Jul 13

The best city parks to explore in the UK?

The best city parks to explore in the UK

The best city parks to explore in the UK

What are large, green, used regularly by 37 million people, and coming up to 200 years old? The answer is the UK’s city parks, of which there are around 27,000 up and down the country.

Once seen as a radical and revolutionary proposition, they’re now part and parcel of our towns and cities (and some would say the best part). And though austerity poses an existential threat to many city parks (because cash-strapped councils can’t afford to maintain them or are even selling them off), they’re as popular as ever.

So, to celebrate these unsung heroes spanning the country, we’ll tell you a bit about their history, suggest some of the best city parks to explore in the UK, and look at the inspiration you can take back to your own green space.

A little background to our city parks

The oldest park in the UK

There are several claimants for the title of the UK’s first urban park (or what we recognise as one today) but a leading contender is Derby Arboretum, which opened its gates in 1840.

This city park still has many of its original Victorian ornaments and structure, including magnificent wild boar sculptures, but has also been updated with playground and sports facilities. Thanks to Lottery funding, it is still in good nick and is very much the same park which Central Park in NYC was based on.

On the horticultural side, it’s home to scores of tree varieties, some of which you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the UK. For more information about this lovely city park, including opening hours, have a look at the InDerby.org website.

Finding inspiration and ideas in city parks

Nottingham’s Arboretum Park

Another city park steeped in history is Nottingham’s Arboretum Park, widely thought to be the inspiration for Neverland in J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter Pan.

There’s plenty of heritage here, with some of the original Victorian garden designs and buildings (including an aviary, bandstand and a Chinese-style bell tower commemorating the Crimean War and Anglo-Chinese Opium War). And if you’re into trees, this is the place for you – this city park has over 200 species and varieties, and a nicely laid out tree trail highlighting interesting or rare trees.

And if you’re inspired by the bandstand, admittedly it may be hard to recreate a wrought-iron Victorian in your own back garden, but there are gazebo designs available that could replicate the shape and open sides. Opening times and other visiting details are available here.

Rainbow Bridger, Oxford University Parks

Oxford University Parks are also packed full of history, but their popularity for student BBQs makes them thoroughly twenty-first century in atmosphere.

There’s a huge amount to do or watch in these city parks – a botanic garden and nursery where friendly staff are stationed to offer advice on all things green, exercise classes, a cricket pitch where the University team play, other sports pitches, organised walks and bird watching.

For opening times, FAQs or some inspiration from their ‘Plant of the Week’ pages have a look at their website. And if you find yourself irritated at the fact that the Parks’ croquet lawns are not open to the general public, you could always create your own croquet lawn at home, with help from Croquet Online or Jacques London.

The best city parks to explore in the north?

Glasgow Green city park

Glasgow Green is currently in its peak festival-hosting season, but for the rest of the year this city park is home to sprawling open lawns and monuments and structures of all varieties. The 50m Nelson column and the wonderful People’s Palace (a museum of Glasgow history and culture in a glasshouse) get the most attention, but there’s also a suspension bridge, weir, various water features and fountains (inspiration for your own garden?), a good café in the Winter Gardens, and a play village.

Best of all, it’s a brilliant place to people-watch – the whole of Glasgow life passes through this city park. Find out more on the council website.

Perhaps more difficult to recreate…

Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens

Another city park that’s right at the heart of city life is Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. Better known for concerts, fireworks and views of Edinburgh Castle than for its trees and plants, the Gardens actually house a true horticultural gem: the (working) floral clock.

The living floral clock

Designed with a different theme each year, it takes a couple of gardeners several weeks to lay out and involves up to 40,000 plants. Recreated the world over from Mexico to Switzerland, it forms the centrepiece of the Gardens and is a real treat to see in the flesh.

Other hidden gems worth exploring

The big city parks tend to get all the attention, but it’s worth seeking out so-called ‘pocket parks’ around the UK’s cities and towns.

Postman's Park

For example, in the heart of London, nestled a stone’s throw from St Pauls Cathedral hides Postman’s Park. Built near the former Post Office headquarters and once popular with the postmen who worked there – hence the name – it’s a serene green bubble in the heart of the Big Smoke.

As well as providing a great place to escape the crowds if you’re in this part of London, it may provide some ideas for your own patch: a quiet bench and pergola or gazebo with ivy running up and the end of your garden could nicely recreate this garden’ soothing effect and be a real haven from the cares and stresses of life.

The Barbican Centre

Another well-kept secret in the capital is the conservatory at the Barbican Centre. Although only open on Sundays, it houses a mammoth catalogue of over 2000 tropical plants, trees, and even fish. Should you fancy a visit, opening times are available here.

Jun 25

Playhouse ideas – how to build a playhouse for your kids

Playhouse ideas - how to build a playhouse for your kids

Playhouse ideas – how to build a playhouse for your kids

It’s a defining moment for every parent – the day your son or daughter asks if you’ll build them a playhouse (or a treehouse, if you’re lucky enough to have a mature tree in your back garden).

For the DIY gods of this world, it’s a wonderful excuse to get creative, unleash the power tools, and re-create the playhouse of your childhood – or childhood dreams. Some people will simply have endless playhouse ideas and designs.

But for the DIY phobics among us, it’s a defining moment for all the wrong reasons. Your ability to keep coming up with excuses won’t last, and it could be several years before the requests to build a playhouse or garden den finally subside. At this point your child will no-doubt have built their own stupendous playhouse in Minecraft, and their playhouse ideas won’t be hindered by DIY experience (or lack thereof).

So where to start? If you have basic DIY skills where do you get your playhouse ideas and inspiration from?

The dengineers – perfect for playhouse ideas

The fourth series of the CBBC series The Dengineers is being filmed in April-August this year, so will be hitting a TV screen some time soon.

For those of you who don’t know The Dengineers, it’s like Grand Designs or DIY SOS for kids. Each episode sees a crack team of designers and builders bring to life the den-dreams of an 8-12 year old.

A typical episode could see the dengineers build a back-garden den in the shape of a rugby ball; or a miniature wooden Scottish castle with turrets and working drawbridge; or a music playhouse  with a façade like the front of a guitar amp.

They come up with amazing playhouse ideas and build them from scratch, or use an existing space such as an attic, basement or existing garden building. Materials are affordable and often recycled, and it’s great feel-good TV unless you happen to bump into your own inspired children shortly after an episode.

Building a playhouse or treehouse for beginners

So, if the next series of The Dengineers does get your family yearning for their own wonder-den, what can you do?

