Before and after: from overgrown garden into a multi-use outdoor haven

This owner used creative thinking to convert a courtyard space lost in the wilderness
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  • ‘Taking on this project was quite a challenge as I wasn’t quite sure where to begin,’ says the homeowner. ‘But then I began to see how the garden’s different zones and levels could work. I wanted to keep the established trees and shrubs and I loved the old brick walls.’

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    But she found that the ivy on the walls was completely out of control. And the area closest to the house just trapped leaves and dirt, and had nothing going on.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Top of her wish list was creating a lovely seating area where she and her family could put there feet up. ‘The terrace was the obvious spot and I was keen on the idea of some outdoor sofas,’ she says. ‘The ones I liked were way out of our budget, but luckily for me, my husband is amazing at DIY. He designed and built the wooden bench seats to fit perfectly into the corner.’

    Once they were done, the couple protected them with outdoor-quality furniture oil, but soon had to rethink that. ‘The ivy kept dropping wet leaves all over the wood and it started to discolour,’ she says. ‘In the spring, my husband sanded the benches, and we applied deck oil instead, which did the trick.’ They also removed the ivy in that part, exposing the lovely old brickwork and opening up the space.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Once the structure was finished, she worked on creating an “outdoor room”, making seat pads and cushions for the benches, and upcycling a little wooden coffee table that had been unearthed in the garden.

    ‘My best find was an old, discarded window frame, which we’ve turned into an outdoor mirror that looks amazing on the brick wall,’ she says.’I wanted to make something of the lower level too, as it was just paved, with nothing to look at,’ she add.

    The garden table and chairs from their old house fitted nicely at the far end. They now had a dining zone and plenty of comfy seating on the terrace, so decided on decorative touches in the area near the back

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    Image credit: Colin Poole

    ‘I wanted to make something of the lower level too, as it was just paved, with nothing to look at,’ she add. The garden table and chairs from their old house fitted nicely at the far end. They  now had a dining zone and plenty of comfy seating on the terrace, so decided on decorative touches in the area near the back door.

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    Image credit: Colin Poole

    ‘A friend had made fabulous rustic garden display shelves from a salvaged wooden ladder, and I was keen to create something similar,’ the homeowner says. ‘Another friend gave me a very rickety old ladder, which was perfect for the project.’

    She made the shelves out of scaffolding boards and dressed them with vases, pots and accessories that were already around the house. We used the little wooden trolley for drinks at our wedding – it was a bargain find at the local recycling centre. I popped some plants and accessories on it, and it looks lovely next to the ladder shelves.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Inspired by the idea of a pretty cottage garden they went with a low-key look, with plants to attract birds, butterflies and bees.’ We were keen to keep the mature shrubs and an old apple tree, and we managed to rescue a pink climbing rose that was being overwhelmed by ivy,’ explains the homeowner.

    ‘I didn’t know much about gardening, but I researched online to find out when to cut back certain plants, and how much sun and water the different varieties like,’ she adds. ‘A hydrangea I bought has been much happier since I moved it into a more shaded position and we’ve saved a little fig tree by putting it in a sunnier spot, so it’s a been quite a learning curve.’

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    Image credit: Colin Poole

    The different sections have made the garden feel larger allowing the family to spend as much time outside as much as possible, for meals and entertaining friends.

    ‘It’s gorgeous in the evenings, as I’ve got solar lights in the trees and a patio heater for after dark,’ she says. ‘We’ve even got an outdoor projector and a white sheet for film nights, which the children love. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.’

    She also added lovely jam-jar lights that have tiny fairy lights attached to the lid, and are powered by a built-in solar panel.


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    The biggest challenge that the family overcame was  the  split-level layout of the garden. ‘Everything was overgrown and the old brick walls at the back were swamped by ivy,’ she explains.

    Too add colour to the garden, she sowed self-seeding annuals like Verbena, Bonariensis, Asters, Cornflowers and Snapdragons which will effortless, year-on-year colour.

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Ready for another? Before and after: from shabby garden to tropical oasis with tiki bar

    Having the plants spilling over the borders minimise the landscaping shape lines. Now it’s a lovely  space with plenty of interest, with places to eat and chill out with the family. The family cat approves, too.

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