One thing people very often ask me about is creating more space in their garden for them to sit out and simply enjoy it. This might be a place to sit and eat with friends or family, or it might be a quiet spot to sit and enjoy a morning coffee or an evening glass of wine. I call these spaces sit spots and love to create lots of them in my garden designs, giving my clients plenty of new reasons to spend time out in their gardens.
If you’d like to add this type of space to your garden, follow my top design tips below. Read on to find out how I've been putting these tips to use in my own garden this winter, to create an area that I can enjoy sitting out in all year round.
Follow these three simple steps to create a new area for you to sit out and enjoy your garden this year.
Decide what you will be doing in your new sit spot. This affects where it will be in relation to the house. A dining spot should be close to the house and easily accessible from the kitchen in particular. If you want a quiet coffee spot, it might be better to site this a little further out into the garden. A place for summer lunches would benefit from shade, whereas a morning or evening sit spot may be better out in the sun.
Think about pathways to and from your new sit spot. If you want to use it right through the year, make sure you have a good surface to walk on, even in bad weather. A quiet coffee in the garden is a lovely thing to do, even if it’s been raining and the ground is wet. Just be sure you won’t be tramping mud back into the house afterwards. Consider paved stepping stones through grass, a woodchip path or some other surface that will make your spot more accessible.
For sit spots a way down the garden, it can be nice to have both a fast and a slow route for getting there. Slow routes can take in a tour of interesting parts of the garden, while quick routes mean you can easily whizz back to the house for that forgotten bottle opener or biscuit tin!
Think about what you will see as you approach your sit spot. Consider putting a beautiful feature right behind or next to your seat. Or you could site your seat within an existing lovely view up the garden, next to a key feature within this view. Good features could be a garden tree, a beautiful shrub, or a great view out of the garden. This lovely sight will draw you out to your new seat all the more often.
Sit in your new seat and decide which way you want to look from there for another great view. Consider enhancing this view by planting a specimen tree, a beautiful flowering shrub, adding a bird bath or piece of garden sculpture. Great garden trees include Serviceberry, Rowan and Szechuan Strawberry (see photo below). Interesting shrubs include Aronia, Hydrangea paniculata and Buddleia.
This winter, I’m creating a more interesting view from one of my sit spots in the forest garden – I'm working on the scruffy area to the left of the table in the photo below. I’m going with a blue and white colour theme, for a restful look, and everything needs to be really low maintenance here. This is a fairly wild part of the garden, where I mix up organised beds alongside meadow patches. In summer, it's one of my favourite places to be, but in winter, as it is right now, it does feel a little bleak!
For the new area I'm developing, I'm breaking into one of the meadow patches to create a bank of shrubs and perennials at the base of an existing young tree. This forms the view as you walk along one of my main routes through the garden and as you can see, it's also the view from my little seating area.
I’ve already planted out some beautiful, edible, off-white day lilies, from the lovely Liz and Fiona at New Hope Daylilies and have plans to add some evergreen Myrtle behind that, to keep it interesting in winter and for their gorgeous starburst white flowers in summer. Blackcurrant is also going in, as a sun-loving, easy care fruit. This will mix up the colour scheme, giving me a fresher green leaf, a little autumn colour and, of course, lots of dark blue/black berries in summer.
In front of the daylilies, I already have a very young, ground hugging juniper - another evergreen for winter interest, with its lovely blue, spiky foliage. At the moment, there’s an area of rough grass in front of this juniper. I really like to include long grasses - they look great in the summer and are so good for beneficial insects, providing food for butterfly larvae and winter hideouts for beetles and moths. So I'm keeping the grass, but to make it more attractive, I’d really love to add some meadow cranesbill (aka blue hardy geranium), which will grow happily through the grass and will add some delightful blue edible flowers for my summer salads.
So I have some nice jobs to keep me busy right now and into the Spring and best of all, I have some lovely new features to really look forward to later this year and in years to come.
If you're planning any new areas in your garden this year, let us know what you're up to in the comments below. If you'd like help thinking through any of your plans, get in touch to book a one to one session with me. I'd be delighted to help!