1. Consider the little playhouse details

Consider the little playhouse details

Watch a whole episode of The Dengineers and you’ll see it’s the details that turn a den into a wonder-den. In the music den episode, for instance, it’s the addition of dials and a giant audio jack and cable that turn an ugly orange-framed box into a cool amp-themed den. And on the inside, serious sound-proofing turns into a serious rehearsal room, and a wall decorated with old vinyl give it a studio feel.

2. Don’t overthink your playhouse ideas

Don’t overthink your playhouse plan

On the other hand, too much detail and too much interior design or furniture can spoil the best den or playhouse ideas.

If you think about it, your children’s den may house a toys’ tea party one day, and be a spy den the next. A pink palace may be great for the former, but not for the latter. So The Dengineers may accessorise down to the last detail for the sake of impressive TV, but you may not want to for your own den or playhouse ideas.

3. Everlasting playhouse perfection, or temporary fun?

Everlasting playhouse perfection, or temporary fun?

Even the most digitally-fixated 21st-century kids can get caught up in the old-fashioned joys of building a playhouse. Not a DIY masterpiece with turrets or drawbridge, but a temporary lean-to made of old branches, wooden pallets, old tent poles, ripped sheets, and any other materials that can be borrowed or recycled. A living willow playhouse is also a great way to create a space for the kids without any DIY knowledge.

A living willow playhouse

Almost as good are indoor dens involving tables, chairs, clothes horses and a variety of duvets, sheets and cushions, so the kids can take over a room for the day and pretend they’re invisible.

All you really need for a temporary playhouse, either outdoors or indoors, is an internal structure or framework, and things to drape over it. There are some good playhouse ideas on the Eden Project website.

4. If you decide to build a treehouse, do it properly

If you decide to build a treehouse, do it properly

In books, memory and the imagination, treehouses are improvised affairs that materialise slowly as materials become available.

In most cases, that’s nonsense. Reach a bit further into your memories of those improvised treehouses and you may recall the broken arms and accidents involving damp wood or rusty nails that often came next.

If you decide to build a treehouse, do it properly

If you do decide to build a treehouse, you need a plan, good materials and time on your hands (you may need planning permission too). There’s are good articles on the Independent and Dickies websites which will tell you all you need to know.

5. Take the lazy playhouse path

Take the lazy playhouse path

Simpler than coming up with your own playhouse ideas from scratch is to buy one. GardenLife Log Cabins has a good range of timber garden playhouses to catch any child’s imagination.

Designs include a miniature Alpine chalet for those that loved the book Heidi (or ski holidays!), a playhouse on stilts, or a design that looks like a Christmas gingerbread house brought to life, complete with tiny chimney, front ‘garden’ and porch.

All these timber houses are easy to assemble and built from sturdy Nordic timber and high-quality fittings, so certainly no issues with rusty nails and rotting wood.

6. Think beyond the playhouse

Think beyond the playhouse

Finally, if your children are older, it’s a good idea to build (or buy) a design that can evolve – playhouse for the first couple of years, then teenage games room or music studio later on.

A flexible, plain timber building (either traditional or contemporary) that is flexible in terms of space and usage can easily be redecorated or re-themed at intervals to reflect the kids’ changing tastes. For example, if you buy a simple but solid garden building such as Vivian 3.8 sqm or Klara 4.7 sqm and paint it pink inside and out in years 1-3, and then re-design it with different colours and furnishings thereafter.

Hopefully with these playhouse ideas you can make your perfect den, be it a short-term lean-to, a beautifully original handmade playhouse, or a hassle-free off the shelf number delivered to your door.

May 17

The best gardens to visit this summer?

One of the best gardens to visit this summer?

The best gardens to visit this summer?

With the summer finally underway, the great outdoors has definitely become more enticing than in this year’s snowy spring. And in the long days of early summer, gardens across the country are often at their best.

Whether you’re looking for inspiration for your own garden, a day out, or somewhere to occupy children or visitors, here are some choices for the best gardens to visit this summer.

Great gardens in the South East

Chartwell Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

Think of an English garden in early summer and you’ll probably think of roses. In June, you’re spoilt for choice.

In Kent, Chartwell, the family home of Sir Winston Churchill, provides a textbook English combination of roses and history. The gardens include the Golden Rose Walk, a golden wedding anniversary to the Churchills from their grandchildren, with 32 varieties of yellow rose. Chartwell has to be considered one of the best gardens to visit if you’re into traditional garden design.

if you want to play at being a grandee for an afternoon, you can also hire out the Churchills’ croquet lawn.

More details about the house, gardens, and ticket prices are available on the National Trust website.

One of the best gardens to visit in the North East

Alnwick Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

If you’re looking for more northerly roses, try Alnwick in Northumberland.

There’s a rose garden with around 3,000 roses and a cherry orchard which is swamped with pretty blossom during the spring and summer months.

And thanks to its Harry Potter connections, its ‘poison garden’ (the only one in the UK), bamboo labyrinth and treehouse (Europe’s biggest), Alnwick is perfect for keeping younger visitors occupied.

More mature visitors can look at cascading water features and an ornamental garden once they’ve done with the roses, so it’s definitely an all-day trip.

It’s open daily from March until October and you can book tickets on its website, with various family concessions. Alnwick has to be one of the best gardens to visit if you’re in the north east.

Away from the crowds in Lincolnshire

Grimsthorpe Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

The ‘big names’ like Chartwell and Alnwick do tend to get crowded, but Britain is blessed with dozens of lesser-known but equally inspiring gardens (often missed off lists of “the best gardens to visit this summer”).

In rural Lincolnshire, for example, nestled deep in the countryside, the Grimsthorpe estate and gardens are far from the country cottage garden you might imagine.

Surrounding a thirteenth-century castle, these formal gardens boast immaculately-kept, topiary-laden lawns with intricate parterre landscaping.

And if you’re thinking about growing fruit, there’s an apple and pear garden where the trees are ‘espalier-ed’ onto wooden ladders, and also a collection of quince and medlar trees.

Grimsthorpe is open five days a week in June until September (or twice a week in April through May) along with the adjacent castle and park. Well worth a visit in summer.

Heading west towards Wales

Veddw Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

Let’s head west now to the Welsh Borders.

A very manageable two acres of ornamental garden and two acres of woodland, Veddw House Garden is less grandiose than other formal gardens on this list.

But it has enjoyed much attention and praise in recent years from publications such as ‘The Good Garden Guide’ and from Alan Titchmarsh. and features an idyllic meadow and water features.

