Creating our perfect family garden

Over the years on my blog and instagram feed it’s been pretty obvious that my family and I are huge nature lovers, gardeners and ‘outdoorsy people’. Or perhaps, we are just middle aged. Either way the small space that we tinker and treasure like a right pair of Monty Dons hasn’t ever really had the honour of it’s own blog post. A travesty which is about to be corrected.

We moved to our home 5 years ago, and unlike many people who feel sad about leaving their old home for pastures new, it was our garden we were devastated to see go. That incredible cherry tree lined with blue Irises, the pond we dug by hand and the grass we nurtured back from a slow death (courtesy of a row of enormous Conifers). In fact, we dug up a fair few plants and took them with us, shame the Cherry tree was a step too far.

Unsurprisingly, the garden of our new home was part of the draw. At the time we viewed it there were holly hocks surrounding an entrance arch way and all around the perimeter of the mature garden. Three mature trees lined one border and a pond with an actual functional waterfall tucked away in the corner.

Over the years the garden has seen a lot of changes. The home renovation of 2015 was tough to watch as the demolition extended way up our garden. The lawn in-fact had to be totally replaced and the archway and first few feet of the garden were no more. It was a timely reason to open up that arch and create a small patio area close to the house, leading into the garden from the new kitchen patio doors.

Shortly after the re-turfing and new patio laying, we took down the original modular garage which was used for storing endless crap, and doubled our garden in size. Upon some advice from our landscapers, we even sold the garage on eBay for £60 and had it carefully dismantled and removed – a total bonus after we were quoted over a grand for the same privilege. Just goes to show that one mans rubbish is another man’s treasure.

In the old garage’s place we created a space for outdoor living – barbecue and seating, surrounded by a raised flower bed. We even squeezed in a 12 foot trampoline down there which is used day in day out, whatever the weather by the kids.

Everyone’s ideal garden is completely different – it’s such a personal taste. One person may rave about how imitation grass changed their life for the better, where to another it’s their worst nightmare. To some, flowers and plants make the garden a peaceful sanctuary whereas to another that’s just a drain on their time and energy and a pain in the neck.

So, without pushing what the perfect garden IS to you, here is a walk around our perfect family garden.

HOUSE TO GARDEN

As mentioned, after our renovation the flow from house to garden was left in a bit of a state. After several drops from the door into no man’s land by the kids, we got the builders back to build a clear definition where the house ended and the garden started. A small patio only a few feet wide, with indian sandstone now bridges the gap between house and lawn. Perfect for popping out to the bin, for the water butt to sit on, a kids sand and water table and a love seat to enjoy a coffee in the morning sunshine.

LAWN

Our turf hasn’t been short of love and attention, courtesy of my husband, and it’s doing okay considering the battering by the kids. It’s not a huge rolling lawn so upkeep is minimal, and it’s just enough for a blanket and a picnic and a space to run and play with a natural soft landing. I mean, what is a family garden without a bit of grass? Where do I stand on imitation stuff? No prizes for guessing…after all, it doesn’t oxygenate, does it?

LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP | As I watched these two together this afternoon I wondered a) could there be anything cuter and b) I wonder if they’ll still be doing this in 60 years time? (He is 21 years her senior). Let’s hope so, eh…..🐭💚🐢 . . . . . . . . . . #coolmumclub #thismamaloves #mummyshot #ukparentbloggers #myhappycapture #livingfearlesslyauthentic #pinklinker #totsphoto #snaphappybritmums #lionessmama #rockingmummylife #mydarlingmemory #funseekingkids #childofig #instamum #littlefierceones #outdoorsandfree #chasingnature #happylittlebuttons #whatevertheweather #rememberingthesedays #capturingtheday #perfectandproud #bestofmom #candidchildhood #theeverydayproject #photosinbetween #thesearethedays #inspiremyinstagram

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OUTDOOR LIVING

The extra patio space we created from losing the garage allowed us to create a new seating area – the old space was too small for the table we owned and as such it looked great unused but didn’t work practically. Trying our best to avoid it looking totally concrete, we created raised borders with railway sleepers and hung planters over the back gate. Fairy lights and hanging art help to make the area homely and less sterile, and we also invested in a hanging umbrella. Just don’t use it on a windy day! An outback barbeque squeezed into the garden refit budget when our old hand me down coals fell through the grill onto the floor. Think maybe a lesson learnt in outdoor equipment care and maintenance right there.

