We moved into our house 9 years ago, in October. It was a new house and there was nothing done with the garden. We were coming into the winter and would soon find out how water logged the garden gets in the wet months. It was destroyed and we just looked at it with the door closed as you wouldn’t dare walk on the grass from the fear of disappearing into a muddy puddle.
When the spring months came around we decided to build a shed to house our washing machine and tumble dryer and also to store tools, a lawnmower and other pieces. Then I got the bright idea to dig foundations for an extension that we would eventually build. Crazy I know but there was a method to my madness. I wanted to lay cobbles on one side of the garden – going from the back door to the newly built shed. I thought that if the foundations and sub floor were laid and poured and I would then have a clear area for the cobbles and once we built the extension the cobbles would be in the right place and not need to be moved. Crazy, I said that earlier, because as the years went on the extension that I had originally planned for is only a fraction of the size I would like it to be.
The cobbles were laid and the concrete was poured into the extension, which served as a seating area over the following years. We planted some flower beds, using log rolls to line them out and tried to enjoy what we had. The kids were small and it suited us at the time. Nathan loved to kick football and ride his trike around the back and when Jacob started to crawl in the Summer of 2013 it was easy to open the back doors on a fine day and let them enjoy all their toys. We kept the garden as nice as we could, painting the fences Wild Sage from Cupirnol and the posts were Inisfail from Dulux to match the house. We put trellis to the rear of the garden with netting behind it to stop Nathan from losing so many footballs. This was a waste of time as the day it was installed Nathan cleared the 12ft height at only 2 and half year’s old.
The grass was always a torn in my side and for years I fought with the idea of digging it up. I tried everything in my power to save it. I dug it up and put down stones and drainage to allow the water soak away. I sowed grass seeds every year, trying to thicken it up. I even spent one summer forking it weekly and throwing sand down along with seeds and feed. Nothing worked. Last summer, 2016, there was no growth, I barely cut it all summer. And when the winter months came around the surface water was worse than ever. However, the straw that broke the camel’s back was Christmas Day 2016. The boys went outside that morning in their new runners with a new football that Santa kindly brought them and they both came back in destroyed. That was it, decision made, the grass was gone.
After the Christmas madness passed I spent the next few weeks planning what I wanted. Ideas danced through my head and the excitement started. I decided to go with paving slabs. A nice concrete base and if I ever go ahead with my extension I won’t feel too bad taking then up, as opposed to if I spent a fortune on granite or some other expensive garden tile. Grey was my new love, so the slabs worked out perfectly. To add some texture and not to have a plain surface I chose the cracked ice slabs from Strong’s in Emo. They were reasonably priced as I was getting 300 or so and they delivered them within a few days. I also got the gravel, sand, bags of cement and the brick shaped curb that I used to mark out my flower beds. I thought these were a nice touch and they matched in with the colour scheme.
Another idea I had was to replace the wooden fence panels. Sean and I would spend days every year or every second year painting these panels. As you can see from the pictures they have an in and out design and the fence posts to the back were a nightmare to paint. There were also a few of the panels starting to rot and fall apart and it was either replace them with identical panels from 50-60 euro or get concrete panels for 45 euro per fence. It was a no brainer. The concrete ones were more private, easier to maintain and have a lifetime guarantee – as in, unless someone purposely tries to smash them – with great difficulty – they are not going anywhere. We replaced all the panels down one side of our garden, with our neighbours blessing and to the rear of the garden.
While all of this was being planned out and actually the day after the panels and slabs were delivered, two fence panels blew out during the night. It got very windy and when we woke up there were two panels broken on the ground. This was a sign they had to go. On the far side of the garden we decided to go with ship latting instead of the concrete panels. This was my father’s idea and adds great character to the garden and also provides great privacy. These latts come in 16ft lengths and it’s a very cost-effective way of replacing a fence. The latts were attached to the concrete uprights and run from the house to the shed. There were loads of offcuts leftover from the fence so I asked for the wood on the shed door to be replaced. It ties in nicely with the fence and gave the shed a makeover.
Before the slabs were started another phase of the design needed to be perfected – the pergola. I really wanted to define and frame our seating area and loved the idea of the pergola and in years to come having it draped with plants, climbers and fairy lights. It was suggested that I install the 6×6 uprights in steel boots to prevent them from rotting, this way they wouldn’t be in the ground and open to the elements. Concrete was poured under the four post positions and allowed to set over night. The boots were then drilled and set into the concrete using special bolts. This then provided the size and shape of the pergola and the slabs could be started. I got all the wood for the pergola and fence from Laois Sawmills in Portlaoise. Tom in there was a great help and talked me through my drawings and what I needed.