Any serious gardener heading for Wales would do well to visit the National Botanic Garden of Wales, near Llanarthne in Carmarthenshire. There’s inspiration for everyone here – a Japanese garden with cherry trees and tea house; a fuchsia collection, and if you were interested in our last month’s blog about encouraging pollinators in your garden, you should certainly visit the bee garden.

The best gardens to visit in Scotland this summer?

Threave Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

Now we go north to Scotland, where we recommend the Threave estate near Castle Douglas, in southwest Scotland.

There are 64 acres of sprawling gardens divided into distinct ‘rooms’. They include a rose garden, rockery, and a walled garden whose produce is available to the public. There’s a shop selling rare local plants and, if you’re looking for ideas for a water feature, you’ll certainly get new ideas you can take home.

What’s more, Threave is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts – you’ll find Scotland’s only bat reserve, along with peregrine falcons, waders, kingfishers and ospreys on the neighboring nature reserve which makes up the wider Threave estate. Definitely one of the best gardens to visit this summer.

Inverewe Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

If ever you thought of Scotland as being too cold for serious gardening, take a look at Inverewe, way up north in the Scottish Highlands. Thanks to the Gulf Stream (and some brilliant garden design using walls to provide shelter from the wind), you have rare species you’d never expect to find in Scotland, including amazing Californian redwoods.

The gardens are designed to be attractive all year round, but summer is the best time to visit from the point of view of getting some decent weather. And though Californian redwoods may not be ideal for your own garden, Inverewe is a lesson in ambition, resourcefulness and thinking differently.

The best free gardens to visit in summer?

The cost of visiting these gardens and houses add up – especially when you’re likely to spend in their cafes and shops as well.

So it’s always good to have a list of great gardens that are free to visit.

Two favourite examples are in London and Edinburgh.

Regent’s Park

Regents Park Gardens - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

The chances are you’ve heard of Regent’s Park, but not as a place of horticultural inspiration. But it’s worth taking a look at the park’s Queen Mary Garden with more than 12,000 roses; the quintessentially Victorian Avenue gardens; and scores of allotments by a community garden.

The park spans 410 acres, so you’re unlikely to get bored in this refreshingly serene patch of green in the Big Smoke, and it’s certainly a rest for your wallet compared to other activities in the capital.

Botanic gardens

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh - one of the best gardens to visit this summer

Another wonderful free garden is the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. There’s something to see all year round, but its summer highlights include splendid herbaceous borders, rock gardens, and amazing water lilies in the ponds in the glasshouses (some with leaves over 1.5m in diameter).

If you’re looking for other ideas for inspirational gardens to visit all around the UK, you’ll find some ideas at:

There truly are a vast number of gardens to visit in the UK, but hopefully our list of some of the best gardens to visit this summer should help narrow the choice!

Apr 18

Gardening for bees; use your own garden to tackle global food security

Gardening for bees

Gardening for bees and planting for pollinators

Would you like an excuse for a few weeds and untidy areas in your garden? Well you have a brilliant one; bees.

Or rather pollinators – because contrary to popular belief, it’s not just bees that pollinate our gardens, but various flies, beetles, butterflies, ladybugs and moths as well.

Basically, any insect that flies from flower to flower to feed themselves or their larvae is helping your garden grow.

It’s well known that bees are having a hard time at the moment – hives are under attack from parasites and disease, and pesticides can harm them (and other pollinators) – hence the EU banning the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

So, what can garden owners do to save our bees and other insects? And why does it matter that we do this?

To start with the final question, it matters because without bees or pollinators, most of us would struggle to get the food we need. About one-third of the food on our plates is dependent on pollination (there’s more about this – and about what pollination actually is – on a good BBC website article about whether we’d starve without bees).

If you’d like to do your own bit to safeguard the UK’s crucial pollinators, what can you do in your own back garden?

Here are six steps covering gardening for bees, planting for pollinators and other ways to help butterflies and insects to their thing.

1. If you’re looking for a great hobby, you could keep bees yourself

Keep bees yourself

The British Beekeepers Association offers advice and training courses all around the UK, if you’d like to have your own hives and honey sources.

But for most of us keeping our own bee hives is a step too far. And anyway, not all bees and pollinators are hive-based. The habitats of solitary bees, hoverflies and other insects are under threat not just from changes in agriculture, but from people making their gardens too manicured or – even worse – covering them with low-maintenance gravel or decking. Therefore you could consider gardening for bees and…

2. Make your garden bee-friendly with plenty of pollinator nest sites

Build a bee hotel

Good habitats for pollinators include dead wood, ponds, and bare ground. This is a great excuse for a touch of neglect or organised chaos, and with more pollinators around, the other parts of your garden are more likely to thrive.

Some types of solitary bee nest in hollow stems, such as bamboo, or herbaceous plant stems, so incorporate these into your bee garden design too. You could drill holes in fence posts or logs, or make (or buy) your own bee hotel with bamboo canes or cardboard tubes.

A home for pollinators

Whether you buy a bee hotel, or make your own, be sure to position it somewhere sunny.

The RSPB has a good guide to building your own, and there are plenty of ready-made designs on websites like notonthehighstreet.com (and they make excellent gifts for gardeners who have everything).

3. Planting for pollinators; choose nectar and pollen-rich plants

Planting for pollinators (Buddleia)

We all know pollinators like flowers, but there are some finer points to note here.

Firstly, go for diversity in your planting. One threat to pollinators has been the move towards monoculture – so gardeners can counter this by planting a rich array of different flowers, and also letting some wildflowers grow.

Secondly, bees generally prefer open-flowered varieties of plants to fancier, double-flowered ones, because the latter tend to prefer less pollen and nectar.

Thirdly, according to Gardeners World magazine, bees see purple more clearly than other plants. This makes lavender, alliums, buddleia and catmint great bets for pulling in the pollinators.

If you want to know more about different bee-friendly flower varieties, take a look at a great gardening guide from Defra (Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) which even tells you which flowers appeal to long-tongued and short-tongued bees respectively!

4. Gardening for bees goes beyond the summer months

Planting for pollinators (Willow)

Another way to do your bit is to plant early and late-flowering plants. This will also make your garden look better for longer.

Early-flowering plants could include fruit trees, hawthorn, forget-me-nots, hellebores and crocuses. And this may be anathema to those who have battled dandelions for years, but they too (along with white deadnettles) can be good early sources of pollen and nectar.

