How To Enjoy Your Summer Garden In Any Weather

 In Garden Design, Landscaping

Dan shares his ideas on how to enjoy your summer garden in any weather.

Britain is famous for it’s unpredictable summer weather but we all love spending time outdoors. There’s no need to stop indoors because it’s too hot, too cold or too wet outside. A well designed garden will look and feel great whatever the weather. Let’s look at some of the features that will increase your living space by making your garden a great place to be.

Shelter

Surely the most obvious feature for an all-weather garden, has to be some kind of shelter. It needs to be carefully positioned, easily accessible and have great views. Will you be sheltering from the rain, from strong winds or from hot sunshine? In this country, that may change from day to day! 

back garden idea with pergola, built in seating and beautiful planting

Shelters come in all shapes and sizes, For versatility, I particularly like the modern pergolas with detachable sides and louvred roofs. They are an investment, but when you consider how well they enhance a summer garden in any weather, they are worth their weight in gold.

A bespoke shelter can be made to fit the dimensions and style of your garden. Most landscapers, and certainly my team, can do wonders with a bit of timber and some screws.

How will you use your shelter? This will influence the size, shape and positioning of the structure. If for example, it will be a ‘den’ for the younger members of the family, consider whether it needs to be within seeing or hearing distance of the house. 

pretty triangular pergola in one corner of a garden lit with uplighters for a calm ambience

Play with lighting to create a restful ambience

An entertaining space for you and your friends may need carefully planned paths etc so that you can safely carry those coffee cups and wine glasses to your seating area. Either that, or splash out on an outdoor kitchen so that you can be self catering away from the house.

Intimate seating areas or reading nooks can be quite compact. They feel gloriously cosy on chilly days and you can have enormous fun with decorations and accessories.

An electrical supply will mean that your shelter can be lit for dull days and can accommodate a fan or a small heater.

Temperature Control

If you want to use your summer garden in any weather, you’ll probably need to give some thought to temperature control. How will you keep cool in a heatwave or warm on chilly days?

You may be surprised to learn that garden design can have an enormous impact on the temperature of a space. 

Hard surfaces such as paving absorb a great deal of the sun’s energy during the day and release it again overnight. Plants, such as lawns, trees, and herbaceous borders help to cool the atmosphere on hot days and can make the place feel colourful and cosy when the weather is miserable.

When I’m designing gardens I try to strike a balance between hard surfaces and soft. By creating zones within the garden and alternating paving and soft landscaping, it’s possible to get the best of all worlds.

paved garden with raised beds and willow hurdle fence

Careful positioning of pergolas and trees can help shade the house from strong sunlight and keep interiors a wee bit cooler. And water features – especially if they create sound – also trick our brains into thinking the temperature is more comfortable than it is.

Green roofs and living walls are trending techniques for insulating buildings against heat and cold. I’m yet to build a green roof but recently thoroughly enjoyed building a living wall with a water feature incorporated.

Rainwater Management

One of the joys of a British summer is that it can be pouring with rain but still relatively warm outside. So with careful rainwater management it’s easy to enjoy your summer garden in any weather.

First up is making sure that rainwater doesn’t sit on hard surfaces. A really fine layer of water can make paths and patios slippery so good drainage is essential.

Outbuildings, summerhouses, pergolas and even greenhouses all benefit from rainwater harvesting systems. A simple water butt is all it needs to collect and store this precious resource which can be used to irrigate plants on hot days.

Alternatively, you could build a rain garden. Runoff from roofs and patios can be directed into an area of the garden that has been planted up with species that love wet or dry soil. It makes for a fascinating garden feature and wildlife will love you for it.

sloping garden with broad steps and ballustrades

All-Weather Surfaces

I’ve mentioned already that it’s important to have a balance between hard and soft surfaces in a garden. It’s also crucial that you can reach your shed/summerhouse, your bins and your backdoor without getting wet feet.

Design your garden carefully with paths, steps, ramps etc to make easy access to your summer garden in any weather. Choose materials that tend to be slip resistant and ensure that they are installed with the appropriate fall so that they drain properly. If needs be, install things like hand rails and balustrades to help you feel safer.

Lighting

On a gloomy summers day, a little bit of lighting for your outdoor room can really encourage you to go out anyway. Think about overhead lights or lamps so that you can comfortably read or craft beneath cloudy skies. And for evening time, lights create a wonderfully warm ambience. Be careful to consider wildlife though and follow guidance for protecting dark skies.

Trees and Plants

For me, it’s trees and plants that enable everyone to enjoy your summer garden in any weather. Trees for their architectural presence, their shade, their wildlife value and the way they cool the area around them. Plants for their colour, their texture, and the way they add a luxurious ‘holiday feel’ to any space.

When designing a summer garden I try to incorporate pockets of planting throughout the project. That may be beds and borders, a specimen tree, an arrangement of container plants, or even hedges to define zones within the space. 

Climbing plants are wonderful in a summer garden. They bring flowers and foliage up to eye level and make garden visitors feel as though they are immersed in nature. Climbing plants can be decorative and practical. How about a walkthrough tunnel draped with climbing beans, trained fruit trees or even cucumbers and courgettes?

productive area of a summer garden with gourds and melons growing in a tunnel

Your Summer Garden Should Be A Lifestyle Asset

It goes without saying that owning outdoor space is a privilege and it should be celebrated every day of the year. Being outside gives a big boost to our wellbeing, no matter what our age or ability and so it’s important to be able to enjoy your summer garden in any weather. With clever garden design tricks, there’s no reason why that should be impossible. I love designing gardens and planting schemes that bring joy at any time of year, so please, if you need help to make your garden more accessible and inviting, give me a call and we’ll discuss some solutions you might like.

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curved steps with rendered wall and limestone treads