Although in one sense, all gardens are people-orientated, some designs quite deliberately set out to go beyond simply reflecting the gardening efforts of their owners. There are any number of reasons why the layout of the space might be decided by the particular needs of homeowners, ranging from the changing demands of a growing family, to the hobbies of the retired – and many more besides!
The key to designing a specifically people-orientated garden is having a very clear understanding from the outset of how it will be used and what are the absolute “must-haves,” and settling on these essentials at the start makes it much easier to go about planning the rest.
The idea of using patios, terraces and decking areas as outdoor extensions of the home is one aspect of people-friendly designing that has become a mainstream feature of most gardens. The range of furniture, equipment and gadgets to make the open-air “room” more useful has grown apace over recent years, with a plethora of gazebos, lighting, fire pits, patio heaters, chimenea and high-tech BBQs on sale in garden centres, DIY shops and catalogue stores. While the face of outdoor entertaining has changed almost beyond recognition, there are other types of “people” needs which are less easily achieved with a trip to the high street.
With Little People in Mind
Although few spaces have as many changing demands placed on them over the years as the family garden, with a little forethought, it is possible to meet the various calls in such a way that the whole design can evolve naturally as the children grow and their needs change.
There are some well-known tricks to this – the sandpit which becomes a pond when the danger of toddlers drowning has passed, for instance – while others simply require a bit of imagination to see the potential. Today’s wooden fort or playhouse can be tomorrow’s tool shed, while that climbing frame might ultimately end up supporting climbers of the plant variety.
Any garden designed with children in mind has, of course, to have a heavy emphasis on safety – and the parent-gardener has an almost endless list of things to consider. Parts of some plants, such as laburnum and foxglove, are poisonous and potentially harmful; even the smallest and shallowest water feature can be a hazard and it goes without saying that swings, tree-houses, climbing frames and the like need to be well secured and safely sited.
When issues such as limited mobility or wheel-chair access are defining requirements of the design, one of the best and most often used approaches is to move to growing at a higher level above ground. Incorporating containers and raised beds wherever possible increases both convenience and comfort for anyone with reduced mobility or limited strength, principally because it avoids all the stooping and bending that normally accompanies so much of gardening.
Good paths and access ways are also important considerations in this type of design, needing to be particularly firm and level as well as being safe to use in all weathers. Practical touches too– such as good lighting and providing weatherproof electric sockets at an appropriate height – can also help to make life a lot easier. With a well-planned garden, it should be possible to go a long way towards meeting even the most special of special needs and produce a garden to enjoy.
For many people, hobbies are a vital part of their lives and whether that includes growing beautiful stems for flower arranging, painting, fish-keeping or simply reading a good book in the sunshine, there is no reason why the garden shouldn’t be the ideal place to do it. Once the almost exclusive preserve of the retired, with most of us having increasing amounts of leisure time available, there has never been a better time to design your garden around your favourite hobby.
It certainly won’t work for everyone – train-spotters, golfers and cyclist may find it a bit difficult, for example! However, for many of the rest of us, the opportunity is there and probably only needs a little work to turn it into reality.
Gardens and people are indivisible – you can’t have one without the other – and while often we deliberately tend to play down the human element in favour of creating our own artificial slice of nature, there are times when the garden is formed for the needs of its people. Designing people-orientated gardens may be a challenge – but when you get it just right, there is no doubting how rewarding it can be.