Planting for pollinators (fruit trees)

When it comes to gardening for bees and planting for pollinators good late-flowering plants include dahlias, fuchsias, sedums, Michaelmas daisies, sedums and marigolds – all of them easy to grow.

And remember, “a weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place”, so maybe a few dandelions, daisies and buttercups could go ignored the next time you consider getting the weed killer out.

Leave weeds for bees and pollinators

For a more encyclopedic guide to planting for bees and pollinators, take a look at the RHS Perfect for Pollinators lists of garden plants and wildflowers.

5. Yes to gardening for bees means no to using pesticides

Ladybug pollinator and aphid killer

The arguments rage about the effects of pesticides on bees and other pollinators. But basically, if you can avoid them, do so, and use other methods as far as you are able – for example, organic products or biological methods. Hoverflies and ladybugs are both pollinators, but they also feed on aphids )a common pest that most gardeners try to get rid of).

If you must get out the pesticide sprays, avoid spraying on open flowers, and follow label instructions carefully.

6. Pollination can be thirsty work

Ponds for pollinators

Bees and other pollinations will often need to drink in summer, so the RHS recommends using a shallow dish filled with stones or marbles and water as a safe water source for them. The shallow edge of a pond can also be a good water source.

So, there we are, gardening for bees and planting for pollinators in six really easy steps. These suggestions can improve your own garden, but they’ll also help with global food security and biodiversity as well. That surely must be on your gardening to-do list for 2018.

Mar 16

Unusual timber buildings – truly novel living spaces

The phrase ‘timber buildings’ doesn’t usually evoke thoughts of unconventional and impressive architecture – generally people will think of a log cabin or garden shed. But there’s a huge variety of inspirational and unusual timber buildings which push the boundaries of design. We thought we’d show you some examples so you can weigh up whether they’re worth investing in, or would work in your garden (or intriguingly on a lake or river)!

A tiny timber house that floats

A floating log cabin

First up in our collection of unusual timber buildings is a tiny off-grid house with a twist – it floats.  Despite being clad in blue tinted aluminium, giving it a modern Scandinavian aesthetic, it’s made of laminated timber and insulated with dense foam for warmth; it’s also powers itself via solar panel meaning there’s no need for pesky wiring (difficult anyway when you’re off-grid).

It’s far from large though, with a floor space of 16 square metres making it spare bedroom sized, though there’s a deck with pontoons for access. Being prefabricated, this would relatively easy to build or buy if you have the money and somewhere to float it. Although we’ve never tried it ourselves, you could from buy a timber building from GardenLife and erect it on a floating platform!

And another floating timber living space

Unusual timber buildings - the house boat/shed

Continuing with the theme of buoyancy – and definitely a contender for winner of the “unusual timber buildings that float” prize – our next unusual timber building is a wooden houseboat complete with roof terrace.

Slightly more spacious, at 23 square metres, it too is fully insulated and even available on Airbnb complete with a video from its creator. The rooftop makes it perfect for sun lounging (subject to weather!) as long as you have access to the money, time and location for a timber building of this type.

Truly one-off unusual timber buildings

The beautiful Silo "cottage"

Next on our honour roll of amazing wooden buildings is this remarkable ‘silo cottage’. It’s very much a one-off, with its cone shaped roof reaching nearly 40 feet. You can rent it on Airbnb and experience for yourself its intricate timber-latticed staircase and cosy wooden stove.

Although it’s an enviable design, unusual timber buildings involving such unconventional shapes are certainly a bit much for anyone considering themselves less than an expert in construction and woodworking. A cheaper, simpler and quicker option would be a GardenLife Quick Fit self assembly garden room.

An unusual timber garden home

A "log cabin" trailer

Simpler to achieve is this timber family home, which has two bedrooms (one of which doubles as an office-space with fold-away bed). The structure itself isn’t unusual – it’s basically a trailer – but it shows how creative use of colour and paint can turn a conventional timber cabin into a real-life version of a Playmobil house. Young children would love it as an extra living space or holiday home.

An unusual timber building that only engineers would think of

A timber "cabin" in the woods

More unusual and architectural is this inventive home-cum-storage unit with two floors and even a rooftop deck. Raised off the ground to prevent damp, it was built (perhaps unsurprisingly) by two engineers and even features a second loft bedroom and compact living and storage space.

Accordingly, the design is perfect for space-starved gardens though you could probably live in it full-time as it’s as equipped as timber buildings come. Planning permission might have to be considered though, considering its height.

An unusual wooden building-and-greenhouse

Unusual timber greenhouse/home/trailer

Next is a pocket-sized timber country home, with its own greenhouse/self-contained garden. A roomy 30 square metres, it’s essentially an enormous trailer clad in timber and steel.

With air conditioning and fancy kitchen appliances, it probably belongs more in the category of ‘home’ than garden building. And the trailer design won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the raised flower beds and greenhouse are perfect for keen gardeners though.

A recycled timber hideaway

Jeff's greenhouse cabin

Perhaps a more realistic example of what can be built without help from a designer or architect is this timber cabin/greenhouse built of wood and recycled windows which create a shop window-style display of the plants within.

The space is tiny and it’s never going to appear on Grand Designs, but it’s a wonderful example of what you can achieve with a tight budget and a spirit of enterprise. It would make a unusual timber gardening retreat, guest-room or children’s playhouse. Definitely one of our favourite unusual timber buildings.

A wooden eco-building for cold climates

An unusual timber trailer

Ideal for those in less forgiving climates, this trailer-style eco-house comes complete with a drawbridge porch. It’s cold-proof, designed for off-grid living, and is also more flexible than some of our other unusual timber buildings because it’s easily towable. The interior is tidily organised for maximum floor space. Along with a few others, this belongs in the “transportable unusual timber buildings” section.

A timber cabin in the woods

A "cabin" in the woods

Very different in style is this Hobbit-style Geodesic dome cabin built with reclaimed timber and natural plaster, to create a nature-centric, hideaway

This is certainly the most DIY, and escapist, structure in this list and although it’s not exactly spacious, it does fit a wood stove, a bed platform and a desk. Not perhaps somewhere to relocate to permanently, but definitely a beautiful weekend retreat.

Despite the diversity of their design, there is one thing all of these unusual timber buildings have in common – they’re quite significant undertakings. If you don’t have the necessary time, effort or expertise you might want to think again and browse the GardenLife website, where all the hard stuff is done for you.

