AD | This post is part of a paid partnership with HIPPOWASTE.
Our garden makeover is complete (well, almost)! We started back in March and it’s been a mega slow project as we began just a couple of weeks before full lockdown so getting hold of the materials we have needed along the way has been very tricky and each order took weeks to arrive. I’m sorry that I’ve been banging on about it so much but this is my very first garden, having lived in flats before we moved here, so I’ve been really excited about it. We both feel really proud of what we’ve achieved over what has been a very difficult time balancing jobs and full time childcare. I hope you agree that we have done well with what we have got on a very tight budget; our house is very modest, covered in brown pebbledash with uPVC everything and the garden has no lovely features like brick walls or the like so it’s never going to be my ‘dream space’ but I’ve come to realise that that really doesn’t matter because we are so lucky to have what we have and I really love it here. We’ve done nothing fancy or clever whatsoever – this makeover was purely and simply about making this space feel more like ‘us’ and most importantly making it work for our family on a practical level.
And this is what it looked like in March…
When we first bought the house we really didn’t consider how much there was to do on the outside of the house or how much it would cost. I remember going to a friend’s house who lives locally and she’d had all the fencing re-done, re-turfed and a new patio laid and it cost her £18k and I nearly fainted with shock! I came home and looked at our garden and thought there was just no way we would ever be able to afford to do what was needed to make it a nice space. The concrete was the real mental block for me as I couldn’t see a way around making it work but I also couldn’t figure out who would come and dig it out let alone how we’d dispose of it. When HIPPOWASTE got in touch with me about collaborating on a project of my choosing I wondered if this could be the way to dispose of the concrete and after reading about their different waste bags I realised we could make this happen. We used their MEGABAGS and they worked perfectly for all the hardcore waste we needed to remove. You can see more about the process in this post that I wrote a couple of months ago. I think knowing about how to dispose of waste holds a lot of us back from DIY projects so I’m really pleased to have worked with HIPPO.
We didn’t actually plan to do as much as we’ve done but once we started the wheels in motion by removing the concrete we could see it was going to take more than just a quick patch up to make the garden a nice place to spend time so we rolled with it and this is what we have done:
- Removed the concrete (we didn’t do this ourselves as it was a massive amount of labour!)
- Cleared the garden of brambles and weeds (we were literally left with not a single plant)
- Re-positioned the fence to gain back some of our garden from our neighbour and a side access gate
- Built a deck
- Laid turf where the concrete had been down the side of the garden
- Created a pergola
- Did a big garden clear out of junk that was here when we moved in hidden under brambles as well as bits of ours that we dumped at the end of the garden after DIY jobs
- Dug out flower beds and planted
- Got the house painted (we didn’t do this ourselves either).
Mario and Jimi from JA Whitney Building Contractors did brilliant jobs removing the concrete and painting the house respectively. We knew full well that we didn’t have the time, tools or energy for those jobs. However, Jules was very excited about building the raised deck and he’s done a fantastic job – it looks very professional. It cost us a fraction of what it would have done if we’d paid someone to do it for us. It extends our living space so well and I decided it would work well to have an outdoor lounge set on the deck to make it a place to relax. The beautiful furniture was gifted by Cox & Cox and it is SO comfortable as the seats are so deep and the cushions sort of mould to your body (it’s called the Ravello Lounge Set and it’s actually sold out now). It is made of hardwood so will last and last and the deck wood will silver over time so the two will begin the merge into one another. You can often find me lying out on the sofa with a big cushion and I genuinely choose to sit here rather than inside, which says a lot. Mimi loves sitting out here at breakfast time and it’s perfect for socially distanced drinks!
The deck itself is nearly finished – just the bottom board to be attached – and we hope to add a planter on the edge for herbs. You can find out more deck details in this post.
We have trailed my potted Wisteria that I started growing about seven years ago up the back of the house. It was never happy on our sixth floor Bermondsey balcony because of the wind and since moving here it has doubled in size so I hope it will flourish and bush out in this new spot as it gets full sun here until about 2.30pm. As you can see the white paint has made ALL the difference!
Without doubt painting the house white has made an enormous difference but the other thing we are really pleased about is the fact that we managed to re-position our fence to claim back a few feet of garden that had been taken over by the neighbour many years ago. You can see on the left picture above that the fence angled into the garden and so the garden ended up being just the width of the house even though the house is semi detached and has a large side access. However, we pushed the fence back so that we now have more space and a side access gate that we also fitted (think I’ll paint that at some point). Having the extra space is great and it makes the house look bigger too! If we’d had a bigger budget I would have loved to have used nicer fencing but I plan to grow climbing plants all over it so it should vanish under green soon.
The other space we have created is a dining area under the Wisteria that comes over from our neighbour’s garden. The half pergola was really cheap and a bit of an emergency buy last autumn as the Wisteria was dragging on the ground after removing an old shed that was here. We now think we may need to erect our own pergola as I’d like to add a rambling rose as there’s a big gap at the end so there’s not enough shade at lunchtime. However, it is the most magical place to eat, especially when the wisteria flowers were in bloom. I will look forward to the month of May for years to come to be able to sit beneath those flowers. The Hogsten dining chairs are from IKEA and are super comfy and the table was a £10 Facebook marketplace job so I just put a tablecloth on it.
We kept as much lawn as possible as Mimi and Otto run riot around here. We need to continue to improve the existing lawn as we couldn’t re-turf all of it at the same time as that would have made the garden out of bounds for four weeks, which considering lockdown was not a good idea. We laid new turf where the concrete had been and that has helped to make the garden feel wider.
The next thing we need to focus on is to deal with the back 4 metres of garden that is sort of hidden under the huge tree at the bottom. We currently have three big outdoor storage boxes there and Mimi’s play kitchen so we have ordered a trellis screen to tuck the storage boxes behind on the left and then we will make a dedicated play space for Mimi on the right with a swing hung from the tree above. Eventually Jules will build himself a workshop in the space which is why we don’t have a shed 9 we removed the one that was here when we bought the house that you can see below).
I focused on making curves in the garden when creating the two beds either side as the garden is so long and rectangular. The two oval shaped lawns make the garden look wider and give a bit more interest than just a long rectangular strip of lawn. The planting I have done will hopefully be tall and floaty with a Lilac, Ceanothus and Acer trees for height. I have also planted a climbing Hydrangea to cover the right fence and come up on to the deck behind the sofa and climbers on the left fence too. My aim is to make all of the fencing disappear under green and the deck to be wrapped up by plants at the front and sides.
We would like to lay cobble style stones here under the pergola and make the pergola bigger and stronger to create a proper shaded spot for lunches. We’re going to take a break from the DIY for a bit as tempers are starting to fray doing DIY at the weekends!
So far we have spent about £3000 having the concrete removed, new fencing and side access gate, building the deck, laying turf, pergola, planting (so expensive!!) and waste disposal. Considering how much we have saved living under lockdown and not having any holidays this year it’s not too much of a hit and what we have gained in return is invaluable.
We are all so happy with the space and the potential to do more in the future. Jules has big plans for a workshop at the bottom of the garden so watch out for that. In the meantime you can find me on my outdoor sofa under the parasol soaking it all up and feeling very grateful.