Long garden ideas: how to transform your outdoor space into a sanctuary

Garden view currently

If you’ve got a long, narrow outdoor space, the chances are you’re finding it difficult to make it look bigger and wider than it really is. My garden is long and narrow, so I can completely sympathise with your dilemma! It can also be tricky to add depth and interest to this kind of design. And, as it’s National Gardening Week (2-8 May), I thought I’d show you some long garden ideas, which feature on my ‘work-in progress’ plot of land!

It has already taken the husband and I four and a half years to get to where we are now with our garden. After all, this was initially an empty space with grass, a few trees and shrubs, a pond and a rusty old washing line. And there’s still so much more to do. Thankfully, the husband and I love coming up with garden ideas. We also gain some of our planting inspiration from good old Monty Don and co. on Gardener’s World. So, we continue to handcraft our own garden sanctuary, and, these days, it’s really beginning to take shape. I think many of my long garden ideas can be applied to any outdoor space in any shape or size!

Garden view
A view of our garden from the pond area this year – can you spot the water bottle photo-bombing this scene?!

Long garden ideas: create ‘rooms’

I think one of the best long garden ideas is to divide your garden into ‘rooms’, In fact, I took this on board for our outdoor space right from the start and the husband and I began creating dedicated zones. I felt these would instantly add more interest. These can also make it more difficult to see where the garden ends. I’m planning to transform each area into a dedicated space, in which we can relax, unwind and, ultimately, enjoy.

Terrace with a view

So, my garden journey starts on the terrace, which provides me, the husband, friends and family with a secluded area to relax in first thing or following a summer dinner. Here, we have recently repotted a bamboo plant in an old oak barrel. These plants are perfect if you’re looking for screening and some movement, as they will instantly block unwanted views and simply sway in the breeze. The key is to buy them at a good height to start.

I love bamboo so much, I’ve now got seven in oak barrels and I’ve just ordered more! We’ve also got two bamboo, which must have been planted in the ground some years before we arrived. I have added more potted plants around this bamboo, where I can, to create more depth in this design. I use green garden wire, which I tie to my ivy hedge, to prevent the bamboo from swaying too much in high winds.

Bistro table on terrace long garden ideas
My secluded garden terrace, which provides a sunny spot in the mornings

The flagstones in this area could do with a good clean. But, I don’t want to disturb the wildlife because dirty water will flow into our pond below. I’ve also added bistro-style chairs and a table to create my own breakfast room. Introducing more than one seating area is one of my favourite long garden ideas. You can situate them in a variety of spaces, so you can pick where you want to enjoy some peace and quiet. Following on from this section, my next ‘room’ houses our pond and and a bamboo hedge area.

Introduce a pond

Long garden ideas introduce a pond
Our pond in the summer last year – the lily didn’t do very well and we are hoping it will this year

We were very lucky to find we had a garden pond when we moved into our project house. It was completely overgrown, but we instantly knew it had potential. For me, a pond will not only provide a focal point in a garden, but it can also be a haven for wildlife. It’s one of my favourite long garden ideas, which will instantly add depth to a garden design – however old the pond may be! Of course, you could always introduce one yourself.

Pond life

For those of you who are planning to create a new pond, you should find wildlife should populate it pretty quickly. Make sure your pond has some, not too much, shade and it will become a haven for pond skaters, damselflies, frogs and newts. And, if you introduce a water feature, from a fountain to a practical pond pump, you’ll find the sound of trickling water will create a sensory experience. This will also help to soften any noise from neighbouring gardens.

Tip: If you introduce a pond pump, make sure you fix a finely meshed net around it to stop newts from being sucked into it

Pond planting

Marsh marigold
We bought this Marsh Marigold last year and it seems to like its spot

Now is the best time to plant – just make sure each plant is right for the size of your pond. You won’t want anything, which will take over the pond. Also, consider the depth you need to plant, to ensure your choices will thrive. A marsh marigold will instantly liven up one corner. However, I also like floating plants – pond life can then rest on them and get cover when pets put their paws into the water. I even added a lily last year and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this will reappear and do much better! it should help to lessen all the green blanket weed, which can really build up as summer approaches.

Tip: Floating plants will help to give wildlife some cover from predators and pets

Long garden ideas with bamboo

Bamboo screening
My bamboo screen is ideally placed between our pond and the rest of the garden

My Phyllostachys nigra bamboo screen has quite possibly been one of my best long garden ideas! I’ve really enjoyed investing in these plants over the past three years. This bamboo creates structure with a fantastic moving screen between our pond area and the garden. This is also a non-invasive, clumping variety, which is important especially if you plan to plant them in the ground. In fact, these instantly served us with a purpose, which was to provide us with much-needed privacy. These have been key in order to create a functional, yet stylish, garden retreat.

