sam_potter37

Back yard ideas

Sam Potter
16 June, 2019

In September my back yard is getting a new surface (Indian sandstone). The landscapers will be leaving a planting pocket (currently along the left side looking from the kitchen window), and providing a planting plan. The gardener who came out to quote recommended Virginia creeper for the tallest blank wall. Otherwise I'd like plants that look good all year round, and a less formal, more 'secret garden' feel. I like the idea of trees, and edibles. I get very little sun, the garden is East facing. The sun shines on the big side wall nearest the house in the morning, and has moved down to the corner near the gate by early afternoon.
I use the space as a workshop for DIY (hence the temporary rain-proof gazebo and bka J and decker workmate). We also have three bikes, which fit in the shed if nothing else is in there but currently it's full of DIY stuff.
I'd like a sitting area for two people, a small table, and a space for a barbecue. It doesnt have to be a permanent fixture.
I also have to accommodate a wheelie bin, log store and litter box.
I'd quite like to create a mini deck outside the shed, and put a little roof on it. Mostly for aesthetic purposes but also to shelter the logs, and maybe the wheelie bin, plus a seed propagating area.
Oh and I've also toyed with a see-through corrugated plastic roof above the kitchen window, stretching as far as the end of the utility window, as a smoking shelter (not me) and rainproof workshop area. But I don't want it to block what little sun I get, or spoil the view from the kitchen window.
I'm in Newcastle so winter lasts for around nine months :-(.
I'd love ideas for layout, plants and ways I can make this area do everything. Also I've seen conversations in here about colour/ patterns to use for stone patios. Not sure what pattern would be best for mine.
Oh and I quite fancy a hanging macrame chair thing. There's an inspo pic below of one of these outside a shed which is what I'm aiming for.

Comments (48)

  • Sam Potter

    More photos

  • Sam Potter

    Inspo pics

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  • AMB

    Can you post another drawing but mark out where the sun lands at different times of the day? I know you have described it, but it is easier to visualise...

  • Sam Potter

    AMB, here you go. I'd just started sketching what I think I'd like..

  • AMB

    Looking at your photos, I would tuck as much 'utility' stuff like the shed, bikes, logs, litter tray (I had one for my cat and it was popular with all cats but mine - you are forewarned) into the corner round the back of the house. Consider making something bespoke - I know you are handy.

  • AMB

    Use the brick walls for planting, put tables and chairs in the spots that get the sun and are used most often. Consider having a Sheffield stand or similar sunk into the ground by the landscaping team for your bikes' security - then build a shed, shelter around it.

  • AMB

    Also, if you don't have one, get an outside tap and/or large water butt fitted. Pot plants need more watering than beds and it will save you traipsing back and forth...

  • AMB

    I'm not sure about the clear corrugated roof idea . I don't think it would look good and you could discourage said smokers by making them stand in the rain, ha ha, :)

  • AMB

    How about these kinds of canopies..... There are a range of sizes and budgets...

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/slp/door-canopies/ty3wb2pwhkf5692

  • Sam Potter

    AMB I'm planning on keeping the shed, all the bikes will fit in it if I clear out some of the clutter. I'll look at moving the litter tray into the shed too, with a cat flap in the shed wall for access. And I'll move the bin to the front of the shed where the metal racking/wood store is, and build a new wood store under the shed window (illustrated in my sketch). I'd like to conceal the pipework with a tall bench a bit like a pub seating, which will pull away from the wall to get access to the pipes when necessary. For the table and seating, Im not sure where to locate it, and therefore where to put the planting strip/pockets.

  • AMB

    Just seen you sketch... I like the idea of the bench covering the drains!

    Will the planting bit give you enough space for chairs/benches & table for morning and afternoon basking? I wouldn't put a tree in the corner at it would encroach on the space. Maybe trellis or arch and a climbing plant?

  • AMB

    For the strip planting... how about... keep it all the way along the wall but have it fairly narrow by the two seating areas so you can grow climbers and small plants, and then widen the strip in between the two areas to give you more planting flexibility (maybe a water feature or bird feeder here too) and give interest when passing through or sitting on the bench.

  • Sam Potter

    I've got a tap already, under the utility window. Mostly used for hosing down the yard. I also have a dog ;-)
    I'm planning planting strips to reduce the number of pots, and maximise planting that is more self-sufficient, planted directly in the ground. It's currently planned to be 50cm wide. Hopefully this will allow climbers at the back and lower stuff at the front. I really want at least one tree. What do you think of pleached ones along the wall to the right of the back gate?

  • AMB

    Pleached is good, you can get small varieties such as crab apples, or try a flagpole cherry tree, however I would worry about them getting enough light? I find passion flowers are good climbers as they don't sucker (you will need trellis), grow fast, and are evergreen. I know some people hate them but a buddleia can be a good shrub as it grows large and can be chopped about without suffering (they're prolific for a reason) and are evergreen. I had one in my small garden which I chopped from underneath so it could curve over seating. Fennel plants also grow ridiculously tall and have lovely yellow flowers.

