garden project: creating a low-maintenance garden

House Tour | Our modern garden makeover

I know, I know: it’s a bit much of me to launch straight into a house tour post mere DAYS after telling you all about how weird my husband is for still wanting to show people around the house years after buying it, huh?

In my defence, though:

01. This is a garden tour, not a house tour: that’s TOTALLY different.

02. It’s also a project that we’ve literally just finished, so that’s my justification right there.

03. I swear I had a third point here, but, if I did, I’ve totally forgotten what it was, so let’s just get on with the show, shall we?

So! Terry and I bought our current house five years ago (So, yeah, not SIX years ago, like I said in this post. As soon as Terry spotted the mistake, he was all, “Well, that basically invalidates everything you’ve just said, doesn’t it?” but sorry, Terry, NO. It doesn’t. You’re still officially weird.), and, on the day we moved in, the garden looked like this:

our garden: beforeSo THAT was nice.

“It’ll be fine!” said Terry, ever the optimist. “All we’ll have to do is rip up all the weeds, level the wonky ground, separate it into two tiers, build a shed, build a bench and maybe some planters, totally hard-landscape the entire area, paint the fence white, spend a small fortune on plants, flowers and garden accessories, add a patch of astroturf, and we’re done! It’ll take no time at all!”

Guys, it took five years.


And, I mean, it wasn’t five years of non-stop labour, obviously. No, it was more like a few weeks of frenzied activity (Which involved a bunch of willing friends and a thing called a “rotavator”, which turned out to be a lot less interesting than it sounded…), and then four years of me looking wistfully out of the window and saying, “I’ve heard some people have gardens that DON’T have random piles of bricks in them: imagine!”

(Oh, and there was also the discovery of a mysterious artefact buried deep in the ground. I’m happy to report that we’re both still alive, so my fears about the Thing rising up and killing us in our sleep turned out to be unfounded. I’ve also just this second realised that I have no freaking clue where that Thing is now, though, so who knows, maybe it’s off terrorising some other family now?)

By this point, the garden looked like this:

garden progress

Yes, this one’s taken from a totally different angle, and that’s because when a project takes five years, you kind of lose the will to live a bit, and you’re maybe not quite as meticulous with the ol’ photos as you’d ideally like. And when it takes eight solid months for that guy who promised to build you a shed to tell you that, actually, no shed will be forthcoming, and that you’ll have to find someone else to build that stupid shed, you don’t really bother documenting THAT particularly well either, which is why this is the only photo I could find of the OTHER side of the garden:

new shedAnyway! This year, we finally decided that as we now have a small baby who takes up every single second of our time and energy, this would be the perfect time for Terry to spend many, many hours out working in the garden. Makes sense, no? Here’s the finished result:

Here’s where you can buy some
of the products in the garden.

modern urban landscaped garden

astroturf in low-maintenance garden

modern garden with statement chairs and outdoor rug

colourful statement chairs in urban garden

outdoor table decorations

garden bench and coffee table

pink garden shed

IKEA chair coathangers

garden table with umbrella detail

(Outdoor rug; statement chairs; dining table; chair hooks; tealight lantern; watering cans; pyramid lights)

As you can see, we’re not big on grass here. Or, you know, ANY kind of gardening AT ALL. No, Terry and I might disagree on a lot of things, but one thing we’re in total agreement about is our mutual dislike of gardening, which is why, right from the very start, our aim with this project was to create a low-maintenance garden that was still pleasant to sit in. This involved totally hard-landscaping the area, so there would be no lawn to mow (The patch of “grass” you can see is actually astroturf…), and the absolute minimum amount of weeds to pull up.

