How to style your garden – smart tips and finishing touches.
‘Style your garden’ doesn’t mean exactly the same as ‘design your garden.’
Designing a garden is about choosing a theme, then planning the hard landscaping and planting.
Styling is about making sure it all works together, and adding the finishing touches. For example, are there any loose ends that need tying up – literally or metaphorically?
Does your ‘style’ run through the whole garden, like a message in a stick of rock? Or have you got one thought in one corner and another completely different approach in another?
To ‘style your garden’ can also mean re-arranging a couple of pots and adding a cushion to make your garden look as someone cool has just drifted through, sipping champagne or home-made elderflower cordial.
Telegraph writer Francine Raymond is a talented stylist. As a writer with a degree in Fashion & Textiles, she also combines good writing with a strong visual sense. She popped in to give me styling advice.
Pick a colour theme
Francine’s colour theme for her garden is yellow/slate. Yellow because her house is built of yellow brick, and it has a slate roof. ‘And slate is an interesting colour,’ she says, ‘because it can be almost grey, purple or blue.’
I told Francine that I’d always considered ‘red’ to be a theme in my garden, because of the red brick walls, house, and the amazing dark leaves of the cotinus.
Relate garden accessories to your house
As we have red brick walls, in the house and the garden, Francine suggests that terracotta pots would look good in our garden.
However, the rest of our pots are a bit of a mish-mash. I’ve got quite a few galvanised ones, and I’ve been collecting stoneware pots. Still, they do go with the terrace. But my pots just never look as good as Francine’s so a bit more focus on this might improve things.
Echo and repeat…
Francine spotted a yellow jug of flowers on a table in the garden. ‘If you put a vase of flowers on a garden table, she advised, echo the colours of the garden around it.’ There was no yellow in that part of the garden.
In contrast, I took this photograph in Francine’s garden last summer. Her garden is divided in two, and the second section is wilder, separated from the house and terrace by a fence. Here she’s still using blue-grey and yellow for the furniture, but there are pink cushions echoing the pink roses.
Tidy up loose ends to style your garden…
We’ve recently had the roof of the potting shed replaced. The new wood of the roof rim stands out against the faded wood of the potting shed. Francine suggests painting the shed, so that new and old wood is disguised.
And when we had a corrugated iron roof put on our pergola to make it an all-weather outside room, we used one new beam with the old weathered cedar. That’s the sort of detail that stands out to a stylist.
When an old piece of trellis broke, we replaced it with new. If you want a truly stylish garden, you need to treat the trellis so that the new and the old matches up. ‘I know it’ll fade eventually,’ said Francine. ‘But that’ll take some time.’
Lighting needs to look good during the day, too…
‘All lights look good at night,’ says Francine. ‘But they should look good during the day, too.’ As you can see from the previous photo, ours are straggly.
We don’t have electricity in the Tin Corner, so all the lighting has to be candles or solar. So I bought some solar fairy lights that look pretty when they’re off.
There is a dizzying choice in solar lights, but I whittled my purchases down to ProGreen Solar String Lights, which have lanterns,and Cmyk LED Solar Globe String Lights. These are like small glittery balls.
Since Francine’s visit, Mr Middlesize has spent most of the weekend re-stringing the lights, and adding the new ones. The little lights on a dark string are BlingString Solar Fairy Lights, which were sent to me for review last year (reviewed in a post about garden party decorations). They’ve been going strong for over a year now. Mr M has taped them up neatly now.
‘Mismatched is great, but….
….there has to be a common denominator somewhere,’ said Francine, looking at my garden chairs.
Stylists are particularly good at making a mis-matched look appear charming, chic and relaxed, rather than just untidy.
Francine and I are both car boot fair shoppers. My mother had a stall at the ‘rough end’of the Portobello Road in the 1980s. So almost everything I own comes from a junk shop, auction room, market or car boot fair.
I’ve also co-written books on Fleamarket Chic, Thrifty Chic, and Upcycled Chic with stylist Liz Bauwens (there are some affiliate links in this post – if you click through to buy, I may get a small fee).
Liz now has a wonderful shop full of original and vintage finds called Otto Trading in Acton.
When we did the books, Liz did the styling and Simon Brown, the photographer, photographed it. And I wrote the words. So, although I’m an experienced flea market shopper, I don’t have quite the stylist’s eye that Francine and Liz have.
How to make fleamarket style work…
This means I have to be very focused when I go to a car boot fair, vintage market or junk shop. I set out with an idea of what I want – such as a small table for a particular corner. Then I scour the shop from left to right – or go up and down the aisles of the car boot or market from start to finish. Ruthlessly ignore everything that isn’t a small table.
If you want to style your garden, try to develop a speciality, such as blue-and-white china or pressed glass. You’ll soon be able to spot your favourites in a pile of junk. All kinds of tin and zinc fit into Francine’s theme of yellow and grey-blue.
There is a case for saying that we tend to choose the same sorts of things most of the time. So if you buy flea market finds, there’ll naturally be some common denominator. And quite often, there is.
But if there isn’t, Francine will paint a pot so that it fits into the scheme. And that’s what you need to do if you want to style your garden, so that it looks casual but right. My pots and chairs are just a bit too mis-matched. Even I feel that they look untidy.
There are 14 expert tips on how to succeed at flea market shopping in this video here:
It was really interesting to have someone else look at the garden – I’d really recommend it, if you want to give your garden a lift. I wish I’d thought things through at an earlier stage – like the new beam on the old pergola, for example. When the vines die back in winter, I hope to do something about the trellis.
However my colour palette is the terracotta red of the old brick walls, and Farrow & Ball’s Blue Black. They do look good together (I think), but I’d like a third colour to lighten it all up. Grey? Pink?
All opinions welcome!