Photographs from www.goodshomedesign.com

Feb 14

Your rain garden guide – construction, location, plants and more

Your rain garden guide - construction, location, plants and more

Your rain garden guide – construction, location, plants and more

We’ve talked about climate change and garden design on this blog before, and given pointers on how it might impact your garden. So now we’re going to continue on the theme, and discuss how we (or our gardens) could deal with a whole lot more rain.

For some of us, it will come into the form of heat and drought during the summers and torrentially wet winters with storms and flooding. For others, it will mean warmer, wetter weather all year round.

Either way, gardeners, wildlife watchers, water companies, and others are adopting the idea of the rain garden as a solution to all this excess water.

What is a rain garden?

Put simply, rain gardens are a sunken dip with plants and vegetation which collect run-off water, from your roof, patio, other hard surfaces, or overflow pipes. Crucially, they do this before the run-off water overwhelms your local drainage systems and leads to flooding.

They basically mimic the ups and downs of the natural landscape (before we covered it over with paving, roads, patios, car parks, patios!) and have plants that don’t mind their roots being waterlogged for a few days at a time.

The advantages of having a rain garden?

The advantages of having a rain garden

As you trudge through your boggy garden after a week of rain, you may feel you already have a rain garden. But planning a rain garden could transform a mudbath into something wonderful – a view to savour from your home or a garden room.

The great thing about a rain gardens is, they’re relatively easy to plant, and even easier to maintain. And in both respects, they’re a simple alternative to installing a garden pond (though it’s not actually a case of either/or, as they can look brilliant in combination).

Rain gardens can absorb up to 30% more water than a lawn, and don’t need mowing. And by reducing the risk of flooding, they also reduce the pollution risks associated with flooding (because run-off washes oil, metals and pollutants from roads etc into watercourses).

They can also be used to harvest rainwater, helping to reduce the effects of drought and cut down on the need for watering (another way in which they cut down on labour).

And, last but not least, it turns out there’s a huge choice of herbaceous and perennial plants that love to have a soggy bottom (see below). And also that many of these rain-tolerant plants are attractive to birds, butterflies, bees and other wildlife. So add biodiversity to the list of benefits.

What’s the best location for a rain garden?

Before you start digging a rain garden into a lawn or flowerbed, it’s important you know if and where any subterranean cables or pipes for gas and electricity etc. are in your garden. It’s best to avoid digging into them!

Secondly, it’s recommended not to site a rain garden within (3m) 10ft of a property – you don’t want water to do awful things to your foundations.

Rain gardens are not recommended for slopes with an incline of more than 10%. And don’t put one too close to a garden room or office in case there is overflow into the base area for the building.

Other than that, the main advice for positioning a rain garden is that it should be in full or partial sunlight (otherwise you may just end up with a swamp). And if you already have a natural dip in your garden, that could be a good starting point.

For more detailed advice about location and construction have a look through this user-friendly guide.

What’s the best soil for a rain garden?

Advantages of having a rain garden

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends a simple test to find out if your soil is suitable for a rain garden.

You dig a hole about 25cm (10 in) deep and fill it with water. Wait for it to drain away, then fill it up again, and watch how long it takes to drain. The RHS say an ideal rain garden site drains at a minimum of 1.25cm (0.5in) an hour. It should also be fine with absorption rates of up to 5cm (2in) an hour.

If it takes longer, your soil is not suitable – you might have a heavy clay soil, for example, or a high water table.

There are other variations on this test online, but the general idea is similar.

How big should a rain garden be?

It depends on the size of your garden overall, the level of drainage, climate, and the size of your run-off point (likely your roof).

The general rule of thumb is ‘the bigger the better’, especially since smaller ones are more prone to water logging and less able to prevent large run-off into drains etc. Again, the RHS website has some practical advice.

What plants are recommended for a rain garden?

Plants recommended for a rain garden

There’s a surprisingly wide choice of easy-to-maintain plants – herbaceous perennials, in particular – that thrive in wet ground. Generally, you want to plant a broad variety of species with strong and dense roots to ensure absorption of water.

The main plants to avoid are Mediterranean species such as lavender whose roots are water-averse, or plants such as azalea which are prone to root rot.

The London Wetland Centre website has some excellent ideas for planting, and there are extensive lists of plant recommendations on the RHS website.

Plants happy in a rain garden

Wildflowers can also grow well around the edge of rain garden, and can help attract wildlife. There are some good ideas for wet soil wildflowers available here.

With these lists in hand, you’re well on the way to a climate-adapted garden that will not only be better for the environment than flooded hard surfaces or a boggy lawn, it will also be less stressful and look better – whether you’re enjoying the view from your kitchen window or relaxing in a garden room.

Too much rain? Not a problem. For the gardener at least.

Jan 10

Hygge garden design? The lagom garden concept? Transform your garden in 2018

Hygge garden design? The lagom garden concept? Transform your garden in 2018

Hygge garden design? The lagom garden concept? Transform your garden in 2018

No, they’re not names of shrubs, but Scandinavian lifestyle trends. Hygge’s probably the best known but forecasters say that lagom, ikigai or even còsagach could well displace it in 2018.

Because each word encompasses a concept that crosses over anything from wellbeing to design, to eating and drinking, to how you spend your free time, they really could transform your life as well as your home or garden.

So, we’ll do a whistle-stop guide to what each concept means, and then we’ll give you ideas for incorporating them into your own garden.

Hygge garden design?

Hygge is Danish, and it’s all about the idea of coziness, conviviality and being comfortable in the moment. It’s opened a way for a range of self-indulgences, from drinking hot chocolate with friends, to homes filled with cashmere throws and a wardrobe to match. Being Scandinavian, there’s a sense of moderation and good taste around it, though – think contentment rather than mad-for-it hedonism.

Hygge is Danish, and it’s all about the idea of coziness

Hygge’s easy to visualise inside a café or country pub, but do you get hygge into a British garden – particularly as the chill winds of winter blast through the gaps in your fence?

Think garden buildings. Natural timber, well-insulated from storms and winds, a snug space away from household chores and the stresses of work – a timber cabin could be the perfect hygge addition to your life.

Claudia timber garden pavilion with that hygge style

A great example of hygge cabins, on an affordable budget, is our Claudia pavilion – with windows on three sides to let in natural light; dense Nordic timber to keep out the chills; and a space that’s cozy without being claustrophobic.

Melanie timber corner summer house

Another perfect retreat is Melanie – a clever shape that fits into a corner in your garden, with light coming in on three sides – but not Arctic-style draughts, thanks to double glazing. It comes in a choice of two sizes, so you can choose how many people who want to get hygge with. The larger version of Melanie (9.6 sq m) has 44mm wall timbers – idea for keep cosy whatever the winter weather.

