Before & After: My contemporary garden makeover on a budget
This is a paid partnership written in collaboration with Wyevale Garden Centres
I am so, so excited to finally be able to reveal the results of my contemporary garden makeover on a budget that I’ve been working on with Wyevale Garden Centres since the beginning of May. I know everyone loves a good Before & After and this one has been a real transformation, I almost don’t recognise it myself – it’s gone from a hideously overgrown mess that we were embarrassed to look at to a clean, contemporary urban oasis that we can relax in and enjoy.
With a few minimal, uncomplicated design choices, the space feels so much bigger and brighter. It feels like we’ve gained an extra few metres of space, but it’s really just down to a couple of clever spatial tricks and a hell of a tidy-up. The key thing for me with this garden makeover was simplicity – I wanted something that was fuss-free and easy to maintain, I didn’t want to spend a fortune on hard landscaping or expensive finishes. The focus instead was on creating a clean backdrop for relaxing and entertaining – a calm, peaceful retreat – somewhere to read a book, soak up the sunshine and savour slow evenings with friends and a glass or two. It’s a flexible space that can grow and evolve with us, from day to evening, from summer to autumn.
My contemporary garden makeover plans
It took the gardener the best part of a day to clear the garden of all the bamboo and weeds. Finally we could see the full size of the garden and the fencing that had been hidden behind months of overgrown foliage. We had been fighting a bit of a losing battle with the weeds really, and had just left it to do its thing while we focused on renovating the inside of the house.
A new layer of membrane was laid down and secured in place before the Cotswold Stone Chippings could be arranged on top. I decided to remove a section of the existing patio tiles to give a greater illusion of space and create a bbq area with a table and chairs tucked around the corner of the old extension (a straight section of paving and then pebbles seemed to visually cut the garden off in two, making it appear smaller than it actually is). Having that little indent by the side return of the house makes the garden appear longer and creates a shady nook under the jasmine for a chair. The light colour of the stones makes the garden feel more generous and gives a bright feel to the north-facing space, even if the sun disappears by 5pm in the summer.
We installed some new contemporary slatted fencing at the end of the garden and painted it black to contrast with the cream chippings. The look is smart and minimal, softened by the texture of the old brick walls and the elegant clusters of greenery. I think the deep, dark colour makes the plants look so fresh and vibrant.
And that’s as simple as it was – a pure base with a cohesive colour scheme, ready to add furniture, details and accessories. I deliberately extended the chippings right to the edges of the garden and didn’t have decorative, floral borders as I felt that would make this small garden feel even smaller. It seemed more modern to have a large open space and a couple of carefully positioned, big, black planters rather than lots of little pots and several separate sections to the garden.
You’re spoilt for choice, colours and varieties when you enter a Wyevale Garden Centre, but I choose to deliberately keep my plant scheme pared-back and minimal – picking out three colours (white, green and purple-y black) so as not to overcomplicate things. I bought a Fatsia to give a punch of greenery and a fig tree to add some height. Elsewhere, inspired by the jasmine which grows over the neighbouring wall, I’ve selected plants for their fragrance, with delicate white lavender, fresh herbs and pots of green mint. The smell is amazing. I even found a variety called ‘Chocolate Cosmos’, a pretty little, dark chocolate brown-black flower that amazingly smells of chocolate!
Sticking with the simple, black theme, I got two black cube planters from Wyevale Garden Centres and filled them with purple Heucheras – their sprays of small, cream flowers look wonderfully wild. I then painted one of Wyevale’s trough planters and some old terracotta pots I had lying about the same colour as the fencing to tie the scheme together. The trough planter has some sculptural grasses interspersed with a black pop of Chocolate Cosmos, which balances with the green and the purple of the other planting in the garden.
Garden furniture and focal points
I already had a grey metal dining table and chairs for the garden so when I spotted this cool, contemporary Brighton furniture set with two egg-shaped chairs and a table in a similar shade, I knew it would tie everything together and add a beautiful accent colour. I’ve created a cosy corner in the sunniest spot of the garden, where you get the last of the evening sun – perfect for sundowners even if it does go before 6pm!
The Seventies-inspired curves add a counterpoint to all the clean, straight lines, while a little table is always useful for having drinks to hand. The deep, inviting chairs are also super comfortable and can be left outdoors which is a big plus for me. Soft accessories needn’t just be for inside either – two navy blue outdoor cushions finish the look off nicely.
But even if the sun does disappear we have a new fire pit that creates a focal point to gather round in the middle of the garden. We’ll be able to extend the use of the garden long into the evenings, especially with a few solar-powered string lights strung up in the foliage too. A couple of bamboo lanterns, lit with tea lights, will create a lovely, romantic glow as well.
So there we have it, my contemporary garden makeover – what a change! Though it must be said that a garden is rarely a finished thing, it takes time to nurture and grow. This all needs to soften, but what we’ve done is create a beautiful, clean slate to make our own. It’s something to build upon – it’s my first garden and I can’t wait to learn more about planting and cultivating. My next plan is to get another trough planter, position it nearer the kitchen window and fill it with tomatoes, lettuces and vegetables!
We’re already spending so much more time in the garden, even just being able to take out the laptop and catch up on some work in a calming, green setting makes all the difference. It fills me with joy every time I look out of the kitchen window or peer down from my desk in the back bedroom overlooking the garden. Let’s just hope British weather will stick it out for the summer!
Have you got any makeover plans for your garden? Will you be sprucing it up this summer?
Finally, don’t forget to head over to my Instagram profile for the chance to win one Brighton Bistro garden furniture set (worth £169) from Wyevale Garden Centres, as featured here!
Simply click on the photo of my garden in my Instagram feed and follow the instructions: make sure you’re following both myself (@catesthill) and @wyevalegc, and like and tag a friend in the comments section of the competition image to enter. Good luck!
The competition is open to UK entrants only. The winner will be selected at random and announced on Friday 22nd June 2018. Please note this giveaway is not associated with or endorsed by Instagram.
Featured items [gifted by Wyevale Garden Centres]:
Brighton three piece chair and table set in dark grey, £169
Outdoor cushions in blue swipe, £12.50
Large Pittsburgh industrial fire pit, £250
Forest Caledonian trough bed (180 x 45cm), £104.99
Kelkay Cotswold Stone Chippings bulk bag 14-22mm, £149
Everything else available in stores.
Design, styling and photography: Cate St Hill
With help from Wyevale Garden Centres, a small London space gets a contemporary garden makeover, transforming from an overgrown mess to a clean urban oasis