Emma and her two sons Joe and Ben have a small, sunny inner-city garden. It's no quarter acre block but it has to meet just as many needs: space for entertaining, room for the boys to play and, of course, space for plants. Emma feels it looks untidy, disorderly and cramped. She would like a more organised space. Basically the garden has to work harder and smarter to meet the family's needs.
It's tempting to think that the best solution for a cluttered space is to clear it out but opening up a small garden just emphasises how small it is. It usually works better to divide the garden into smaller, usable areas to create an illusion of a much bigger space. Brendan has decided that one of those spaces will be a veggie patch - It will be a fun activity for the boys and a practical outlet for all their energy. The garden is perfect for it because it gets all day sun. Brendan's garden won't, however, be your traditional pumpkin patch. He wants to try something far more contemporary.
A timber deck at the rear of the garden will create more outdoor living space while integrated seating will fit a lot more people and give the garden definition. The old pavers will go in favour of a lighter, more contemporary choice. Throughout the process, Brendan plans to make extensive use of recycled timber and aged materials. Not only are they cost-effective but there's no better way to introduce that sense of permanence and history into a garden – as if it's been there forever and a day.
This little inner-city courtyard has to do a lot of things: it's a entertaining area, a play area, a place to relax in and a space in which to grow things. And remember, it was a 'little' space, so Brendan's main goal was to maximise it.
Brendan's solution? Break the space up into distinct areas and create the illusion of space through large pavers and the clever use of mirrors.
Using large concrete pavers in a grid-like formation gives the illusion of space – much more so then the previous brick paving, which tend to close the space in. Using mirrors outside might sound a little scary but they have such a strong effect in opening up a space that they're worth thinking about. Brendan placed copper piping and stainless wire in front of the mirrors to break up the reflections, and if Emma chooses to, she could grow a vine along the wire for an added feature. It also creates a safety barrier.
Most of the materials used in this make-over are recycled materials sourced from scrap yards which give the garden an earthy, solid feel. The other point to make when it comes to using recycled material is that it's good to have an open mind. You'll find that the materials will generally dictate a space for themselves.
The once-little garden now has several distinct areas:
- An entertaining area that has linked seating to the deck at the back of the garden, which has since doubled the amount of seating available!
- A small deck that has maximum effect and is covered with a pergola made of recycled material and the deck is backed by mirrors which create an illusion of space. Brendan has planted grape vines which in time will grow up and over the pergola and provide a shady space to relax in.
- A herb garden that is made up of recycled pipes and to make sure they are safe for little and adult hands, we placed plastic tubing around the edges.
The piece-de-resistance lies in the very funky and functional vegie patch,made up of what Brendan calls his 'secret weapons' – the bean spirals.These are made from extruded aluminium and PVC piping. We placed old drainage grates between the vegie rows, which serve as paths and offer a smart, functional way of getting to the gardens.
The garden is now a fun, educational and inviting space that's also functional. It's a bold garden that challenges pre-conceptions about what a garden should be.
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