  • Sam Potter

    AMB, is the sketch below the shape of the planting pocket you suggest? The chairs and table are the wrong scale for the sketch but I reckon will fit in the niche nearest the kitchen wall. I've put a couple of pleached trees on the back wall.

  • AMB

    Yep, that's exactly what I meant Sam.

  • Sam Potter

    Thanks AMB! I'll save your plant suggestions and discuss them with the gardener.

  • Jonathan

    I’ve got a few ideas.
    If it were mine I would lay the patio on the diagonal to increase the visual width.
    I would get a bigger shed because it seems like you need it.
    I think you could get a bin store and then put your seed on top. And continuing the trellis theme some wall mounted trellis painted in a cool colour will help break up the red brick.

  • Jonathan

    I think a large standard tree or the pleached tree would be good to the left of the gate to screen the neighbours so you can’t see windows from the kitchen window. I have done the same in my garden with a row of Portuguese Laurels.
    I would put a covered bench in front of the pipes from the utility room for the smokers.
    Personally I wouldn’t put border along the whole length just the corners (as shown on the previous post) as I think it narrows the space. Instead I would put a mirror feature to reflect the morning sun and reflect the smokers shame. I thought this up cycling of these doors was right up your street.

  • AMB

    "Reflect the smoker's shame". Love it.

  • Sam Potter

    Jonathan, I LOVE the idea of mirrors to get more light in the yard. I could take the front off the shed and extend it forwards which woukd make it much easier to store the bikes. And I would like a tree in the corner behind the gate. It'll be the focal point from the kitchen window. I need to sketch the diagonal planting pockets so I can visualise what they'll be like.

  • Jonathan

    More pics for inspiration

  • Resh

    hi Sam, perhaps rethink the Indian Sandstone. we had a patio done in it and I wish I had spent the extra and bought some proper grey York style stone and had it laid in a traditional style with wide spaces between the flags. the Indian stone is just too bright, too cheap looking and too garish. Go classic.

  • E D

    I like Jonathan‘s diagonal concept.

    Yep, worth a sketch.

  • Sam Potter

    Resh, budget only allows Indian sandstone. It appears to come in several colours. Any thoughts on which colour would best /least worst? Alternatively the only other thing in budget is concrete slabs. Which I'm not averse to using if the effect will be better.

  • Jonathan

    Addition inspirational pics

  • Sam Potter

    Jonathan, I was just pondering mirrors on the walls! I'm not so keen on rendered raised beds. Raised beds are more practical but I much prefer the look of plants that start at ground level.

  • PRO
    colourhappy

    I would paint all of the walls to the top of the wall height white with as many coats as you can bear to do. I think this would really give a better backdrop to planting. I had a tiny backyard in my house in Manchester and painting the walls white transformed it. I would also add trellis to as many walls as possible and grow white flowering climbers. Have fewer more statement plants and as Jonathan says go diagonal if possible with lines (or a circle can work).

  • Sam Potter

    Colourhappy, I hadn't thought of painting the walks, good shout. I'm warming to the diagonal planting scheme, just want to do it on a way that looks naturalistic, rather than formal.

  • PRO
    colourhappy

    Yes I agree. The other thing I would say is add height, you can afford to use up too much floor space with plants so go fewer and tall. I have friends who have a tiny garden stuffed with tropical specimens, you can't see any boundaries which is also a good tip.

  • E D

    Yup, I get your preference for an informal style, Sam. Do you think there is a way to realise that with diagonals?

  • Sam Potter

    ED, Jonathan, How about curves added to a narrower planting strip instead of isolated planting pockets? I'll need to empty the yard and draw on the floor to see if it looks OK and I can still fit a table/ bit of seating in. I added trellises suggested by Colourhappy too.

  • minnie101

    I like the curves but will it add a lot to the fitting price? If not choose plants that fall over the path. Or would 2 stone circles work?

    i love Jonathan's idea for the old door to the secret garden.

    I'm useless at gardening but I noticed the Virginian creeper, it may not be an issue for your dog (or cat) but mine picks up anything and if yours is similar I would look at non-toxic plants.

    I would see if you can find pictures of the sandstone dry and wet as the colours change a lot (I've failed). If you don't want anything too colourful maybe the buff or silver grey?






  • E D

    I like minnie101’s planting idea to soften the edges.

    Although I still like the diagonals, I would be careful not to make it look a little contrived, particularly in a small space.

  • Sam Potter

    Minnie101, I love those first two pics! I hadn't thought about fitting costs. You're right of course. So I'd probably need a staggered edge to keep the slabs squared
    ED, which actually might look a bit less contrived?

  • forzaitalia

    Hi Sam, your head must be spinning with all this advice haha! I’ll just add to it by saying
    my Indian sandstone was by Global Stone who supply ethical sandstone to several builders merchants. The shade I have is called York Green but it is really several different shades of grey, green, pink and beige. It looks very cottagy and I love it. Of course you can have it sawn (no riven) if you want a more modern look.

