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Mirrors to put more light into a shady corner? Or am I mad?

(43 Posts)
SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 13:25:14

I have a largely rectangular garden except for a corner where the end wall veers off at an angle and meets the side boundary a bit further away than it would if it hadn't veered off, IYSWIM.

The direction the garden faces and the height of the wall/fence means that this triangular corner is always shaded, no direct sun goes down to ground level at all.

There used to be a shed obscuring this, but I've moved that, and want to plant it up. My lovely local nursery fella suggested a Coleanthus, and says that it will definitely survive there, but not be particularly fulsome in the flower department.

I was wondering about hanging a mirror on the wall, to bounce sun that I do get into this corner. Is that ridiculous? grin

shovetheholly Fri 05-Jun-15 13:28:58

No, not at all! I had a mirror in my last garden. Done well, it can be stunning (mine wasn't so much, it has to be said).

I just used an ordinary one, but if I had DC around, I would definitely go for one of the 'proper' outdoor ones, that are made of acrylic or polycarbonate - because one stray football (or indeed, a very hard frost) and there could be a nasty accident otherwise.

There are many, many very beautiful shade plants with lovely flowers that you can buy to fill it. Please don't think that you have to put up with something that you don't really like because nothing else will grow!

Mrsmorton Fri 05-Jun-15 13:32:13

I think people don't do it because birds fly into them and die relatively frequently. I think I heard this on gardeners question time...

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 13:32:37

Oh, I love Coleanthus, but do worry for it a bit. Perhaps I can prune the bottom half a bit and make it more tree-like and have lovely flowering shade lovers underneath. Any recommendations?

Didn't know there was such a thing as an outdoor mirror! I was going to get some windows from a salvage yard and put mirrors in the back but will have a look at those fancy ones.

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 13:38:11

Ooh! Just been looking at some, the choice is huge! If I had a lovely cottage garden I'd like one with shutters. Unfortunately my garden belongs to our newish hideously overlooked house. Although I'm planning on growing lots of tall things then I can pretend we're living in a rural idyll. will also put ear plugs in

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 13:38:58

Oh, Mrsmorton, you've pissed on my chips there.

Mrsmorton Fri 05-Jun-15 13:39:50

blush moves away

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 13:40:33


Alchemist Fri 05-Jun-15 13:42:52

I have quite a big garden with a mangy old fence which is mainly held together with brambles and various mirrors hiding holes.

Lovely! but I hadn't thought about the birds...

shovetheholly Fri 05-Jun-15 14:42:40

I think if you use a smaller mirror, it'll be OK. Mine was quite small (40cm x 30cmish) and obvious (it had an ornate gold frame) and I never had any problems with bird accidents. Windows remain far more of a problem! I suspect the acrylic ones don't reflect nearly as well as glass (a bit like those cheap mirrors in public toilets that you can't smash) so the problem is again likely to be lessened by that.

However, there are other things you could do. You could introduce something made of stainless steel, which will bounce light around, like one of those large spheres or a water feature. You could paint or even render the wall if you're brave! White shade plants will also reflect light and look perfectly lovely in darker conditions - take some inspiration from Sissinghurst perhaps!

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 15:26:53

The acrylic ones I've seen online look as reflective as a real mirror, but I did think that was likely to be the magic of photoshop.

Painting the wall would help, it's cement grey and because that part of it is always shaded it's also a bit mouldy and manky looking. I did wonder whether painting it would be something I would regret later because of the upkeep.

I feel a bit intimidated by the garden to be honest, it's a decent size but a trickier shape (wide and short rather than long and thin), and then there's the funny extra triangle bit. Two boundaries are fences (one very tall and the other feels very short because next door have a raised deck so when they stand on it it comes up to shoulder level). The end boundary is the wall, which is only about 4'6" and grey. We're planning to extend the height, either with trellis or with a short fence on top. Overlooked at the end and the side with the short-feeling fence so want to screen like the clappers.

Planting wise, it's a barren shitheap because the previous owners just had sheds and a massive deck.

shovetheholly Fri 05-Jun-15 17:00:01

Aha! Here's an idea - shade-loving climbers, with a good number of evergreens, growing up trellises. Plant them all the way up and they should cover it. Then put white flowers in front.