KIDS TOYS

When you have young children, there is no avoidance of the plastic tat in the garden any more than the home. We did manage to dodge the plastic wendy house and found an incredible deal on the most beautiful wooden Winchester play house. It fitted perfectly into that old patio spot and Mummy and Nanny definitely enjoyed setting it up way more than the kids, with curtains, table cloths, wall hangings and fairy lights. One of the best childrens purchases, this is played with all the time and looks stunning in that corner too, especially with the passion flower creeping over it each summer.

All you need is love. And a Wendy house.

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The trampoline debate went on for a while, but given the extra space we created, and how much the kids loved the one at my Mums, we bit the bullet last year. It’s not as much of an eye sore as I thought it’d be – the green and black actually blends in well with our heavily planted garden, and to be honest, you cannot argue it’s benefit when you see the children have hours, and hours, AND hours on it, whatever the season.

Of course, there is also the toddler slide, rocking horse, bouncy zebra and other random toys which are sent to the garden when the house gets a little claustrophobic, but with plenty of storage, it’s easy enough to chuck them in the shed.

FAIRY GARDEN

With two little girls, a fairy garden is an absolute must. So easy to create in a garden of any size, and the girls just love moving these little figures around to make them a new secret corner each week. The accessories you can get now for fairy gardens are just so lovely – I’d have loved these when I was a little girl.

STORAGE

There’s no getting away from the fact that every garden needs somewhere to store the lawnmower (unless you’re team fake grass of course), bikes, a few tools, spare chairs, old DVDs, and boxes you haven’t opened in three house moves.

Our plan when we extended the back half of the garden was to demolish along with the garage, the strange out building that’s stood there for a few decades. Apparently originally built as a pigeon shed, this L shaped brick structure has been the subject of many debates over the years. Keep it, scrap it, clad it, paint it pink. Either way, when we saw the prices of demolishing it + new sheds, it seemed a no brainer to leave as is and appreciate it’s amazing storage value. Plus sod sorting out two crap storing spaces in sync.

And so, pigeon shed remains, however we have used it as another excuse to get growing. Our wisteria successfully survived a move from by the pond to the pigeon shed, and is happily growing along the building, transforming it into something quite beautiful. We’ve also got a grape vine growing at the other end, perhaps a future wine making venture?

TREES

One of our three established trees had to be removed during the renovation which probably wasn’t a bad decision as it opened up space for the patio and seating by the house. The far end and right hand side of the garden however suddenly seemed a little off balance and open to the neighbours gardens. Not for long, as we set to work planting up some trees along that side. An olive tree now grows beside the pond, and bamboos also help disguise that fence.

Lack of planting space didn’t hold us back, as we also potted a silver birch for the far end of the garden, and a Tree-with-no-name (no idea what it is) which looks like a weeping Wisteria tree (?) just to the right of the kitchen window. The additional height the trees bring to the garden add something quite special – especially when we are blessed with an abundance of trees behind our garden too.

#IMPERFECT | I have no idea why, but this week has just felt hard. I’m so so tired and bedtime just hasn’t come quick enough. I have not been loving every minute of life as a stay at home Mum. My head is bursting with stuff I have to do, mostly insignificant and unimportant, but overwhelming all the same. Contrary to how it all it might seem here on my Instagram feed, I am an #imperfectparent. Yet, standing here washing the pots and feeling the stress of tea time fade as the bubble bath runs, I just want to freeze this moment, and this sight forever. . . . . . . . @mypetitcanard @bupa #imperfectparent #imperfectparenting #coolmumclub #capturingtheday #livingfearlesslyauthentic #perfectandproud #rockingmummylife #rememberingthesedays #pinklinker #littlefierceones #saturdaysiblings #funseekingkids

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PLANTS

Although most of our borders are now heaving with plants, so so many have withered and disappeared over the years. We spent a huge amount of time and money filling the raised beds with annual bedding plants last year and have since re-planted with perennials, grasses and ferns.