    Plants that enjoy relatively shady spots are Climbing Hydrangea which has lovely white flowers and is self clinging. Ferns, Bergenia, some Clematis, Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum), Cornus kousa which is a small tree-like shrub with lovely white flowers, Fatsia japonica,Miscanthus (tallish grass), various Viburnums. If the shade is partial then so many more plants will grow. I’ve even got a rose growing in a spot that gets only partial sun.

    Fruit and veg will need quite a lot of sun to grow well so best to plant in the sunnier pockets. Here’s a small area of my paving and you can see the variety of colour in the paving!

  • E D

    Ha, I can make comments and have ideas sometimes but am no expert. :-)

    Our garden is busy (some people call it messy) enough to never look formal but I planned our decking with (sloping up) path in a linear, somewhat formal way. In hindsight maybe some diagonals or curves (which we added with our small lawn and in some borders) would have been nice.

    Hmm, not sure if this is helpful...

    :-)

  • Sam Potter

    Thanks Forza, it's useful to see the stone in situ. Mine is getting laid by T Jefford Landscapes who are on here. Not sure how to add a link to them. The guy who came to price up said they only use ethical stone. He also suggested a lot of plants but the only one I remember is Virginia creeper, for the really tall house side on the left of my view from the kitchen window. They're booked for mid September so I need to know exactly what I want with regard to hard landscaping by then. I presume including colour & surface. And they're going to provide topsoil and a planting plan, and lay me a new concrete front path and planting pockets in the front garden too. I'll tile it at a future date. I've got a small budget for plants which I'm going to spend with them, but plant myself to save money.

  • Sam Potter

    ED I saw a Monty Don thing on Netflix recently where he counselled against a curving path because people just step off them and take the quickest route. It was across a lawn though.

  • forzaitalia

    My garden is all straight lines, but the planting has created its own curves by flopping over the paving, so it’s hard to see the actual shape of the paving, if that’s any help? However, I do love a circle!

  • Jonathan

    I would lay on the diagonal to reduce the cuts needed but you can soften every edge with planting that spills over the hard landscaping.

    As far as trees- had you considered something evergreen for year round privacy? I love my laurels and they have a pretty flower at this time of the year.

    You can always get some romance in the garden with clematis and lupins, and budliah

  • forzaitalia

    Here’s a bigger pic of my so called York Green paving! More kaleidoscopic than I thought it would be. This was winter 2 yrs ago just after laying. Now all the plants are spilling over it and the edges are blurred.

  • Sam Potter

    Jonathan, I was gonna go for a cherry. They fulfil my brief of being nice to eat and expensive to buy. I've heard it's the sour ones I need for cooking. Plus lovely blossom.

  • rachelmidlands

    Hi Sam. Bit late to the party but loving all the ideas:) I’ve got a great idea for the shed if you’re up for a bit of a rebuild. I’ll sketch it out later. I also have Indian sandstone which was here when we moved in and I actually quite like it. It’s weathered to a more consistent grey colour (think it’s a multi blend) which I prefer so I just give it a regular sweep and a scrub once year. Like the idea of planting pockets and as Jonathon said diagonals would be good to help frame the garden. Virginia creeper would do well I think and give some fantastic colour. There’s a end terrace near me which has it all on the side and I adore it. Tree is a nice idea but do research the variety to make sure it’s suitable for the position. As well as pleached tree you could train one to an espalier or fan shape, takes a lot of work but works quite well for fruit trees and also increases productivity. Quince might be an interesting alternative as it’s more of a shrub and I love the dainty blossoms. Ooh, how about growing some upside down tomatoes! Perfect for your vertical garden:-)

  • Sam Potter

    Thanks Rachelmidlands! Upside down tomatoes would be incredible, especially as The, Expanse is my favourite TV show and everything they grow is upside down! I actually have a vintage bedpan in the yard wall, planted with ivy, because the shape reminds me of the circular planter in the galley of the Rocinante. Sorry for geeking out there!
    I'd love ideas for the shed. Reluctantly, I admit it does need to be bigger. I built the current one out of bits of an old one, fly-tipped bricks, floorboards taken up from the house and a window I found in the back lane. It leaks too.

  • rachelmidlands

    No way! We loved watching The Expanse as well:-) still got the new Star Trek episodes to watch yet so no spoilers please ;) Can’t say I’m a Trekkie nerd but the 1st season on Netflix was good. Anyway, did some doodles. Nothing much different to what’s been suggested but I thought you could incorporate the wheelie bin storage into the shed itself. Not sure if it’ll fit tho so have a measure. Then inside the shed you’d have a shelf to put things on over where the bins are then you could store the bikes upright behind it (hope that makes sense). Not to scale but a rough idea:

  • Sam Potter

    Rachelmidlands thank you so much for the plan! I love the idea of the bin being incorporated in the shed, and the log store could tuck alongside it. Not sure about storing all the bikes upright behind the bin area. I commute on mine daily and find it very heavy to lift. I'd rather just roll it into the shed and walk away. However my daughters dont use theirs daily, so maybe I could put theirs round the corner and have space for mine on the right hand side.

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