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Make the most of your outdoor space

An expert guide

If you’re after some inspiration or already planning a renovation for your outdoor space, here are some expert tips to help.

Ready to get more from your great outdoors?

Whether you’re after more outdoor space to socialise in or a quick fix to freshen up your rented garden, there are a number of areas to consider.

We’ve gathered top tips from experts – including gardener and author Bob Flowerdew, Houzz.co.uk editor Victoria Harrison, Gardens Trust president Dominic Cole, and the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) chair Sarah Morgan – to help you enjoy your summer.

Where to start

Before you kick into planning mode, consider what you want to get out of your outdoor space.

“Do you want to add value or grow food?” asks author Bob Flowerdew. “Once you know your most important parameters, it’s easier to plan.”

Assess the shape, size and slope of your land and think about which plants, materials and colours you like. If you’ve visited any gardens you particularly liked, try to pin down exactly what appealed to you.

Images from magazines and websites can also inspire you. Houzz – an online community for home renovation and design – is filled with inspiration and advice to help with each stage of the planning process.

But don’t go overboard, says Gardens Trust president and landscape architect Dominic Cole.

“Never do more than what is needed to create an effect. Considering everything from where the sun shines to the levels of your land can help you do just what’s needed.”

Timeframes and costs

The time and cost of doing up your outdoor space will depend on the size and scope of the work.

If you are renting, adding a few pot plants and a fresh lick of paint could cost under £200. A small-scale makeover – such as adding a trellis, painting and limited planting – could cost up to £1,000. However, a larger renovation can take months and cost thousands.

“For larger-scale work, a good measure is to expect to pay as much as you would for a kitchen or bathroom makeover – which can cost about £5,000 for an average job,” Dominic says.

“It’s important to be honest about your budget, particularly if you’re working with a professional,” says SGD chair Sarah Morgan. “A designer will produce tailor-made designs to match the amount you specify. If you under-estimate you could restrict the initial creative concept, but if you over-estimate you could be disappointed when it’s scaled down.”

Small space? No problem

Houzz.co.uk editor Victoria Harrison says several tricks can help you make the most of your garden – even if it’s limited in size.

“Transforming tiny plots is a real interest for our users. We see so many clever tips from the Houzz community, including flexible seating, hanging baskets and mirrors.”

“One small touch that can help is using light-coloured paint to freshen up a basement wall or fence,” Dominic says. “Plants and outdoor furniture can also help bring a small corner to life. Even a small, shady spot can be perked up and made attractive. Sometimes a few well-placed plants can transform a space. It doesn’t have to be elaborate to turn a dingy, muddy patch into an area you’ll use every day.”

Working with a professional

With larger makeovers, you might be considering a landscape architect or garden designer to help with inspiration, planning and the renovation itself. But it’s important to find one that’s right for you.

Ask prospective designers as many questions as possible, scan their websites, read references, and see if you can visit previous projects.

You should be prepared to offer to pay for a first visit from a designer to have a look around. And remember, charges and payments will vary between professionals so make sure you understand what you will be invoiced for and when.

“Find out if you like them and could envisage working together – but also if they are comfortable with the size of your project. Different designers cope with different scales of a job,” says Dominic.

If you’re looking for a garden designer, the SGD has a comprehensive tool to help you find a registered designer by postcode and area.

Tips for a painless garden makeover 

- Consider quick fixes. A hanging plant or paint-job could help you enjoy your garden this summer and give you time to plan a larger renovation
- Make a list and keep a diary. Writing down everything from contractor visits to planting plans can help you keep track
- If you’re working with a professional, discuss any issues early. Voicing your concerns as soon as possible can save time and additional cost.

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