Seeds of an idea: Outdoor solutions

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If you’re willing to improvise and invent and break the rigid rules of the garden centre, your outdoor space will really start to flourish, suggests an inspirational new book

It was so simple in the olden days. Our parents dragged us round the garden centre on a Sunday afternoon. We complained bitterly about having to miss Glen Michael’s Cavalcade to look at crazy paving or plastic Grecian urns. What, we whined, was wrong with this lovely gnome? Or this delightful wishing well?
No longer. Today’s gardens must be dressed and acces­sorised like a fashion editor in the front row of London Fashion Week. Flea-market finds, country collectables and architectural salvage have replaced the white plastic table and chairs that stuck to the back of our thighs during the long hot summers of childhood.
In her new book Gardenalia, Sally Coulthard guides the nervous garden stylist through these myriad possibilities. Mixing case studies with practical sections, this is a hands-on manual as well as an inspirational look book. Those dreary items of our parents’ generation suddenly have the potential to be quirky and fun.

“My potting shed was created from scrap. Despite its patched roof and wonky door, it is a cherished, deeply practical space”

Take fencing, an item that could not excite even the most enthusiastic garden centre shopper. In Coulthard’s world, however, it’s an opportunity to use driftwood, reclaimed floorboards, scaffolding planks and branches from coppiced or pruned trees. Flooring suggestions include reclaimed bricks, stone offcuts, pebbles and greener alternatives to decking. “Most people head straight for their local DIY store for cheap timber,” she writes, “but reclaimed wood offers a rich source of characterful and inexpensive flooring for your outdoor space.”
Gardenalia by Sally CoulthardShe also identifies the contents of the glass recycling bin and damaged flowerpots as potential ground cover. “Upturned wine bottles set into the ground make a sparkling visual display and a robust non-slip surface from a material that might otherwise end up in landfill. Terracotta pots soon get broken in frosty conditions but a resourceful gardener can turn rubbish into recycled flooring by arranging loose pieces into a cohesive pattern.”
She has some ingenious ideas for breaking up larger spaces. “Balcony railings, fencing, gates, radiators, handrails, grilles, bed-heads, sections of glasshouses, radiator covers, drain covers, enamel signs, reinforcing mesh, fireplace screens, window guards and pressed tin panels” can all be called into service as metal screens. Old doors and windows can “create fantastical focal points. Unlike walls and solid screens, they don’t entirely close off a space. They entice the visitor to feel that there is more to explore.”

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This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with stunning pictures on pages 223-226, issue 89.

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Words Anna Burnside
Gardenalia by Sally Coulthard is published by Jacqui Small (£30)

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