The pergola took shape quickly once the posts went up and the guy we had working for us in the garden was brilliant with his hands. Within two weeks we had our garden back and it was time to start planning the plants and the accessories. The first thing to go in was the rattan effect outdoor furniture we bought the previous September from Willoughby’s Hardware in Monasterevin. We purchased it on sale at a bargain 599.00. It is a large table with a glass top with 6 seats in grey. It came with seat pads for each of the seats and is a very sturdy set. For my birthday in February, Sean bought me the large lantern that is positions beside the pergola post. It is such a beautiful addition to the garden and I have battery operated candles inside that light up to create a nice ambience.
We widened our flower beds and most of what was there got destroyed during the build, so we were starting from scratch. But before we could plant anything the fences had to be painted. Sean sealed them with PVC Polybond and then I gave it three coats of white paint. My intention was to paint them a light grey but when the three coats of white was finished I loved it. It just made the whole place look so much bigger and it was so bright. I used the grey to paint the pebble dash at the back of the house so as not to waste it and it helped finish the area with block colours. I used the left over white paint to paint the shed and window sills.
The canopies to the back of the house are door canopy’s and can be found on done deal. I ordered them in April and at the time I couldn’t find anything like it in Ireland. We ship a lot of equipment from China through work so I contacted the supplier over there and ordered what I wanted. It was important to have a good overhang from the house as I wanted to be able to use the BBQ pictured even if it was raining. The overhang I requested was 1.5m from the wall and each panel or canopy is 1m wide. I got 5 of them and they slot together like a jigsaw. The gutter at the top of the house stops any water coming down the wall side of the canopy and then the overhang of 1.5m gives great shelter when it’s raining. I can open my back doors in any weather and not worry about the rain coming inside or even wetting the doors.
Leading onto the BBQ. This started out as just the BBQ, which is in the centre of the unit. It was gifted to be in February as a birthday present. I always wanted an outdoor kitchen and ran the ideas by the powers to be in work. It spiralled from there. The BBQ was built into a 2.4m mobile unit, with drawers for storage and a bottle cooler for all those parties that I hope to have. On the right-hand side of the BBQ is a 2 ring cooker and the other side is a work surface. The BBQ is a 4 burner Smeg Commercial BBQ and is very powerful. It comes with a drawer for water underneath the burners to aid in cooking, and this helps keep the food moist and not charred. The fabricators in work built a hood for the unit to finish it off. It’s on wheels and open to the back for ventilation. I am in love with it and hopefully will have loads of lovely meals from this over the years.
The next thing to arrive was the playhouse. I got very claustrophobic in the house with all the toys and they were taking over everywhere. This was purchased from Moody brothers in Kildare and as soon as its insulated in the coming weeks and the electricity is in it I will do a separate blog post about it.
The idea behind doing the garden up like this was to reduce the maintenance and to try enjoy it more. I wanted to create a space outside that felt like an extension of the house and like an extra room. On a sunny day with the back doors wide open and a light warm breeze in the air, it’s like a little bit of heaven. The boys don’t use the garden to play or kick ball anymore now that they are that bit older. They love to be out the front on the green with their friends, so it seemed like the perfect time to turn the garden into a space we could all use.
I bought a few pieces from Homestore and More to stick up on the fences and some picks to stick out between the flowers. This will all add to the character of the garden. I also have some windchimes to add a melody to the wind. With the good weather coming to an end this year, the work outside has come to a halt. It is my intention to light up the pergola with fairy lights and hang an outdoor heater on one of the overhead rafters. I have gazebo curtains to surround the pergola on a cold night and some cloth canopies for overhead. With some more growth on the climbers the pergola will be a vision of beauty, wrapped in green foliage and draped in blossoms.
As I said earlier the flowers I planted this year were all new with one exception, which was the Californian Lilac in the corner of the garden. I bought most of the plants from Glanbia/Country Life in Monasterevin and a few climbers and bedding from Pat Coopers Hardware in Portarlington. Pat gave me a feed to sprinkle over my garden and told me it would take up to two weeks to work. He wasn’t far off the mark and when we returned from 10 days away in June the garden was like a jungle of green, with amazing colours peeping through and beautiful scents. I will add the details of the plants below, I should have most of the tags at home.
I hope you enjoyed the tour around my little piece of heaven …………………………..
To be continued