What do you do when a new housing development is proposed immediately behind your house and your outdoor entertaining area? Well you stop flailing your arms around in despair and you get creative, that’s what you do writes Steven Wells.
Anyone who designs, creates or builds in any context will agree that out of adversity comes creativity. Challenges provide opportunities for creative solutions. And that’s what I love about creating and building my garden projects because the creative and logical parts of my brain get invited to a design and development party. They throw design and construction ideas around and sort out if they’ll work in order achieve a successful result. Both brain parts generally end up being happy and fulfilled, just like any successful party will leave you feeling.
So with a looming development proposal came the main priority of retaining privacy. I did not want to be out in my garden habitat and feel like a zoo exhibit with eager eyes watching over my mammalian habits (cue the David Attenborough voice over). And equally I did not want to look onto a drab architectural suburban delight from my garden oasis.
My solution was to build a large timber screen that I now affectionately refer to as The Great Wells Wall with the inclusion of MyRedPod. Yes it looks rather large, hence it’s title, and it could be perceived as overbearing but interestingly enough it actually doesn’t impact any other areas of my small garden at all. And with future growth of the newly planted trees behind it I know that it will become nestled amongst the greenery.
So what were the aspects to this garden design solution?
After a review of the existing wedge shaped garden with its dry clay soil and westerly aspect, I decided to retain the plant winners, which were the lomandras, dianellas, agaves, echeverias and the maidenhair creeper screens. The strugglers would be removed, so the clumping bamboo and the dwarf Crepe Myrtle would both be relocated into other areas of my garden. I wanted to achieve a sense of privacy and seclusion so the willow screening on the boundary fence would go. As this is the entertaining area I would retain the existing paving and not reduce this space.
Then came the design and development party that seemed to go for a while, which can often be the case. Resolving issues of style, materials, plant selection and continuity does take time. My small garden has an eclectic nature with various spaces to wander through, as Janna Schreier discovered and wrote about on her blog. While I desired for this project to be a little different and for it to be an interesting feature with its own hero moment, I still wanted it to fit within the context of the rest of the garden and to not be overbearing. It was important for me to have linkage of materials, style of materials, paint colour and plant selection with the surrounding areas of my garden.
Once the process of thrashing ideas and creating solutions was completed I had decided that a combined built and treed solution was the best plan. After checking my local and state building regulations I decided on a timber screen structure that included a daybed and specifically built long enough for me to fit in it while lying down! A daybed was a notable absence from the garden that includes various sitting spaces. I now wanted a spot to lie in the warmth of the morning Winter sun and the shade of the afternoon Summer heat.
For continuity I chose to use treated pine lengths in a horizontal weatherboard style and to paint them the same colour that I’ve used around my garden on other timber structures. The horizontal element marries well with other screens, but more importantly for this area they draw the eye along and not upwards to the future neighbouring houses. This also helps to make the space feel longer as the eye reads the space. The screen is 6 metres long and 2.7 metres high and is one metre off the boundary fence which complies with the council regulations and didn’t require a permit. The rear gap also provides space for the screening trees to be planted that will grow about two metres taller than the structure and will bring the scale of the wall back into proportion.
The inclusion of MyRedPod is the hero of the space. I wanted a pop of colour, I wanted it to be its own feature, I wanted it to be functional and inviting and I wanted it to link to other rectangular elements in my garden. I also wanted it to be a box within the screen and to be cantilevered as a point of interest but to also not take up valuable space either in front or behind the wall. The treated pine and external plywood materials will last quite a while too. The rear panel of the pod is the same as the main screen so that the red box frame is the feature. For the same reason the UV protected outdoor cushions by Marty Teare Home are grey to blend in with the screen.
For the screen I used Bristol ‘Treacle,’ which I love. It’s a blend of grey, brown and green which has a warmth to it that black doesn’t achieve, and yet provides a wonderful subdued backdrop colour to highlight the greenery in front of it. I used Haymes ‘Red Lantern’ for the pod after being inspired by its use on a house of a talented gardener I know. I love this colour and it provides a changing dimension throughout the day, at times being deep red and at other times with a very slight hint of orange.
New plant additions of greens and greys subtly balance the boldness of the screen and don’t clash with the red pod. The Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica), Coral Bark Maples (Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’) and also the screening Bottlebrushes (Callistemon ‘Harkness’) planted behind the screen all bring touches of red throughout the year through their foliage or flowers. The potted Coral Bark Maples provide height and scale and the brown earthy pots tie in with the brown house bricks. The inclusion of bromeliads, cotyledon and euphorbias that are tough and interesting plants bring another foliage dimension to the garden.
So I’m very happy with the result. I’ve achieved the functional brief of privacy, I’ve retained the usable space and created a focal point that still provides an intimate and enclosed entertaining area. I’ve even fallen asleep a few times while lying in MyRedPod and as an added bonus I’ve created a fun photo booth for when my friends come to visit!
Now for the next project ….