PEONY | I don’t usually pick the flowers from the garden but this one took a battering in the rain today (not unlike me on the school run) and it deserved a bit of TLC and appreciation on the kitchen table. It’s a beauty isn’t it? Hope you’re surviving the soggiest day in ages… it’s all good for the allotment though eh? #didthosewordsjustcomeoutofmymouth #oldgit . . . . . . . . #coolmumclub #thismamaloves #mummyshot #ukparentbloggers #rhs #livingfearlesslyauthentic #pinklinker #flowersofinstagram #snaphappybritmums #lionessmama #rockingmummylife #mydarlingmemory #funseekingkids #flower #instamum #littlefierceones #outdoorsandfree #chasingnature #happylittlebuttons #whatevertheweather #rememberingthesedays #capturingtheday #perfectandproud #theeverydayproject #photosinbetween #thesearethedays #inspiremyinstagram

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Talking of Ferns, this has become a bit of a joke. My husband is obsessed with them and cannot walk past a lonely Fern without bringing it home. We even nearly called our second daughter fern, but instead we later became proud parents to two Tree Ferns instead. Google them, they are very cool.

POND

The source of many discussions and debates for perfectly good reasons. Should parents of small children have a pond? My answer here is yes, provided it is covered with a strong and safe guard. We lost our pet tortoise to the pond a couple of years ago and it was a stark reminder of what can go wrong. We have since heavily protected it, but even with the guard are very cautious and careful when the kids are outside.

FEEDING THE FISHIES | Having a pond in the garden has always been a big debate with the kids but feel so much happier now we have a solid grill over it. Especially as this little one is obsessed with feeding the fish 🐠🐟🐡🐭 . . . . . . . #coolmumclub #totsphoto #perfectandproud #rockingmummylife #clickinmoms #littlefierceones #childhoodunplugged #thismamaloves #366daysofpositive #myhappycapture #thismamaloves #dearphotographer #thatsdarling #funseekingkids #oureverydaymoments #cameramama #littlefierceones #ig_motherhood #pixelkids #cherisheverymoment #thehappynow #rememberingthesedays #littleandbrave #childofig #pinklinker #happylittlebuttons #tribalchat #capturingtheday #lionessmama #livingfearlesslyauthentic

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So why have a pond? Well in all honesty, the sound of running water feature is the perfect touch to a garden in my opinion. Plus, the water invites a whole host of nature to the garden – frogs, newts, fish (may eat the other two), herons (may eat the fish) and plants.

NATURE

Alongside the pond, we have tried to encourage wildlife in our garden as much as possible. With a roaming tortoise we cannot use any chemicals but neither can we open up any hedgerow type gaps for hedgehogs. We can however encourage birds with our birdfeeder, insects with our bug hotel and bees with our flowers.

The bees go nuts for the lavendar and the hot lips, and be sure to get some buddleia in for your butterflies.

A popular christmas or birthday gift for this pair of biologists, bird boxes, insect houses, bat boxes and bird feeders are dotted all over the place. But we have yet to have a bird nest in one yet.

BEE BOX 🐝| I don’t know how many nest boxes we have in our garden – as a popular gift for any nature lover we have been inundated over the years. Looks like we have our first inhabitants, and whilst they have wings, there’s not a birds egg in sight. But, if Bees are in decline, then they are very welcome to stay a while… 🐝🐝🐝 (I don’t think any of us have a bee allergy, still scarred by watching My Girl in the early nineties…) . . . . . . . . . . . . #coolmumclub #totsphoto #perfectandproud #rockingmummylife #clickinmoms #littlefierceones #childhoodunplugged #thismamaloves #366daysofpositive #myhappycapture #thismamaloves #funseekingkids #thatsdarling #funseekingkids #oureverydaymoments #cameramama #littlefierceones #ig_motherhood #pixelkids #cherisheverymoment #thehappynow #rememberingthesedays #littleandbrave #childofig #pinklinker #happylittlebuttons #tribalchat #capturingtheday #lionessmama #livingfearlesslyauthentic #savethebees . .

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We have obviously made the garden a little too welcoming as a nest of bumble bees have pitched up in a bird box beneath the bamboo. A little unnerving with the kids running around barefoot and kicking a ball amongst them, but so far, they are all living in harmony. With bumble bees in decline, we are quite honored to be hosting these little VIPs in our garden so they’re not going to be evicted any time soon.

GROW YOUR OWN

Clearly we have squeezed everything we possibly can out of our small suburbia garden, so growing a little vegetable patch was out of the question. Wasn’t it?

