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The picture above is where we are with the garden right now. The horticultural tidy up has been done, and I am now at the very enjoyable stage of ordering furniture, deciding on colour schemes, and buying garden accessories.
I’ve finally got a 12ft dining table and benches in, and one sun lounger, and need to have a think about what will go on the back patio, which is really crying out for some kind of outdoor living space feel. Maybe an outdoor sofa?
Overall, I’m going for a cream, grey and blue scheme, with the odd bit of colour – as with the pretty wisteria print Ralph Lauren tablecloth above.
Last week I showed you the garden where it was in late May after we had done some serious gardening back in April. This picture above is where we were before we got started, with the revolting dead, caterpillar-ravaged box hedge and the vegetable patch jungled behind the double sun lounger.
I hired a local gardener/handy man who did the brute force work. He dug out the dead box hedge, weeded all the borders and beds, dug over the vegetable patch, weeded and cleared all the flagstones and patios, pruned all the hedges, and helped arrest the gradual encroachment of the Virginia creeper.
That post was all about the work we had done, and the beginning of the planting scheme. Now that the plants are in, and the window boxes and baskets are filled, I wanted to show you what the garden now looks like before we receive the final furniture and finishing touches.
THE DOUBLE SUNLOUNGER
Some of you will remember the amazing double sun bed that I bought from eBay last summer.
It turned out that eBay was one of the only places I found that actually sells a double lounger for a price that won’t bankrupt. It took quite a bit of head scratching for two of us to assemble – the instructions seemingly written in Martian but, of all things I’ve bought, foraged, found, and been given by my family for my garden, it’s arguable that it’s my favourite purchase so far.
I really wanted a wide enough sunbed so that Lettice could snooze next to me whilst I worked (otherwise she demands to sit on my lap and it’s quite tricky to do the writing with a Tiny Dog under the keyboard), and space to put papers and books next to me whilst I worked. It cost around £100 (including the much-nicer-than expected grey water-resistant cushions),
Edited summer 2019 to add: I’ve removed the link, because sadly eBay no longer stocks these double loungers, and I can’t find any dupes at a similar price at other retailers. The nearest is this one from Cox & Cox. (I covet their double sun lounger cushion too.)
GARDEN PARASOLS, BANANA UMBRELLAS & PARASOL WEIGHTS
Parasols are vital in a garden that gets direct sunlight: the smaller cream parasol was £35 from Argos Home. God I love Argos – there’s one on Camden High Street and they do FREE same day delivery. The much larger 3 metre banana umbrella to go over the dining table I found on eBay for around £50. (It’s called a banana umbrella because it curves over tables that don’t have a central hole for an umbrella.)
What I didn’t realise what that you also have to buy parasol weights to hold the stand down, and these will cost another £50. At this point I had run out of money for the garden, so I used heavy plant pots to weigh it down, which were not ideal, but just about did the job unless there were very high winds.
THE OUTDOOR GARDEN DINING TABLE
I thought long and hard about what to do for a summer garden table. My mother has always had really lovely wooden ones, but the problem with them is that over winter they always weather and they end up looking very grey.
Whilst I don’t dislike that look, it seems like an awful lot of money to pay for a table that ends up looking extremely battered. I also really like the idea of being able to clear the garden space completely, whether that’s just over winter, or when I want to host a party in the garden in the summer. So what I eventually invested in was an 8 foot bog-standard, folding plastic table with metal legs which I found on Ebay. It’s also not nearly as heavy as a wooden table, and comes with a handle so I can move it myself when folded up.
It’s absolutely perfect for what I need because I just cover the white plastic top with a pretty wipe clean tablecloth and no one has any idea that underneath isn’t a smart garden table. As here:
Blue & White insect plates: Vintage Coalport Cairo (plenty on eBay here). Organic Cotton Tablecloth: H&M Home Conscious in Light Grey £9. Padded Seat Cushions & Candle Lanterns: Homesense (bought with a gifted voucher last year). Vintage cutlery: Sourced on Ebay. Glasses: Pokal by IKEA. Water Bottle: Graham & Greene.
GARDEN OUTDOOR TABLE SEATING
So, table purchased, I then had to think about seating. Again I decided to go with something practical that wouldn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting if they needed to be moved. So what that meant was benches instead of chairs. So much easier to store too.
My first interim purchase was a couple of varnished pine German beer hall benches from eBay which fold up too, and come in a set with a matching table for £60. These are a great buy, and amazing value, although the actual table is a bit high for children and I use it now as a side table against the wall for buffets and for drinks.
Then, for a housewarming present my mother very kindly bought me the same John Lewis Croft Collection Islay bench that she had in her garden. So on one side I have a wooden beer bench and on the other a smart John Lewis one!
I already know from my experience of hers that they’re not only extremely comfortable but really wide too, which means that nobody’s bottom is hanging over the sides. I also know that they over-winter extremely well even without a covering because my mother’s benches looks as good as new a year on. It was also a doddle to assemble from its flatpack.