Round summerhouse for the garden

And then there’s Veronica. With an octagonal design, it is reminiscent of a sauna hut, but the double windows allow in more light – giving you a connection to the outdoors, and making it great for summer use as well as a space to hide away in during winter. Like Claudia, it’s compact, so it won’t eat up too much of your lawn or borders, but with 6.7 sq m of space, you’re still have space to lounge over your fika (Swedish for a coffee with a cake or pastry and preferably a chat as well).

If you want to go full tilt for the sauna vibe, how about a Scandinavian barbecue hut like our Eva design (customer photo just below), with bench seating around the edge, a BBQ grill and smoke extraction hood, and 44mm insulated walls to help keep everyone toasty all year-round?

The lagom garden concept?

Before getting too wholeheartedly into a daily fika habit, it’s worth thinking about lagom, another lifestyle trend for 2018. Lagom is used in many different contexts, from eating to ways of doing business to eating to lifestyle choices, so there’s not one-translation-fits-all. The general idea is “everything in moderation”, avoiding excess in anything from work to play to diet to being too ‘Me, me, me”.

So, how does this translate into garden design and garden buildings? Rather than letting work, commuting or retail consume your 2018, how about finding a garden refuge where you can be healthy, happy and content – whether spending more time with family or friends or taking up a new hobby?

The lagom garden concept

Another element of lagom to incorporate in your garden is the design aesthetic. For example, the classic stripped-back Scandinavian colour palette of chalky matte paint, milky whites, blue-greys, and stone, spiced up with small splashes of dark red, brick or yellow, is very lagom, and would work beautifully with any of these garden buildings – both exterior and interior.

Swedish style garden cabin

We also sell a selection of easy-to-build models whose design is Nordic-influenced. Hedwig is a Quick Fit design inspired by Swedish summer houses – simple, sturdily built, pastoral. Add some red paint on the exterior and you could be in a Scandinavian forest or island.

For a more urban and contemporary aesthetic, take a look at Ly. Spacious (with 10.2 sqm of floor space, or 13.6 sqm of space if you go for the largest model) but still Nordic-influenced in its functionality, comfort and pared-back aesthetic. It makes a great office or workroom – the placement of the windows means you get plenty of light without being on display.

An ikigai garden?

Another trend for 2018 is the Japanese idea of ikigai. This is less about interior design, more about how you live your-life. As with lagom, it’s difficult to find a direct translation, but suggestions range from ‘self-realisation’ to ‘what gets you out of bed in the morning’. It’s about what gives meaning to your life, and according to the Wikipedia guide to ikigai, this could be anything from work to having children to hobbies.

To our minds, there’s no doubt about it: ikigai means having a shed. Or man/woman-den, garden building, workroom – call it what you will. You could use it as creative studio, gym, brewing shed, games room, or a garden office to start the business you’ve long daydreamed about.

The ideal ikigai garden room

A timber cabin like Ines can be perfect here – it’s an elegant design, with clean lines and no over-the-top design details, and we’ve heard of people using it as anything from an extra living room or breakfast room, to a garden gym or yoga retreat. With 44mm walls and double doors that open wide, it can be as snug or airy as you wish.

Getting “còsagach” in your garden?

Our final word for 2018 is còsagach. Announcing it as a lifestyle trend for the year, VisitScotland translated it as snug or sheltered, and encouraged businesses to create environments that “induce a feeling of warmth or cosiness”.


Unfortunately, the choice of còsagach also reminded us of the dangers of adopting hard-to-translate foreign-language words as lifestyle themes. VisitScotland’s advice aroused a backlash from Gaelic speakers who said còsagach in fact means ‘a damp mossy place’ or ‘a wee nook or hole such as very small creatures might live in’ – one person mentioned woodlice.

Not something to aim for when you’re choosing a garden building; best stick with hygge garden design or the lagom garden concept!

Dec 15

Garden security: tips for securing gardens and outbuildings

Garden security: tips for securing gardens and outbuildings

Garden security: tips for securing gardens and outbuildings

Most of us are fairly clued up about the security of our homes – with alarms, multiple locks, movement sensors and security lights being commonplace. As a result, crime stats show you were almost four times less likely to be burgled in 2017 than in 1995!

But whilst we’re impressively canny about protecting our homes, too many of us are still prone to neglect the outside of our homes, with little or no thought to garden security. There’s a garden theft around every 8 minutes in the UK and the financial toll can be heavy – especially if you have expensive garden furniture or tools, or a garden office or workshop.

According to one insurance company the most commonly stolen items are bicycles and power tools, but also vulnerable are garden furniture, ornaments, plants and oil tanks. Thefts reported have even included a window, turf, fireworks, and gold bullion!

So here are some easy and accessible garden security tips on how to make your garden and outbuildings more crime-proof.

Natural ways to enhance garden security

Natural ways to enhance garden security

If you don’t fancy splashing out on high maintenance gadgetry, adopt a more horticultural security approach – planting prickly ‘defensive’ plants and shrubs like pyracantha, berberis or a native evergreen holly (there’s a good list of thorny hedges on the Hedges Direct website and the Thompson Morgan site has some good suggestions too).

These can make uninvited visitors life decidedly trickier and halt them in their tracks or bring them to your attention (perhaps through their exclamations of pain or annoyance), whilst also looking great. As an added bonus, the berries on shrubs like pyracantha and berberis can also be wildlife-friendly (the RSPB has more useful advice on bird-friendly berries if you are interested).

Spreading gravel or creating a gravel path also makes an inconspicuous approach impossible, while installing wooden or even spiked trellises on top of your walls can deter entry and improve garden security. You could even install planters down your walls and thorny climbing roses or spiky vines to stop people clambering over them. During the day you can enjoy looking at the planting whilst easily avoiding the prickles and thorns, but at night (to unsuspecting thieves) the plants can help to secure gardens and outbuildings.

Improve garden security with structure

Improve garden security with structure

Making your garden and its contents more secure need not even require money or specialist equipment and gadgets – the layout itself can help improve overall garden security.

Simple things like keeping hedges and shrubbery low to starve would-be intruders of hiding spots or cover can go a long way. Saga suggests limiting them to around 1m high. This keeps them hard to hide behind, but still tall enough to break up your garden or create the ‘rooms’ so beloved of garden designers.