Bamboo plants
These bamboo plants help to frame the pond area and seamlessly divide sections in our garden

My top tips for planting bamboo

We recently repotted these plants and, so far, they are doing really well in their new homes. If you’re planning to buy some well established bamboo and need to transfer them, it’s best to do this now (in spring). Here are some tips on how to grow bamboo in a container:
1. Invest in oak barrels – these are perfect because they will help your plants stay upright in windy weather and they’re durable, too. Don’t use plastic because the roots will break through!
2. Drill plenty of drainage holes into the base then place the barrel into position – remember, you might not be able to move it once you’ve planted it
3. Put the barrel on top of pot feet (or bricks!) to stop the roots from drowning
4. Add a couple of inches of gravel at the base of your container – this will improve drainage and add weight to the planter
5. Fill your barrel with multi-purpose potting compost which you should mix in with slow-release fertiliser and some water retaining gel
6. Try to tease out the roots of your bamboo so it’s loosened as this will help to encourage more growth
7. Put the rootball into a large bucket of water for around 20 mins. This way, water should reach the centre and give it a good soak
8. Then place it into the oak barrel so you can add an inch of soil above
9. Backfill with compost, taking care to remove any air pockets by pressing down on the soil
10. Add bark chippings on top as these will help your bamboo to retain more water
11. I tend to water twice a year in winter then gradually increase up to every other day in summer months

Bamboo for screening long garden ideas
This bamboo was pot-bound so we have recently re-planted it in this oak barrel

Create a winding path

Garden view currently
This is a shot of our garden so far this year, showing a small section of our winding path leading onto the patio area

A meandering path is another on my list of long garden ideas, if you’re want to make your garden feel wider. The husband and my father actually worked on ours together and I think it does a great job in making our space look more attractive. It now feels bigger, too. We have used flagstones with pebbles in the centre of two major planting areas and lawns, in our garden for a more relaxed finish with a ‘country cottage’ feel.

Tip: Don’t add a straight path to a narrow garden as this will make it feel even smaller than it is

Introduce a patio

Following on from our first section of lawn and planting area, we decided to introduce another ‘room’ which would form our patio. This is one of our long garden ideas, which really helps to break up the space. I initially uncovered a small ‘crazy paving’ area, which was hidden with grass when we first moved in. I’m pretty sure this must have dated back 50 years or so! We knew this would need to be replaced because it wasn’t big enough or very safe.

Patio before grout long garden ideas
This was taken when the husband had literally just laid the flagstones last year

So, last year the husband embarked on a ‘patio project’ with my father and I’m absolutely delighted with the results! We used railway sleepers to help create the space and I sourced the flagstones from B&M Concrete in Kirton. I initially saw them at one of my favourite eateries – The Turk’s Head in Hasketon. I asked the owner at the time what they were called and hey presto! The husband finished the steps recently. I’m so pleased with the results as we now have plenty of outdoor space in which to entertain guests privately. We’ve added big planters for decorative florals, which are yet to bloom this year. And we recently introduced two bamboo planters to create an interesting backdrop in front of the bare fence.

Garden pation flowers long garden ideas
These were our decorative florals last year – some of which should return again this year! Pickle had to relax in the shade that day because it was really hot

Long garden ideas: the studio

Garden room long garden ideas
I took this shot of my studio called The Suffolk Barn from Smart Garden Offices last summer

Following on from the patio, we’ve added flowerbeds to the second section of lawn. I probably should add I’m really not precious about my lawn, which is why it’s patchy and I love the fact it’s a haven for insects. We created these so I could enjoy pretty views onto the garden from my studio. So, I really feel inspired these days when creating content for my business, Christchurch Creative.

Whether you plan to use your garden room to work from home in peace or for entertaining or relaxing, I fully recommend one. When it came to location, one of my long garden ideas was to position this 3/4 of the way down our plot of land. This is certainly far enough away to feel like I’ve had a commute – all be it an incredibly short one! It also enables me to switch off from work on a weekend if and when I want to. These really make a great investment if you’re considering working from home for the foreseeable future.

Adding a veggie patch

Shed at the bottom of the garden
We kept the existing shed and have repainted it and had some of the felt replaced. I like the fact it looks old and ‘lived in’

I housed our new veggie patch behind my studio and in front of the garden shed. This way, I could have an ‘enclosed area’ in which to tend to my vegetables peacefully. Meanwhile, the husband enjoys pottering around in the shed next door, working on his seedlings. Now, when we first moved in, the vegetable patch didn’t even exist. But it’s so lovely for me to enjoy this area now. I’ve already got rhubarb in a pot nearby and I have just prepared this space, so it’ ready for planting any week now! It’s so satisfying when you can enjoy the fruits of your labour and home-grown veggies always taste so much better!

vegetable patch long garden ideas
The veggie patch last year – I have high hopes for it again this year, fingers crossed!

Tip: Add rosemary or lavender bushes to the edges of your veggie patch to help deter pets from using it as a litter tray!

Are you working on a home renovation and need some tips on how to make your home feel and look bigger? Try a statement mirror – you can read my tips and discover the best buys on my blog here!