MEET THE VEGGIES | Took a stroll over to the allotment this arvo (we don’t ever sit still for long) and was astounded to see how much has grown in all the rain and heat this week. The weeds are thriving 😬🌱😂🌿 But once we took a closer look, there are some definite rows of salad, onions, radishes and beetroot. Potatoes growing like mad (including in the most obscure places) and we even picked our first ripe raspberries. Feeling pretty excited that our ‘throw seeds in mud’ technique is proving our pessimistic allotment community wrong… or maybe it’s just beginners luck! Either way we came home laden with goods from everyone else’s fruitful harvests so happy days, everyone’s a winner. . . . . . . . . #coolmumclub #thismamaloves #mummyshot #ukparentbloggers #myhappycapture #livingfearlesslyauthentic #pinklinker #totsphoto #snaphappybritmums #lionessmama #rockingmummylife #mydarlingmemory #funseekingkids #howtogrow #instamum #littlefierceones #outdoorsandfree #chasingnature #happylittlebuttons #whatevertheweather #rememberingthesedays #capturingtheday #perfectandproud #bestofmom #candidchildhood #theeverydayproject #photosinbetween #allotment #inspiremyinstagram @hollienuisance

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When there is a will, there is a way, and getting the key to an allotment has just springboarded us to a new level of green fingers that even I am a little daunted by. There is definite progress in the growing over there, and so far it’s been a lot of hard work so I bloody well hope we get a least a carrot from it otherwise this could be a one summer wonder!

At this time of year, the garden we have created pays us back in dividends – an extension to our downstairs living space, a place the kids love to play and we like to potter, sit, read, eat our tea or enjoy the evening sun with a Pimms.

x MMT

Hammock. Pimms. Choc ice (old school with the paper wrap and everything, tastes a little bit dusty).☀️Heaven.

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12 thoughts on “Creating our perfect family garden

  1. mamagrace Reply

    You have thought of everything. I simply love the end house, it’s more than a wendy house, I want a sleep over in it. We love to grow things too, so appreciate how you had to find a way. I can’t wait till my little one can start helping. #coolmumclub

  2. beautybabyandme Reply

    Wow you’re a genius with your thoughts here! I’m a bit hopeless with my garden…. I pay someone else. I need to get a bit more into my garden though as I do have ideas! xx#coolmumclub

  3. Pass the wine please Reply

    Looks fab – LOVE the Wendy House! #CoolMumClub

  4. and Jacob makes three Reply

    Your garden looks amazing! Can I pick your brains when we move house soon? You should write some how to’s! We currently have a little decked yard, but we are moving to a house with a proper garden! I’m so so excited! #coolmumclub

    1. MMT Reply

      Thanks thats a great idea, although not sure I’m any expert…just, as always muddling through! x

  5. rainbowsR2beautiful (@rainbowsaretoo) Reply

    Some great ideas – and some beautiful photos too 🙂 #coolmumclub

  6. mealsandmakes Reply

    It looks like you have really transformed your garden to work for you and your family. I love the little play shed/house. Its lovely for kids to have outdoor space to play in. #coolmumclub

  7. Naomi Cooper (@tripswithatot) Reply

    Wow wow wow what a long, thorough and beautiful post! I live through you! We live in a flat 🙁 so have no garden or outside living space and we are very outdoorsy people too so I hate it! But we are moving soon and this made me very excited! It’s a lot of work having a garden and it won’t be like yours anytime soon, but just having the option of outside space is amazing. Your photos are beautiful. Thank you so much for inspiring me! #coolmumclub

  8. Helen Reply

    I would HATE to have to leave my garden! So much time and effort, nurturing and caring goes into them doesn’t it? I love your little kids house, I don’t think I’ve got room for one. And with the ferns…I can’t get mine to stay gone #coolmumclub

  9. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz... Reply

    Your garden is LOVELY! We have a long garden with the end being used as a vegetable patch (which we have given up on as the local cats use it as a toilet 🙁 ) I can’t wait for some time to relax in the garden with my book but Zach needs constant supervision out there! I have always wanted a tortoise… #coolmumclub

  10. alifeinpracticeblog.com Reply

    Oh my god, I love your garden! One of the three key reasons we eventually want to move is a bigger garden (alongside a bedroom each for the boys and off street parking!) When we moved in our little garden was completely paved, had raised beds with sharp, concrete corners and a deep pond. Not toddler friendly! We now have a small lawn, a raised bed (sleepers and sanded edges), a small rock garden and a small paved area. Not to mention the trampoline, little slide and sand and water table! Much more kiddie friendly! My raised bed is full of herbs but i’d love to add more plants like lavender to help the bees! xx #coolmumclub

  11. Helena Reply

    Thank you for the insight. I am not a fan of plastic tat either. I much prefer the outside wooden playhouse you have here. #coolmumclub

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