In our defence, when we started the project, we had no plans to have children, so this garden wasn’t built with Max in mind. Even if we HAD known he’d be making an appearance, though, I’m not sure we’d have changed much, because, like I say, we’re not gardeners. Like, not AT ALL. Our last house was laid to lawn both front and back, and, honestly, it was the absolute bane of my life. It wasn’t a large amount of land, but it still seemed to require endless maintenance just to look mediocre, and I resented every single second of it. Unlike housework, you see, which you can fit in any time, gardening can only be done when the weather allows, and, here in Scotland, the weather hardly ever “allows”- which meant I’d frequently spend the entire week waiting for that one window of opportunity to mow the lawn… after which it would start raining again, and continue until the NEXT window of opportunity, at which point I would once again MOW THE FREAKING LAWN, without every having had an opportunity to use the garden I’d spent all that time on. It just felt like such a waste of nice weather to always have to spend it gardening that, when we started looking for our next house, I told Terry – and he thankfully agreed – that it would have to have a low-maintenance garden: and, if it didn’t, we’d have to MAKE one.

So we did. (Pull the slider from left to right to see the before and after shots in all their glory… or lack thereof, as the case may be …)

[tp_before_after before_image=”121714″ after_image=”121739″ click_hover_move=”” separate_switch=”true” image_separator=”123590″]
[tp_before_after before_image=”121751″ after_image=”121742″ click_hover_move=”” separate_switch=”true” image_separator=”123590″]

modern urban garden decor

fake topiary used in modern landscaped garden

(White chair; long black planters; topiary balls; square black planter box)

Obviously, no outdoor space is ever going to be completely maintenance-free, but we reckon this is as close as we can get, while still making it a nice area to sit in. The fence and walls will probably have to be painted once a year, and we’ve no idea how well the pink shed or painted chairs will hold up, but even if they all have to be repainted too, it’ll still add up to maybe a day or two’s work once a year, and I’ll take that over hours of lawn mowing and weed-pulling every week any time. (Er, especially given that it won’t be me doing it.) (That’s not because I’m a delicate flower who won’t do garden work, btw: it’s because I’m not allowed to touch paint brushes ever since I tried to paint our hall and stairs last year, and messed it up so badly that Terry started doing house tours JUST to show people what a mess I’d made. He still includes it in his tours now, actually.) While most of the painting and accessorising is new, the paving, astroturf and decking has been in place for a few years now, and we get very few weeds finding their way through it, so it definitely works in that respect – and you gotta love not having to mow the lawn every week, too. Or I do, anyway.

garden details

white planter boxes in low maintenance landscaped garden

(Tall white planters; small square planters; assorted garden pots)

If you’ve seen any of my home interior posts, you might have noticed that we’ve taken the same approach with the garden as we have with our kitchen and living room, which can be best summed up as, “white with pops of colour”. At first, we only intended to do one fence white, and the shed pink, but, well, once we’d started, it became impossible to stop, and we ended up doing AAAAALLL of the fence, plus the old wooden outdoor chairs we’ve had for years, and which we decided to paint in a mixture of pastel colours, just like the ones around our kitchen table. (Our chairs are all around 10 years old now, but you can find similar ones here – we painted them and the shed using a brand of outdoor paint called HQC, which you can find on Amazon) Terry’s idea – which I was, admittedly, a bit dubious about at first, especially when he started talking about outdoor rugs – was to basically make the outdoor space feel like an extension of the indoor space: he spent a lot of time going on about lines of sight, and how he wanted to draw the eye from the kitchen, right through the living room, and out through the patio doors to the garden. I, meanwhile, just wanted to be able to take blog photos outdoors without having a pile of bricks and a boring old wooden fence in the background, so, yeah, I guess we both got our wish there.

garden bench

tile coffee table in urban garden

(Green and white planters)

This table was originally going to be a “fire pit”(Because MAN! MAKE FIRE!), but somewhere along the line it basically became Terry’s baby (Sorry, Max!), and he spent many long hours loving crafting it from a selection of outdoor tiles which were kindly provided by Tile Mountain. The tree on top, meanwhile, is one of a few plants which came from Terry’s mum’s garden: unlike us, Terry’s mum loved gardening, and her garden was her pride and joy – and rightly so, because it was absolutely beautiful. Her house has just been sold, and, as hard as it is to let the house itself go, it’s actually the garden I’ll miss the most, because it’s the place I most associate with her. Every year, as soon as the temperature rose above freezing, Soula would open the back door and invite all of her visitors to sit outside, so we have lots of happy memories of that garden, and I was really pleased that we were able to take some of her favourite plants from it, and use them here. I think she’d really like to know they were still in the family, and still being enjoyed, so I just hope we can look after them for her.

