Lockdown luxury living can be created by transforming our back gardens into holiday havens. As the British sun shines and we are able to entertain small groups at a social distance from our own outdoor spaces, Reena Patel taps into the expertise of Hayes Garden World’s horticultural expert, Angela Slater on how to make the most of it.
LM: Tell us a bit more about yourself and how you became a horticultural expert?
AS: I’ve always loved being outdoors and helping my father on his allotment started my love for growing vegetables. One of my earliest memories was taking side shoots off the tomatoes and I still absolutely love the smell of tomatoes growing in a greenhouse. I changed careers in my mid-forties when I went to university to study Conservation and Land Management.
I’ve always thought the earth was full of magical wonders and this led to me taking this particular degree. When I finished university, I worked in the Outdoor Plant department for several years and then I went into the field of Houseplants, writing the occasional blog for Hayes Internet.
LM: What has been your most rewarding project and why?
AS: I can’t single out any one project as I’ve loved doing every one, although I do have a particular fondness for the gardening briefs, especially if you can reiterate the need to be more environmentally conscious.
LM: Everyone is looking in and how they can improve their homes by themselves during the lockdown – what can you recommend to upgrade your garden?
AS: Why not recreate your favourite holiday destination, from sunbathing on the beach on a tropical island to sipping coffee in a quaint café on the Italian coast? For a touch of the UK countryside, try wooden garden benches and swing seats scattered throughout the garden, sited in various spots to take advantage of the shifting sunshine. Bring in a little of the heat of North Africa with the use of outdoor fire pits that double up on emanating warmth and offering outdoor cooking.
All you need to complete the authentic Moroccan look are a few rugs and some big lounging cushions, plus a multi-coloured throw. Investing in a chic stylish set of resin weave garden furniture gives you not only somewhere comfortable to relax but also an excuse to close your eyes and imagine you are somewhere far-flung like the Maldives. Of course, nothing says ‘relaxing summer holiday’ like a comfy sunlounger.
Bistro sets are ideal for a light meal or just relaxing with a refreshing drink and morning paper. Fire up a pizza oven or barbecue and pair your food with a glass of crisp white wine or an Aperol spritz and when the sun shines, you could be anywhere from Siena to Sicily.
A parasol gives you a feeling of lazing outside a pavement café and are available to cover the smallest bistro set or the largest lounge set.
Just make sure the base is on wheels so you can move it easily as the angle of the sun changes. If you want something a bit more substantial than a parasol to shelter from the sun, then a gazebo works well to give you the taste of an elegant Roman villa. Add a couple of standard rosemaries, a lavender edge to your borders and some simple elegant Italian cypresses and you’re well on your way.
LM: What are the latest trends in luxury garden design/landscaping/horticulture? Any ones to watch out for in the future when it comes to luxury living?
AS: When it comes to the luxury end of the gardening spectrum, bespoke lighting and automatic systems are definitely where you can stand out from the crowd. We are already seeing Wi-Fi come into the barbecuing market with the Traeger wood-fired grills and the Weber iGrill sending alerts to your smartphone to tell you that your food is cooked.
The luxury ranges of outdoor furniture are definitely on the rise, as people appreciate the stylish chic designs and quality workmanship and materials. Artificial grass is growing in popularity as the best quality materials are not distinguishable from the real thing and once laid, there are no bald patches to battle with, or tedious maintenance. This material suits a modern chic minimalist style of garden, being crisp and clean.
LM: What are the most desirable items the affluent client base should have on their bucket/checklist to feature in their garden?
AS: A water feature that is in keeping with the garden style is always a bonus feature; the soothing sound of running water lends itself to a relaxing afternoon in the sunshine. Comfortable outdoor furniture from a respected quality manufacturer such as Barlow Tyrie or 4 Seasons Outdoor is an absolute must for enhancing your relaxing space. A combination of stylish design and the best quality materials and construction will give years of pleasure.
If entertaining is top of your list, then a bespoke built-in outdoor kitchen is absolutely essential. Having plenty of work surfaces saves endless trips to and from the house. Incorporating a good-sized barbecue, or two, plus a pizza oven all go without saying but also consider a decent sized fridge that is large enough to keep both food and adequate drink supplies.
A plumbed-in sink is indispensable, again, saving endless trips indoors and also allowing you to quickly wash your utensils between handling raw and cooked food. If you have a large garden then a trusted gardener/handyman is not a luxury but vital to keeping down your stress levels and keeping on top of all the mundane gardening tasks. Specimen plants in huge containers can provide a stunning focal point; try citrus or cloud pruned conifers.
LM: What are the three top tips that you would recommend to someone who is about to embark on a new garden design project?
- Set down what you actually want to use the garden for; somewhere to entertain, jungle retreat, quintessentially English garden, minimalist urban, do you have the space to create more than one area, do you want to grow vegetables, do the children need their own area?
- Do your research; visit as many gardens as possible and create a scrapbook of ideas.
- Be honest with yourself; how skilled are you, do you have the time to tend a beautiful traditional garden or would low maintenance plants and fake grass be more appropriate?
LM: We are blessed to have so many beautiful British gardens right on our doorstep. If you could pick any garden in the world to visit, where would it be and why?
AS: I absolutely love Kew Gardens [which reopens from 1st June 2020]; there are so many different ecosystems, tropical, alpine, the temperate house plus many, many more. Not only are the gardens superb but the parkland is a dream to wander around, with so many different species of trees.
You can easily lose a day wandering around and every time you visit you will see something new. The Marianne North Gallery is packed with paintings to wonder at and also to be awed by the sheer bravery of a woman travelling the world and painting alone in Victorian times.
LM: If you’re not busy focusing on horticulture, where can we usually find you? What do you like to do outside of your profession?
AS: I have a smallholding in the gorgeous Lyth Valley which keeps me occupied every day, as I have several rare breed pigs. The boars do their best to wreck their pens so running repairs tend to keep me quite occupied! My little vegetable plot also keeps me quite busy over the growing season. When I do get a little free time from blogging and pig-keeping I like to paint in oils, belonging to the Ambleside and District Art Society.
LM: If you could holiday anywhere in the world where would it be and why?
AS: I already live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world: the Lake District and Lyth Valley, so everywhere else can sometimes pale in comparison. If I had to pick somewhere else, Kenya is one of the most fantastic countries. It has everything; stupendous scenery and wildlife, the most sumptuous safari lodges with fantastic food, glorious beaches and the stunning Indian Ocean.
Hayes Garden World – Where and How?
Hayes Garden World is one of the largest, most-respected family-run garden centres in the north of England, having grown and traded on the same site for over 200 years. Situated at Ambleside, in the stunning UNESCO World Heritage status English Lake District, it stocks everything you need to enhance your outdoor space.
Tel: 015394 82333
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