Get into the garden

Alas, balmy temperatures may not be guaranteed living in Scotland, but whether you have lush rolling lawns or a small urban patch, you can still make the most out of your outdoor space.

You might want to bring the inside out, creating seating areas where you can chill out on warm days. You could also introduce soothing water features for zen-like calm or a zone for entertaining with barbecue and comfy seating. Maybe you’re after a garden that allows you to really hone your hobby for horticulture? Or if you live in an apartment, how about adding colour and interest to the smallest of balconies?

“People are doing a lot more with their gardens than they previously did,” says Gillian Polley of Edinburgh-based Polley Garden Design. “Vegetable areas are very popular at the moment. The result of the recession means people are quite keen on growing their own vegetables so there’s a demand for raised beds. Herbs are often requested too, particularly if they’re keen cooks.”

The self-sufficiency route also encourages little ones to get involved in the garden. “There are lots of initiatives now where children get involved in the school garden, so they can have their own patch at home with simple things like runner beans or sunflowers," says Gillian. "They can do what they want with it and don’t have to wait forever for things to grow. The garden is now very much seen as a space that people can use as a family.”

But where to start? Tackling the garden is time consuming and can feel daunting, especially if you don't possess green-fingered tendencies. Consider whether your space will be used all year round, or if not, think about something low maintenance where grass is replaced with decking, paving slabs or gravel.

“People often have a clear idea of how they want their garden but don't know how to put it together, where to site things and how to make it look cohesive,” says Gillian. “I’ll walk round the garden, look at what there is, what the plus points are and what the challenges are.”

For any garden designer, building a clear picture is crucial, “I’ll ask a client questions such as do they want to sit in the sun or the shade, what kind of plants and colour schemes they want and do they need a children’s play area? If they like to entertain, then they’ll require large sitting areas, or if someone in the family has disabilities then it will need to be designed in an appropriate way.”

Gillian adds, “I need to know their gardening knowledge and how much spare time they have because the maintenance level is critical. People have very busy lives with children and hobbies that may take them away from the garden so they’re not always there to look after it. Yet for some, the garden is their hobby, so it’s looking at how many hours they want to spend on it and building the garden around them.”

Edinburgh garden designer, Laura McKie, agrees “A garden has got to be practical for those that live there and use it every day. Some people don’t want any grass, for example, and are happy to have a combination of gravel, planting and paving, but that wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea at all”.

“People want to make the best use of the space and be able to entertain in it, whether it’s seating for six people or a sunny corner to have a glass of wine in the evening. And it’s designing it so that it flows.” Gillian says a sitting area is vital in any garden, and usually more than one. “One thing that’s very important in Scotland is year-round seasonal colour and interest because we have a long winter.”

And even the smallest of spaces can be perked up with little effort. “Wall gardens have been all the rage lately,” says Laura. “It’s amazing what you can do with a very small space,” assures Gillian. “If you have a balcony, don’t go for lots of small containers, choose larger ones because they look better. Then, depending on the aspect, put appropriate planting in and consider growing mini veg if you can.”