On that note, the little white “fence” you can see behind me in the photo above was actually designed to be a wind-break, protecting one of Soula’s trees from the high winds we often get here (We’re right on top of a hill, at the highest point of the county, so it gets windy a LOT…), and just behind it is this:

fairies in the garden

garden fairyland

fairy door in the gardenYes, fairies live in our garden, folks. Also, elves, gnomes, and, well that pink pony I wrote about earlier this week. The fairy garden is totally real and we don’t know it got there was actually started off by my parents, who, as some of you might recall, have form for sneaking into our garden and leaving things there. So, a couple of years ago, Terry and I were out in the garden, and we suddenly noticed a fairy door had appeared in the fence. Huh. Suspicion immediately fell upon my parents, and these suspicions were confirmed the next time we visited them, when we realised that HEY! THEY HAD ONE IN THEIR GARDEN, TOO! Now, there were two possible explanations here: either fairies were real, and had chosen to make their homes in both of our gardens, or my parents were going around putting fairy doors on people’s fences. It was pretty obvious to me that the first explanation was the correct one, but if it HAD been my parents’ work, I expect they’d have bought the doors in one of the many garden centres they frequent, and I expect that’s where the tiny postbox and other fairy stuff came from, too. If that’s what was happening, I’d imagine there would be lots of this type of stuff to collect, and that you could buy them from a website like this one, say (Or from pretty much ANY garden centre), but, I mean, this is just speculation, obviously, because OUR fairy garden was the work of ACTUAL, real-life fairies, and that’s totally what we’ll be telling Max, when he one day stumbles upon this at the bottom of his garden.


Speaking of Max, as I said, we didn’t design this garden with him in mind, because we didn’t HAVE him in mind when we bought the house, but we’ve deliberately left the area at the top right of the space mostly unfinished (Or, rather, everything that’s there now is temporary), with the aim of possibly putting in a playhouse, or swing or similar when he’s a bit older. In the meantime, we’ve been really enjoying having a finished area we can sit in with him: I had pretty much assumed that, by re-starting work on this project, we’d basically trigger the worst summer EVER, this guaranteeing that we wouldn’t get to enjoy the fruits of our – er, Terry’s – labours, but, much to my amazement, even although it’s only June, it’s already been the best summer I can remember, so we’ve had plenty of opportunities to enjoy it. As the weather’s been so warm lately, we’ve gotten into the habit of heading outside with our coffee in the morning, and just enjoying the sunshine, and after a winter that seemed absolutely endless, it’s been SO nice to be able to sit outdoors without freezing – and without having that pile of bricks and unpainted shed blocking our view.

And that’s the story of our garden! As always, all credit here goes to Terry, who has absolutely worked his ass off over the last few weeks on this. Literally every spare second has been spent out there, and we really don’t have a whole lot of spare seconds right now, so he’s been doing his “real” work late at night, just to fit it all in. I think he deserves a standing ovation, don’t you? And I also think he’s done such a good job that he should be allowed to conduct as many garden tours as he likes: I know the window cleaner certainly appreciated his last week, anyway…

[Huge thanks to Wayfair for collaborating with us on this project!]

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books by Amber Eve
  • Such a zen space! Also love the way you’ve incporated so much colour (even the pink pony, not penoy as I first read the other day ?)
    xx Bry Jaimea

    June 15, 2018
  • Wow, what a difference! This is one of the best makeovers I’ve seen! The pops of colour everywhere are so fun! I totally don’t blame you for wanting a low-maintenance garden with little actual “gardening’. This came out gorgeous.

    xx Lauren

    June 15, 2018
  • I have a high maintenance garden, not by choice, but because it came with the house we bought and I admit I am pretty envious with what you have achieved there. The white, pink and pastel add an aery feeling, no doubt that is why the fairies took up space there.

    Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

    June 15, 2018
  • Officially speechless here in Glasgow. That’s amazing – well done Terry! It’s as if you’ve gained an extra room.

    We’ve been doing our garden the past few weeks, although it pales into significance compared to this. Our decision was to place colourful flowerpots around the garden randomly plus take up some of the paving slabs for a rockery. And to have a couple of planters and hanging baskets.