My front garden is wide and short, and I also find it much more challenging than long and thin (my back garden). Have you got a bit of spare cash? You could call up a local garden designer, and pay them for a few hours of their time to do you some very rough sketches. As long as you're clear that there won't be a £20k commission in it for them, they should be able to offer you some ideas of how best to use the space. There will be lovely things you can do in the space, though - it's just a matter of 'seeing' them.

Don't be intimidated! Just do a bit at a time. I used weed sheeting extensively when I got my garden, for about a year and a half! It looks bonkers (like you are some kind of mad goth), but works wonders killing all the weeds and it means that you don't waste loads of time battling weeds that are forever returning - you can pour all your time into sorting out your beds and borders. Loads of people here (myself included) have built gardens from nothing, so you'll get loads of sympathy as you do it, too grin.

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 17:35:48

Thanks for your support. smile

I am indeed doing it a bit at a time, primarily due to finances. Have done about a metre so far! grin Have planted two evergreen climbers on the shady fence, both of which supposedly like shade, so fingers crossed. I'm hoping to grow a few things that will be higher than the fences to give screening (I have a thread running at the mo about a laurel) and fill in the rest of the gaps with climbers and things of mixed heights. I'm going evergreen where possible, I learned with my previous garden (also created from scratch, argh) that I don't like too many bare patches.

I've done a design myself that I think I'm happy with, having done a bit of research online. I'm not as confident about designing outdoors as I am indoors though, so hopefully I'll like it whenever it's eventually completed.

I wish there was the equivalent of the relationships board for gardens, I feel like I need my hand holding and a chorus of LTB.

SkodaLabia Fri 05-Jun-15 17:36:53

Where do you stand on painting walls? A delightful spruce up, or a long term PITA?

shovetheholly Sun 07-Jun-15 08:24:47

The design principles indoors and outdoors are the same, so if you are good at one I am sure you will be great at the other too!

It sounds like it's going to be lovely. I do think that mixing in evergreens gives you a really strong structure for the winter months! It's something I need to get better at in my own garden, which tends to look a bit gappy from about November to late January.

Walls- I think it depends on the area of the wall, because even with the latest weatherproof/mould resistant paints, it's going to need sprucing up on a regular basis. Also, if you are going to grow things up it, painting will become a complete PITA. I think I might be tempted to get some attractive trellising on there and cover it with leaves and flowers instead. But I am a lazy cow

This board is really supportive and full of people who know far more than I do about gardening. I love it! You will get plenty of help and advice on here!

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Sun 07-Jun-15 08:45:17

I know a garden (IYSWIM) where the owners have fixed a tall, arched, outdoor mirror to a wall, with a metal archway around it. The archway projects 20-30cm from the wall. They are growing climbers over the archway. In the first couple of years, until the climbers reached the top of the archway, they had a twinkly mobile hanging from the archway, but now that the climbers hang down a bit, they don't need the mobile any more.

It looks fabulous, like a gateway to another garden. Birds have never flown into it, and the protruding arch means that it doesn't get what upon, either. It does need washing down from time to time.

I don't know whether that would work for you?

SkodaLabia Sun 07-Jun-15 17:28:07

Thanks for the encouragement, holly! smile I think it will be lovely, but it's going to take ages and cost a fortune in plants. I love cosy urban gardens like this and the attached one. I love cottage gardens too, I love lots of plants! grin

Now, how to turn a boring wide/short rectangle garden into something fabulous whilst keeping a lawn? DD is being very unreasonable in her demands for a lawn to play on. grin

SkodaLabia Sun 07-Jun-15 17:29:55

Cheers, They'reMad, I've been thinking about the mirror idea, and was thinking one that stands out from the wall is the way to go, it will look nicer.

Not going to paint the wall, will just cover it in plants. Wish it were red brick and characterful, rather than render the colour of death.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Sun 07-Jun-15 20:00:56

The archway projects from the wall, not the mirror. I can't find a pic online to illustrate, but the archway is just a simple pergola-type thing attached to the wall.