Also useful is to make sure your house has an unobstructed view of your outbuilding, workshop or summer house – this makes sloping or slightly sunken plots perfect. It’s also wise to locate your outbuildings with the doors facing your main view of the garden with a clear line of site.

What tech can help increase garden security?

Tech can help increase garden security

The options here can start from £20 or less – with simple security lights or battery-operated shed alarms. You can get a good idea of the options at Maplins or other electronics or DIY/home stores.

Heading up the technology scale, motion-sensing floodlights are popular for improving garden security and can come in at well under £100. That being said, if you have a pet, the strobe-like lighting that can ensue each time it goes outside can get tiresome!

Lights which only come on certain times (e.g. you can programme them to work from dusk till dawn) are also available. You can find a solid selection of outside security lights at sites such as Lighting Direct and The Lighting Superstore.

For garden owners who are more anxious or have more to protect, web-linked CCTV cameras that can stream real-time full HD video to your phone or computer can come in at under £200, although installing them might require a tech-savvy helper and a speedy internet connection.

And although likely the most expensive measure, a garden alarm can both catch and deter intruders – Ultra Secure Direct has a good selection of specialist wireless garden alarm systems (including a telephone and text message alarm disguised as a bird nesting box).

Secure garden outbuildings

Secure garden outbuildings

If it’s the contents of your shed or office you’re worried about, you might want to upgrade to a more security-conscious garden building. Having a building with sturdy cylinder locks, laminated doors, double glazed windows and 28 – 70mm thick timber walls can all provide added protection, and keep out opportunistic visitors. And into the bargain, you get a warmer, better insulated space for working, entertaining or relaxing.

Does home insurance cover garden security?

Taking out an insurance policy on the contents of your garden – or just checking if your current insurance covers summer houses and garden outbuildings – can also go some way to give you peace of mind should the worst happen. It is worth checking what your current insurer covers; it’s surprising how many policies don’t cover theft from the garden or an outbuilding.

The common sense approach

Keep your gates locked!

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – if you’re not in the mood to make major changes, simply buying an additional door or window lock will boost your security. As for garden ornaments and statues, well, actually you could fix them – anchors can help make sure no one makes off with them.

Even obvious things such as making sure side or back gates have locks, and then remembering to use them, can make all the difference. Making sure to put garden equipment or furniture back in their resting places can also prevent opportunistic passers-by from making a quick buck at your plot’s expense. Sometimes it’s just the little things that can help improve your garden security and prevent a theft.

Nov 30

Garden decking ideas; an ideal winter gardening project

Put off garden decking ideas by 1990s TV garden makeovers? Don’t be, it offers unique and creative design possibilities, many of which you won’t have ever considered.

Amazing garden decking ideas

Garden decking has become a victim of its own success over the past few years – the subject of so many late 1990s TV garden makeovers that garden designers adopted a sneer whenever they heard the word. And that’s a huge shame, because decking can be used to create brilliant garden designs – practical, affordable, creative and interesting.

With winter greatly reducing the number of other parts of the garden requiring attention, now is a great time to think about decking. Indeed, looking out the window at an under-used muddy back garden could well provide the incentive to use decking to create a more inviting space. Just make sure you wait until the rain stops before installing it – otherwise you may face an epic battle with mud and damp wood.

Here are some ways you can use traditional garden decking to give your plot more interest and functionality.

The classic garden decking BBQ and patio area

Classic garden decking BBQ and patio area

This is the best-known use of decking, so beloved of the TV makeovers. There it was used because it was quick, cheap and cheerful – easier to accomplish in two days than actually growing something.

Decking is certainly easier and more flexible than paving or concrete. And it’s ideal for creating a level surface in a sloping garden.

But decking is not just a matter of easy answers. Pinterest has beautiful ideas for using decking imaginatively, and garden writer Anna Pavord recommends getting creative with the colours of decking – looking at shades such as “watered-down green”, soft grey or “patchy olive green”, set off by contrasting flowers in pots. Using decking diagonally or at different angles can also look brilliant.

Vertical garden decking ideas and zoning

Decking need not be limited to the ground – incorporating it vertically into your garden walls can make urban gardens feel more natural, and softer on the eye. And different woods can create different moods – for example, cedar can introduce a Japanese feel.

Decking – horizontal and/ or vertical – can also be used to section off a particular area of your garden or patio, for example to create a raised lounging, play or al-fresco dining area.

Vertical garden decking ideas and zoning

Lighting can be integrated into floors and walls – for example, uplighters put into paths and patios for security; downlighters put into decking walls; or LED strips hidden under decking edges. You’ll find some tips and ideas for this at www.exteriorlightsuk.co.uk and www.philips.co.uk.

Speakers can also be set into the woodwork, as can sofas and benches. Planters or trellises can also be incorporated into vertical or horizontal decking designs if you want to break up the wood with some greenery.

Decking or wooden rails can also be used to create a roofed area or pergola, offering some shade and creating beautiful shadow effects. The trick here (as with decking walls) is to think about the spacing of the wood – too close together and the area may look like a sauna.

Garden decking foundations and structures

Garden decking ideas for foundations and structures

At a practical level, decking can be invaluable if you’re thinking about installing a garden building. Using it around and underneath garden sheds, storages or summer houses will not only raise them and create a vantage point, it’ll also protect against damp and insects.

Here too, you can be creative, using colour, material and design to contrast or blend with anything from a garden workroom to a gazebo.

Raised garden pond made from garden decking

You can also combine decking with other structures – from wooden storage units to raised beds or wall-mounted planters – to create interesting textures and surfaces.

Garden paths made from decking?

One reason why decking got a bad name is that people simply ripped out whole lawns or borders and covered them over with an expanse of monotone wood. It’s not just the aesthetic effect people bemoan here; there are warnings that covering over gardens with paving or decking can exacerbate flooding or remove wildlife habitats [PDF].

Garden paths made from decking

Buck decking can be used more sparingly to make paths, either raised or flush with the lawn. Not only does this prevent a well-used path across a lawn from becoming a bog, it also create a pleasing ‘journey’ effect that breaks up a space, and is a nice modern substitute for stone or gravel.

Different types of decking materials

The cheapest decking option is usually a pressure-treated softwood, such as pine, available from around £25 sq m. Cedar and redwood are also popular – though more expensive softwoods, with some natural protection against rot and insects. These are usually somewhere from £25/m².

Hardwoods such as oak or teak, although more expensive, are more durable and aesthetic. When buying timber, look for Timber Decking Association-approved wood which tells you it’s of a decent standard.

