My Garden Plans: How I’m Creating An Outdoor Entertaining Space (With A Cava Platform)
Summer is on it’s way. Global warming has already played a few tricks on us this year - sunburn in March followed by artic temperatures April - but a quick look at the ten day weather forecast shows that we should be expecting the heady next teens over the next few weeks. Allegedly. The Yorkshire weather is a temperamental bugger and we are just as likely to awake to the heating kicking in as we are to the glorious sunshine. Anyway, with the weather comes a reassessment of the garden and this year, I’m going at it with the big guns. If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know I tend to do this pretty much every year. I’m a big one for extravagant plans. Last year it was an outdoor cinema and two covered pergolas so that we could eat and socialise outside, despite the consistently inclement weather front. Unfortunately, I never really manage to see these plans through to the finish, always ending up with a half baked space with a vital element missing, such as lighting that actually allows you to see what you are doing.
This was only too obvious a couple of years ago, when I created a BBQ area for Joe, complete with scaffold shelving, painted grey decked surround and hanging plants. It looked gloriously Insta worthy and Joe was delighted. Until we had friends over for an evening BBQ involving gin cocktails and homemade burgers. It was then that we realised that I had omitted to put any lighting at all in this gastronomic oasis and he couldn’t see a thing. Not only that, it was pouring with rain - my lack of planning for such eventualities meant that he spent the entire dinner party alone outside with a golf brolly, his phone torch and a procession of gin refills. Superlative fail.
This year, I am intent on making my garden an area to be proud of. Last month, it was Leo’s tenth birthday and he asked for a bouncy assault course and hot tub party. Obvs. After investigation, I discovered that it wasn’t a significant amount more to buy a blow up hot tub rather than rent one, so despite the fact I have a massive aversion to anything involving mixed bodily fluids and won’t even swim in a public pool for fear of floating pubic hair, we went for it. Unfortunately, I was out when Joe decided to erect it. He ignored all styling rules (he didn't even place it symmetrically, ffs) and dumped it under the pergola unceremoniously, making my outdoor space look as though it was about to be used for a hen party. I realised that I needed to reassess the location - the kids loved it (annoyingly) and I knew that it would be great for the summer. Hours of (fetid) fun.
Ironically, the perfect corner for it was the rarely used BBQ area. So last Sunday, I went to the garage, took out the sledgehammer and walloped it down. Well, as much as I could. I admit I had to call Joe in to finish it off for me, mostly because of lack of strength in my arms due to never actually exercising. A new space was created and I started to look at this section of my garden with fresh eyes. Another feature of this part of the space is the raised treehouse platform overlooking the Yorkshire Wolds. With a playhouse atop, my children have never been young enough to enjoy it since we’ve lived here and as such, it has absolutely no purpose. I realised that this was untapped lounging territory and came up with a plan to create my perfect Summer garden. Yes, I know you’ve heard these words before. Anyway, this is what I’m going to do.
Strip The Decking
So the decking is really quite gross. The pergola was built on top of it last year and looks great, but the boards have been down a while and are really very manky. I’ve emptied the hot tub and next week I’m going to clear the deck completely so that I can jet wash it ready for repainting. I’ve already bought some Charcoal Decking Rescue Paint from Ronseal after checking out reviews of the best products to use. As always, I asked Instagram for views on black painted decking and there are a couple of downsides. One, it gets hot in the sun and can burn your feet. The chances of the weather here in Yorkshire hitting those heady heights are fairly small, I surmised. And secondly, it shows up footprints and needs annual repainting. I’ve taken these downsides on board and I’m going for it. I think the difference that it will make will be worth the extra effort.
Left to right: the view of the space I’m updating from the treehouse; the newly vacated BBQ and soon to be hot tub area; Buddy saying WTF; The area in which I’m going to dig a border.
Relocate The Hot Tub
The now demolished BBQ area is the perfect space for the hot tub. It’s next to the grass so we can position the tap for easy drainage. There’s a lovely honeysuckle bush above and a very wonky scaffold shelf put up by husband which is crying out to be used for hanging plants (mostly to disguise the wonkiness). I’ve been scouring the net for a couple of bright runner style non slip outdoor rugs to put at a right angle around the tub and I’m going to be adding some festoons for a bit of sparkle. I’m going to make that hot tub look stylish if it kills me, I tell you.
Bring In The Electrics
So as I said above, electrics in this area are sadly lacking. Christian the electrician (brother of Miles The Worlds Best Decorator) is going to run cabling across the back of the two pergolas so that we can have power points in each section. He’ll also add an outdoor power point close to the hot tub and run the cabling down to where the treehouse structure is so that we can have one there too. The cabling is black so once the decking is black, you won’t be able to see it at all. As a result of this, we’ll be able to plug in the tub, add essential lighting and also play music. Our neighbours will be delighted.
Create A Dining Space
I’m going to use the pergola in this area of the garden as a dining space. I’ve got an IKEA table that I bought four years ago that is looking worse for wear - I’m going to sand the top and stain it, and paint the legs black. It fits eight people so it will fit in nicely. I’m going to look for a mixture of metal chairs to surround it and top them with cushions and throws for comfort. I’ve got festoons ready to go for this purpose from Festive Lights and I’ll string them across the ceiling. After hanging hooks from the structure and adding some hanging baskets and plants, it will be dinner party ready. The BBQ will go nicely to the side of the space.
Left to right: The current playhouse on the platform; the shocking death defying ladder; the view of the house and fields from the platform.
Make A Border
My garden currently does not possess a single plant. It’s seriously boring and needs a bit of colour and some nice big bushes. I’m going to dig a border along from the treehouse right over to the decking and hit the garden centre. It will be against an old brick wall so perfect for some trailing plants too. I’m thinking lots of evergreens that are fast growing but still pretty, such as ceanothus which I had in my previous garden and loved. I’m a truly terrible gardener but luckily my mum is coming to stay in a few weeks so I’m getting her on the case. Not that she knows it yet. I’ll bribe her with wine and crisps, a combo beloved of all Kerman women.
Remove The Playhouse
So Mike the builder (you may remember him from bathroom refit) has been over and says YES. It can be done. So he’s removing the playhouse from the platform (it’s built in so not an easy job) and replacing the decking strips on the base to form an area suitable for seating. It’s currently partially fenced around so Mike will extend this fencing to make it safe. There’s also currently a lethal ladder staircase - not only is it missing rungs but it’s also pretty much completely vertical so completely unapproachable if you’ve had more than one drink. He’s removing this and building nice, gradual wooden steps, suitable for ascension by a 48 year old woman with a glass of wine in her hand.
Make It Pretty
I’m going to paint the platform black to match the decking and Mike is going to put poles into the four corners of the fence so that I can string the obligatory festoons across. This will be removable so that I can take it down in the winter. Underneath, there’s a covered space so I’m going to pimp that up a bit, possibly adding some paving slabs but also adding strong hooks so that I can hang chairs from the base. It will also be a suitable area for storing furniture in the winter as it’s protected by a large hedge. The platform is big enough for a couple of small sofas and a coffee table. I am SO looking forward to this bit.
So that’s my plan. Mike is booked to do the platform next week and weather permitting, I’ll be jet washing on Monday and painting the decking as soon as it’s dry. So far, it’s been hard to get the flow right in this part of the garden and I think this is really going to work. Fingers crossed for clement weather so that we can get the job done in time for the Yorkshire heatwave (ie, 20 degrees for three days. Jokes). You wait, I’ll be sipping cava and admiring the view before you know it. But not from the hot tub. Nope. Not a chance.