Sitooterie: Top ten tips for creating your own outdoor haven

Remote working, travel restrictions and curbs on socialising in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean most people are spending the majority of their time at home.

Make the most of your outdoor space during lockdown by creating a sitooterie
Make the most of your outdoor space during lockdown by creating a sitooterie

This has driven a massive surge in demand for flexible living space and an increased interest in nature and the outdoors.

Now with social distancing rules likely to stay in place for some time to come and spring just around the corner, people’s thoughts are turning towards improving their surroundings to make the most of their domestic environment.

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A popular move is to create a ‘sitooterie’ in your garden where it is possible to entertain friends and loved ones outdoors or just enjoy a bit of personal chill time.

Carolyn Grohmann, of Edinburgh-based Secret Gardens Design, has been creating gardens of all shapes, sizes and styles for the past 20 years.

Here she shares her top ten tips for creating your own alfresco haven.

Get cleaning – this is a great time to have a proper clear-out of your garden, while most plants are dormant. Get rid of any broken pots, furniture and general garden detritus and get scrubbing. Hardwood furniture responds really well to a proper scrub – washing-up liquid, warm water and a nylon scrubbing brush are all you need. Sweep up autumn leaves, straighten up the edges of your lawn with a half-moon cutter and in early spring cut back and tidy borders ahead of the new growth.Garden furniture – last year saw a massive boost in sales of garden furniture of every kind as furloughed workers took time to enjoy their gardens. Take advantage of winter sales before new spring stock arrives.Gazebos and summerhouses – it may be meeting friends in our gardens this spring will once again be all we can hope for. Summer houses and gazebos provide the opportunity for some shelter as well as creating a focal point in the garden. Position them so they can catch as much sun as possible, but also so you can enjoy looking at them from the house. You’ll get your money’s worth twice over. Get comfy – outdoor beanbags are an excellent way to create funky, comfortable seating in the garden and the range of colours, sizes and shapes available is impressive. Wildlife friendly – you can never do enough for garden wildlife and the rewards are amazing. Bird feeders are an obvious place to start, but a bird bath will provide garden visitors with somewhere to drink as well as wash. Position feeders so they are not too close to fences or trees where cats can lurk and make sure you can get a good view of the action from your house. Plant for colour and pollen – if you’re looking for a summer full of colour in your borders try planting some really long-flowering perennials such as Geranium Rozanne, Erigeron karvinskianus, Geum Totally Tangerine and Verbena Bonariensis. These will flower from June through until the first frosts and are all generous pollinators. Sort out boundaries – most urban and suburban gardens are surrounded by fences and hedges. We get so used to looking at them we forget that a lick of paint or an hour with the hedge trimmer will make a huge difference to the overall look of the garden. Try painting an ageing fence black or dark grey. This shrinks less attractive structures dramatically and brings a contemporary look to any garden. Dressing-up time – from sculptures and wall hangings to fairy lights and bunting, there’s fun to be had accessorising the garden. A couple of trade secrets – firstly, make sure any features are a decent size as small features in small gardens can look insignificant and out of proportion. Secondly, don’t overdress a garden. Too many pots and ornaments will look cluttered and fussy. Edibles – the last lockdown coincided with an amazing spring and huge numbers of garden owners grew fruit and veg in pots, window boxes and cobbled-together raised beds in their gardens. If you are looking for easy, but rewarding crops, try rhubarb, blueberries or raspberry Ruby Beauty, which can be grown in a pot. Spinach, radishes and pea shoots can all be grown from seed in containers and are quick to crop. Reseed straight after harvesting and you will have a continuous supply for salads all summer long. Get ahead of the game – lockdown has switched many people’s attention from holidays to gardens and outdoor goods, so popular products have been selling out quickly. Watch out for lead times and always pay with a credit card if you can so you have protection if your goods don’t arrive.

A message from the Editor:

It doesn't matter what size of garden you have, there are lots of choices of seating, ornaments, planting and shelter to fit your outdoor space

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Carolyn Grohmann, of Edinburgh-based Secret Gardens Design, shares her tips for making the best of your outside space

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