Getting serious in the garden
The back of our house is virtually south facing and I love a bit of sun soaking up during the summer AKA that one week if we're lucky of sunshine. However sitting on the lawn involved delicate positioning as it's on a slope and drinks of course always fell over! Couple this with our desire to somehow deal with the sheer amount of concrete in our garden and we decided to get to grips with some fairly hardcore landscaping.
So here's that next area we tackled in the garden. This is the next bit down from the steep bit at the back we'd already terraced. Read more about that here.
You might notice the gaffer in situ in the picture below. Look for his ginger furry outfit... He's one of those types that's either fast asleep or investigating everything that's going on at the most inopportune moments.
You'll have spotted the concrete slabs propped up in the picture above. Our garden is full of them, they form the pathways and create bedding spaces but loads of them are cracked or have shifted over the years. (We found an inscription in a concrete border slab dating the garden to 1971!)
We were keen to bring in more natural materials and wanted to change the steps up to the only flat piece of the garden. And then use that space to create a covered seating area where we could enjoy the afternoon into evening sun, have a drink without spilling it and also have a nicer space for when friends popped over.
Now I'm fairly confident when it comes to visualising how a room might look after some fresh paint, a new carpet and with some furniture in place. But visualising new landscaping in a garden is a totally different prospect - it's much more 3-D, if that makes sense...? So we deliberated and hatched and then abandoned plans many times before finally settling on some changes that we thought would work.
The area we wanted to change was this concrete heavy section. The two steps up were too tall, we wanted to slow down the journey between levels (especially on the way down) and generally create a space for lingering not just a thoroughfare to the back gate.
We couldn't lose the vertical concrete slabs you can see above or this top section of the garden would have likely have slipped down to the house! But here's what we did manage to create...
I think the wooden steps really help to soften the concrete and we continued these steps with some sleepers embedded into the slope and bark chippings to finish off. The steps are made from grooved decking board to prevent slipping and the very top step attached to a large reclaimed wooden sleeper, creating a nice threshold and helping to secure the steps in place.
We curved off the bedding area (on the left in the pic above) after taking up all the concrete border slabs and used edging in more natural wood to soften this area further. We kept the concrete border slabs though and created a little wall by using them horizonally. The texture and moss growing on them gave a pretty good finish - have a look below.
The next stage was to level off the old bedding section. The bulk of the work was done by eye with lots of raking and moving soil around. When we weren't working on the landscaping we kept the area covered with the membrane material you can see in the picture above to help stop weeds growing back as we didn't want to treat the area with any chemicals. The final stage involved a long piece of wood, a sledgehammer and the slow process of tapping down along the length of the wood moving it incrementally across the whole area until the soil was level, stable and ready for its final membrane covering. Let me tell you that was one workout, like the old adage of discovering muscles you never knew you had!
We finished off the levelled area with grey slate chippings, to help work with the concrete and to work as a nice neutral canvas against the greenery of the foliage around the space. The chippings were delivered to the front of the house and then transported by buckets up to the area we needed them. This is why gardeners and landscapers are so fit and healthy!
We used more decking boards to construct benches to fit into the space. I say we, I mean the Mr.
I assisted with support, encouragement and the passing of screws and regular cold drinks. We didn't have the budget to buy benches and also trying to find two affordable benches that would fit perfectly into this space was a challenge too far.
As ever our very exacting boss has the first test and final say on new things to do with the house. Here he is carrying out his inspection. Judging by the amount of time he then spent lazing around in the sun here I figure it passed his standards.
It's thirsty work this landscaping business so we popped to Aldi for refreshments (cider) and as is often the way - you pop in for 'essentials' and come out with an absolute joy of a homeware bargain. This chimenea cost about £45 and the copper top is a beautiful finishing touch.
Here are both benches all completed and in place. I forgot to mention the posts! They're treated timbers and we set them in concrete so that one day we can have a triangular awning attached to them. Excuse the very hastily thrown up fairy lights!
I really, really love this space now. It's like we've created a whole new room and we spend so much time here, even when it isn't that warm we take blankets up to hang out and chat. One of the bonuses, as well as spending good time together and with friends, is having this view of the sky.