Now I just need to find a couple of armchairs for either end and then the table seating will be complete.
Summer 2019 bench update: If you’re looking for garden benches, then sadly John Lewis have discontinued the brilliant Croft Islay bench. This year’s version is the Croft Collection Burford Bench. It’s also worth looking at Made.com, who have some fantastic garden benches here. I’d quite like a pair of these acacia benches, in the sale for £129 each
CUSHIONS & SEAT PADS
Last summer I bought a bunch of dark grey and cream seat pads from Homesense as part of collaboration I did with the brand. I love them so much that I went back this spring and spent my own money in the big Homesense up on the North Circular buying a whole load more in slightly different prints, a feather one which you can see on the sun lounger, and more in cream and black which I’ve used on the benches here.
Homesense don’t sell online in the UK, but sister company TK Maxx have these really great seat pads in grey, and in yellow, (£12.99 a pair), these beige seat cushions (£16.99), this bargain pack of four pale yellow striped seat pads for £19.99, and I’ve got my eye on this cream & orange pouffe for the garden (£29.99).
(I haven’t cut the ties off my seat pads in case I want to use them on actual seats in the future.) The pale blue linen cushion covers on the sun lounger were also from Homesense.
THE OUTDOOR CARPET
I’ve always loved the idea of outdoor carpets but they are surprisingly hard to find if you don’t want to pay a huge amount of money. Last summer (picture below) I actually put some of my old vintage rugs out in the garden but, if you don’t catch them on time when it rains, they start to emit a very musty smell so not really a very practical solution unless you really know you’re going to have a non-stop heat wave.
Eventually after seeing a piece in The Sunday Times Home section, I tracked down one that wasn’t too hideous in my local Carpetright in Camden. (Because they don’t sell them online.) It’s a beige and cream square pattern in durable polyurethane which can be jet washed and left out all summer because it’s waterproof.
And, as you can see from the pictures, Lettice absolutely loves it.
BUYING GARDENING SUPPLIES
For general gardening I did a big online order from Wilko – there isn’t an actual bricks and mortar store nearer me than Edgware or Wembley, so I had no idea what an Aladdin’s Cave it is for garden stuff until I started Googling for inexpensive hanging baskets. It’s basically a Woolies for the 21st century, packed full of everything that I wanted.
I bought a whole series of terracotta plant pots (that’s one in the sun lounger pics filled with a white hydrangea), a mini greenhouse (£10!), compost, and vermiculite for my seedlings, hanging baskets, coco fibre basket liners (which are surprisingly hard to find elsewhere), and various twines and tools.
THE HANGING BASKETS
I’m most pleased with the sage green hanging baskets – such a pretty colour, and an astonishing £3.50 each. I bought two – and two for my mother. This one above I filled with pale pink fuchsias, white and lilac pansies, creamy Nicotiana (tobacco plants – they are night scented so one gets a lovely waft in the evenings), and variegated ivy, all of which I bought from my local Morrison’s in Camden.
This is the second of the two hanging baskets and, although it got the tail end of what I had left over, it’s no less pretty for all that: lavender, creamy lime nicotiana (because the slugs eat it if I plant it in the borders), the palest pink fuchsias, and some more trailing ivy.
I am a big, big fan of Morrison’s garden section; they’ve been using the same British family supplier for over twenty-five years, and the range of plants that they sell is extraordinary. These pretty violas were also from there, and, with judicious dead-heading, have stayed alive all through the heatwave so far. All the herbs came from there too.
The zinc window boxes were from Primrose, an online garden retailer. I bought two short 60cm ones for either side of the sitting room garden door (amazing value for £9.99 each), a much longer one – 80cm – for the kitchen window sill herb garden (£14.99), and two for my front window boxes, which are filled with lavenders, white geraniums and purple pansies. (All from Morrison’s.)
From Primrose I also bought a packet of 1.8m Bamboo Canes (Pack of 20 for £24.99), to stake sweet peas and runner beans (if I ever get round to planting my seedlings), and well-priced very large 40cm terracotta planters (£12.99 each).
OUTDOOR SIDE TABLE
Because I’m going for an outdoor living room feel in the garden, (there’s no lawn and just stone slabs so there’s no point in pretending it’s a traditional garden space), I wanted to look for a small table to put next to the sun lounger.
As so often happens, I defaulted to IKEA. My local branch is a 20 minute drive away and I’ve been going there for so many years now that I have my IKEA visits down to a fine art. I can leave home at 2115hrs, arrive at the store, find my goods, pay, and be home by 2215.
The sage-green GLADOM metal side table (£15) I bought splits into two parts: the stand and the tray which sits on top. This is great because, as it lives in the garden, it gets dirty with leaves and mud from watering the flowers in their pots, so I can just take it into the kitchen and give it a good scrub every week.