, pegged to table legs, and seat cushions are in place and very gratefully being used by the hoardes of visitors, then no one actually cares a jot about the materials or age – in fact I watched some of the husbands quite clearly deciding the newer plastic chair ensembles were going to suit them and Madame’s substantial frames more safely! These are definitely things to take into consideration if one has ambitions to join in opening the garden.
There cannot be a better time to think about having the garden spruced up and lighting installed than actually in the middle of a cold damp winter! It’s actually then that you realise the limitations of your outside space. What looks lovely and light and airy in the summer can take on a seriously cramped and unlovely dark swamp in the winter months. The lighting outside needs an expert eye and installation. It’s not safe to just run any old cabling about, even with RSDs. A proper exterior lighting company really knows how to place the units to offer uplighting for certain areas of the shrubbery for example. If there are trees that even when denuded in winter, offer fabulous sillouette in the dark – these can be brought to amazing effect with the right angle of lighting . If there’s a combination of movement triggered security lighting is needed, they will see to it that the right control unit and wiring is safely installed.
I know of a dear old lady up the road who has sadly lost her hubby this summer. She’s trying hard to be cheerful and not get mournful but it is seriously difficult. There were so many things they used to do together, the list seems to be endless and travelling was high on it. They always looked out botanical type gardens in every city they visited. There’s something calming about wandering along immaculately cared for borders, display beds and greenhouses when you’ve been travelling. In a very hot climate these gardens are a mini oasis with lakes, ponds and other water features. Another real benefit of visiting a garden anywhere in the world is being able to see plants growing in their own natural habitat or as near as. Some plants in the desert struggle to exist but when transported to a city based botanical collection the staff ae trained to nurture and protect them so they keep up their survival.
When I was recent travels I had the chance to look round the nearly completed villa of an English couple near Paphos. They bought the plot fifteen years ago and have gradually got the palace of their dreams. Or not as it turns out. In reality it has taken on nightmare qualitities, not only for the owners, but for the poor neighbours too! the trouble with having anything built abroad is the time scales often result in the owners not being available to project manage and rather too much trust is placed on the locally supplied contractors. This villa being a prime example. The couple are from Yorkshire and by ‘eck, they like you to know it . . . they wanted a little bit of dear old England to be reflected in this new build, incuding oak staircases, oak beds, furniture, work tops, wardrobes etc. etc. Sadly, the local builders are not used to working with this hard wood and a fine mess has been made. Best laid plans of mice and . . . . .
I was visiting a fairly new acquaintance – during the first easings of the national lockdown. Whilst socially distancing I was very keen to see their garden, which I’d heard a lot about from other folk who’d experienced this well lit and landscaped joy. To be able to visit an ordinary family home with a spectacular garden is one of my life’s joys and it doesn’t often happen, so this was a treat to be enjoyed for the duration of the afternoon. Apart from lots of attractive garden furniture set out to catch the sun in different locations, there was some most attractive solid oak seating set in a crescent, raised to allow sight of a stellar feature – . . . a magnificent 1930s style brick boundaried fish pond. Quite deep in places and with the most incredible selection of fish I’ve seen in a garden or on tv! It was mesmerising, just watching them swirling around – huge koi carp. I had no idea they were so placid and relaxing to watch – a real tonic!
It can be difficult to get the right amount of lighting at home, both in the house and more especially, in the garden. At least indoors you can employ a table or side lamp, perhaps an angle poise on a springy arm – bringing flexible lighting temporarily just where it’s needed. This isn’t quite as easy in the kitchen with spot lights on a rail down the centre of the work space which leaves the kitchen in shadow if we don’t use the cooker hood light and both under cabinet fluourescents. These at least illuminate the job in hand on the work surface. The garden is another matter entirely and really needs a combination of lighting engineer and gardening expert to show which areas would benefit from uplighting and/or downlighting. Apart from knowing how to show individual specimens off to the maxium, the engineer knows everything there is to know about safety with external lighting schemes. The installation work needs careful planning throughout.
One of the beauties about a late dry springtime after a prolonged wet and very windy winter is the chance to really look around the garden and take stock of what is already there and what has yet to be bought or moved around from elsewhere. If it’s possible, standing at the end of the garden, up against the boundary and looking back towards the property – if you have a large plot, schemes have to be looked at in areas – perhaps a full scheme could be designed but only installed in stages but with the safety of any wiring to be installed in one go, so the length of the garden is already wired and sub systems added along as funds permit. This sort of action has to be handled by professionals who know about garden design and will advice which trees and shrubs would best be highlighted – it will be worth this long term planning to get the safest and most effective scheme.