Different types of decking materials

And then there is composite wood decking – a mixture of wood particles and plastic – which is weather-resistant and hard-wearing but doesn’t look like real timber. There’s more advice about choosing your decking material available on this website.

DIY garden decking ideas – the practicalities

DIY garden decking ideas

In terms of installation, there are plenty of basic DIY guides online. Useful ones include:

Larger or sloping areas will likely require professional installation – setting you back in the region of £500 or thereabouts – and will probably require planning permission if above 30 cm high. It’s a long-term investment though, given that you maybe able to get 3 decades out of good quality decking.

With all wooden decking, there are practicalities to think about. If neglected, a decking path may turn into an ice rink in the winter months, fitting it with chicken wire could be useful. There are also anti-slip solutions from providers such as Gripsure and Deckwright, which can prevent damp decking from turning into a slippery, slimy health and safety hazard, and are readily available in DIY chains.

And finally, on the maintenance front, all types of timber decking will need to be cleaned, sanded and resealed every year or two. For basic cleaning – preventing or dealing with the dreaded algae – there are plenty of cleaning products available in DIY stores. There are some eco-friendly cleaning recommendations on the Amatuer Gardener website.

Oct 19

Self storage solutions and alternatives

Too much stuff? What you need are some helpful ideas for self storage solutions and other alternatives.

Self storage solutions and their alternatives

Lots of stuff; but not lots of space. It’s a growing problem for many of us, as modern flats and houses get smaller, and the number of things we accumulate grows ever bigger.

And however good our intentions to de-clutter and get rid of possessions that don’t ‘spark joy’, it’s difficult in practice. It seems heartless to throw away children’s artwork and old wedding gifts; and downright stupid to rid yourself of all your winter clothes because you don’t have enough hanging space.

So, for most of us de-cluttering is more about finding cost-effective self storage solutions than divesting ourselves of the stuff we own. But what are the best self storage solutions, and what are the realistic alternatives?

Self storage solutions: size, cost and extras

A typical self storage warehouse

Self storage units are long favoured by students, urban renters with a lack of space, and people moving house. They’re affordable, flexible, and increasingly accessible. And certainly more manageable for most people’s budgets than renting or buying somewhere bigger to live.

In the UK, self storage units tend to range from a tight 2.25 sq m (the size of a small garden shed) to around 15 sq m (roughly the size of a double garage). If you’re renting on a short-term basis, expect to pay upwards of £10 a week for the smallest units, rising to £50-plus a week for 15 sq m. But price will vary significantly depending on location, size, length of contract, and the type of unit you want.

Many self storage units offer additional features such as 24-hour access, van hire, air conditioning, lighting, forklifts for heavier items, and CCTV – expect to pay extra for these. Committing to a longer contract can reduce the price per week, and it’s worth shopping around.

There are plenty of online storage comparison sites, which can tell you your local options and give ballpark prices. Compare The Storage and Storage Price Comparison are both useful here.

And if you want generic advice about using the best self storage solutions there’s good advice and FAQs on the Self Storage Association website.

Self storage isn’t a solution for everyone

Self storage is burgeoning, but there are downsides too. Location, for a start.

Given that self-storage units are usually contained in vast warehouses, you may have to drive to an out-of-town industrial park to access your stuff. Problematic for rural or urban dwellers, or those without a car.

In addition, the interiors can be labyrinthine, confusing or a depressing place to spend a Sunday morning, and the quality and convenience of the storage can vary widely.

So, on what’s on the menu if you want to keep your things closer to home?

A home extension instead of self storage?

Home extension or self storage

If you can’t shrink your stuff, you need to grow your space. Option one is a home extension. You probably know all the pros here – adding value to your home, getting exactly the storage and living space that you want, in a style that fits your taste, and makes the most of modern building efficiency and insulation.

That’s the upside. You’re probably just as familiar with the cons – the upheaval, the planning processes involved. And the costs.

As with most self storage solutions, the costs of an extension will depend on location, size, materials, single-storey or double-storey etc. The rough rule of thumb for extensions used to be around £1,000 per sq m for a single-storey extension, but the Design For Me website (which has a useful price estimation tool for extensions) suggests more like £1,200-£2,000 per sq m.

And that doesn’t include professional fees, fittings, unexpected costs and overruns, and all the rest.

Garden storage solutions – easier on the pocket and your patience

A timber garden garage, shed or room

Option two for extending your space is to think about garden sheds, workrooms, garages and offices. They’re a much cheaper and more flexible alternative to an extension, and may cut out the need to go through the planning permission process. And you still get to store your stuff securely and close at hand.

If your idea of a garden building is still a one-person potting shed, it’s time for a rethink. You can now find attractive garden buildings for storage (or living, working or entertaining) measuring anything from 4 sq m to a whopping 25 or 30 sq m, in any style from Dutch barn to contemporary urban garden office. They are all designed to be built by those with even the very basic DIY skills too.

Price-wise the garden building option comes out well when compared with both long-term self storage and home extensions.

Take self storage solutions. Let’s say you pay £50 a week for 15 sq m of self-storage, or upwards of £2500 a year. And then let’s say you look at a solid timber garage or garden workroom at around £4,000, with 19 or 20 sq m of space – not only has it paid for itself after 2-3 years, but you also have a flexible asset in walking distance of your own door.

If it has outlived its usefulness as a storage space, some minor fixes can turn it into an outdoor office, children’s den, extra living room or whatever else takes your fancy.

What to look for

If you’re going to store your precious possessions in a timber garden building, you want them to stay safe, usable and in great condition.

So, whilst saving money (compared to an extension or a self storage solution) may be the motivator, don’t cut cut your budget at the expense of durability, weather-proofing and security:

  • Buying a cabin with thicker chalet-cut tongue and groove cladding will provide a more robust solution than cheaper sheds with overlap cladding
  • Slow-grown timber is denser and more robust than quicker-grown timber. Look for wood grown in Nordic countries, since the denser grain will make it less likely to warp, twist or split, and will provide better insulation.
  • Features such as toughened glass and secure locks will help protect your possessions from unwelcome visitors.
  • Pay attention to suppliers’ instructions around wood preservation treatments, and the base to build your cabin on. This will help prevent damp, mould and other weather-related problems.
  • Check to see if your timber garage or garden room can be dip treated before delivery to better protect it.

With a wide choice of self storage solutions, a home extension, or even a new garden room that you can build yourself, there should be something to match your budget and needs.