Expert Advice on Creating the Perfect Winter Garden
A garden isn’t just for summer… Landscape gardener Chris Harrington shares tips on how to create a garden that makes the most of the autumn and winter seasons
After gathering in our gardens for Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night, lamenting the final passing of those dreamy balmy evenings, now’s the time to cast our eyes over our gardens and plan ahead for next year.
According to Chris Harrington of Harrington Porter, a landscape gardener based in Fulham, the period between September and February is the best time to plan for and to create gardens that are made for socialising. ‘When the sun comes along again, you want to have your garden ready to use,’ he explains.
‘It’s also the best time to buy plants – you’ll give them time to get established in the garden, and you can buy them a bit cheaper too.’ It makes sense to plan and build your garden when you are likely to be in it least, he says.
But that’s not to say you can’t also design a garden you can make the most of throughout the year. If you’re investing in your garden, it makes sense to get a good return by maximising the happy times spent with family and friends alfresco.
‘We’re lucky in London that we do have a bit of a micro-climate, but when it does get chilly, heaters and fire pits can take the edge off. You should choose materials that will weather well,’ urges Harrington.
A garden has to have a structure, so that when plants aren’t in flower it doesn’t look like an empty shell
It’s also increasingly important to consider how a garden will fare visually in the winter. ‘A garden has to have a structure, so that when plants aren’t in flower it doesn’t look like an empty shell,’ says Harrington.
‘Sliding and bi-fold doors mean that many people have a full view of their garden at all times, so it’s a design feature that’s as important as your kitchen. It needs to look good even when it’s snowing.’
Harrington stresses that you consider how many guests you need to accommodate. ‘Entertaining space is the nucleus of the garden,’ he asserts.
‘If you’ve only got a small space, think about whether people will be lounging or dining. In larger gardens you can think about sun and shade, and whether you want to be sitting at the rear to have a view of the house, or whether you want to feel secluded.’
When it comes to making sure that the garden is child-friendly, Harrington is keen on striking a balance. ‘It’s about balancing the look and the practicality,’ he says.
‘You might want an open space, artificial grass and a separate play area, but you’ll want it to be stylish at the same time. We might achieve that by screening a trampoline.
‘Climbing walls integrated with trendier elements work well – for example, you might go for a climbing frame that can also double up as a pergola.’
You might want an open space, artificial grass and a separate play area, but you’ll want it to be stylish at the same time
If you’re keen to keep up with the trends, we also discovered from Harrington that more clients are going for a Soho Farmhouse-style garden, putting traditional plants together with contemporary designs for a more eclectic look. London has moved on from the minimal gardens and white render, it seems.
If you’re seeking to make some changes to your outdoor space yourself, then ensure a durable, personalised design, and make sure you seek expert opinion.
‘Our unique offering is that we both design and build,’ Harrington tells me. ‘We hold the design process very dear, so we can design to a strict budget by keeping it all in-house.’ Best get planning…