    I do enjoy gardening and it looks great when it’s first done. But despite growing up with grandparents with green fingers and being descended from Irish farmers on the other side, everything I plant dies a swift death. ?

    June 15, 2018
  • It looks amazing. I’ve got an acre now and, OMG, I’ve never known south work. I am not designed for gardening, but this gives me the inspiration to keep going with mine.

    June 15, 2018
  • It may have taken five years but it’s been worth it – your garden is stunning! Well done Terry!

    June 15, 2018
  • Brenda


    Your garden is absolutely gorgeous and I am in love with the chrome balls! They are awesome! Here’s a funny thing for you… I was scanning the photos looking for the pink pony… thinking it was a BIG pink pony, like a carousel-size pony! Then I saw the wee little pink pony and realized that was it! Ha ha! I probably didn’t read that last blog post close enough… but don’t you think a giant carousel sized pink pony would be awesome tucked in there somewhere? Get on that, Terry!

    June 15, 2018
  • It’s like a magical fantasy land or Alice in wonderland I absolutely love it well done Terry !

    June 15, 2018
  • Myra Boyle


    Fab and totally complements your indoor space. I love Terry’s pastel painted chairs – that was inspired. Happy garden sitting

    June 15, 2018
  • Like I believe this is your garden, but I also totally don’t believe this is a real person’s garden! It is so beautiful and seems really functional. I love all of the seating and the umbrella for condiments!

    June 15, 2018
  • Kelly Glen


    Terry should be very proud of all his hard work, it looks absolutely stunning and very modern. It’s definitely worthy of a tour and I shall put my name down to come and have a look if I may.

    June 15, 2018
  • Lisa


    That’s lovely, such a fantastic transformation but as a mum of a nine year old i predict that Max will take over, you’ll only have to wait until he’s a teenager to reclaim the garden but it will still bring you happiness even if it’s full of toys

    June 15, 2018
  • Trudy


    Wow. Just wow. This is house-and-garden magazine worthy! I love it. Can you come and do mine now? 😉

    June 16, 2018
  • Emm


    You’ve worked wonders with the hard landscaping – it looks great! The colours are so cheery, and will lift your spirits in winter. White is the last colour to fade as it gets dark, so you’ll have a great view most of the day.

    I actually moved out of my new-build house because I found the garden too small and low maintenance. However, whilst my current home has a massive garden (60ft lawn, mature trees, etc), it has been neglected for 15+ years. The past four months have been digging, weeding, hacking, clearing on repeat and it’s hard work. I completely get what you mean about the annoying disconnect between effort and result! (Plus it has cost a fricking fortune, argh!)

    I think your paint will be ok. I have used Cuprinol garden shades on a bench which has weathered 4 Peak District winters without it needing touching up. I’m revamping the bench this weekend (currently sea grass) and the new shed, which are going to be in Dusky Gem, and ‘hiding’ the ugly fences in Urban Slate. There is a great colour selection, so I recommend!

    PS – Soula’s red tree is an acer, so prone to wind burn. Is that the tree that’s screened by the fence? (see:

    June 16, 2018
  • Erin


    This garden is so lovely! I am definitely more of a Soula but I’ve always appreciated other people’s more hardscape oriented spaces. I think it looks very chic and comfy, which can be a tough combo to pull off. Bravo, Terry!

    June 19, 2018
  • D. Johnson


    Absolutely stunning! Terry was right about “lines of sight” and this is like one, pleasant, additional room. I would LOVE to have something low maintenance like this! The “before” is just horrible; even worse than what I have now, so that gives me hope. Bravo Terry! Standing ovation from “across the pond!”

    June 19, 2018
  • Before and after- just wow! I was working in garden shop for years and I am speechless.

    July 2, 2018
  • I’m a little late to seeing this but had to say, it looks amazing! Well done, Terry. ? We’ve been in our house for 10 years and have only put up a backyard fence and planted a few bushes. We have a pile of rocks for landscaping in the front yard still after a year. I totally feel ya for having a garden project years in the making.

    September 9, 2018