SkodaLabia Sun 07-Jun-15 20:19:34

Yes, I know what you mean, sounds naice.

shovetheholly Mon 08-Jun-15 08:58:43

Skoda - Oooh, what a lovely picture! I do like that very much. Having loads of green around you in the garden is simply wonderful. You could make an unusually shaped lawn (a circle maybe) at one end for DD and have a narrow, winding path that gives you a 'journey' through to it?

Provided you're willing to wait a couple of years for the full effect, you can do a hell of a lot with small plants. My garden has been almost entirely stocked with plants in the 'search and rescue' sections of gardens, bought in a state and then nurtured back to health (I have a section of the back garden called 'the plant hospital'). Also, Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons can be amazing if you can take your designer's eye and look past the trailing petunias and lobelias! In spring, lost of local garden centres sell perennials 7 for £10 in 9cm pots. You put them in and they do look ridiculously underpowered for a bit, BUT within a year they will be as large as the ones that cost £8.99 each! It's a good way to bulk up borders when you need several plants.

I'm also getting really into growing stuff from seed. It's so much cheaper when you want lots and lots of a plant to dot through a bed or a border. Now is a great time to sow biennial plants for next year, so you could get some of those on ready for next summer! I just got some sweet rocket and some foxgloves to plant up - both cheap from Thompson and Morgan.

SkodaLabia Mon 08-Jun-15 09:57:52

holly, did you clink on the link to the other pic? It's swooningly lovely too, although of course I need to turn everything side on as my garden is wide and short.

Thanks for all the tips. Now I've sorted out my washing line hoohah (another thread) I feel liberated!

The only fixed feature is the square patio, which is about 3m x 3m and is in the bottom left hand corner, attached to the house. I'm thinking a circular [great minds think alike grin] or Babapapa shaped lawn on the right hand side with stepping stones across it to the shed, which I'm thinking will go on the end wall a third of the way in from the right. I passionately hate things like pansies, and where I live has lots of coastal planting so I'm thinking I'll surround the lawn with stuff like grasses and foxgloves.

Good tip about the seeds, although the problem for is that the vast majority of our garden is still covered with the deck so I don't want to start growing stuff until we've revealed the horror beneath and know what we're dealing with.

My patio is about 10 inches high. I was thinking of edging it with raised beds with gaps between them to step off, made from the deck we're destroying, but am dithering now. The long term plan is a wisteria pergola, I think, but I've also seen a couple of patios with banisters along the edge, and they look purdy. Our house wouldn't suit something quite as rustic as this pic, but you get the idea. Or nothing at all and just grow something shrubby? Bit worried as the patio isn't very big that if you push your chair back enthusiastically there's nothing to stop you falling off.

shovetheholly Mon 08-Jun-15 10:12:48

I did click on the other link! Those gourd/pottery things with holes in were everywhere when I went to Crete, and I really like them. I'm also a big fan of turquoise outside (though not indoors, weirdly). There's something about the blueness that really sings against verdant green.

You have some really fantastic ideas there! It's going to be so special. I do love the idea of doing something around the raised patio- whether it's a shady area or a sunny one depends a bit what way the garden faces, I guess. The original area you were talking about was shaded, so I'm guessing you have at least some parts that are not direct south? (Or are there trees etc causing the shade?) Also, the interface between circular shapes like your lawn and square shapes needs to be thought about quite carefully - but when it's done well, it's simply amazing.

Have a look at this picture - I should state that personally I really DON'T like this garden at all. Not my style - I prefer more plants and junglyness. But I do like the way that they've moved from a winding path and circular bed to a square-ish raised area. You could steal a similar idea, and plant very differently, and it would be terrific.

SkodaLabia Mon 08-Jun-15 12:11:05

Yes, I'm all about the jungle too, not keen on a manicured look. I agree, making round shapes meet a square one could be tricky, I think that maybe why I'm thinking raised beds might be too square and I should soften the edges of the patio.

Either that or do a square or rectangular lawn.

Here's a probably not to scale drawing of my garden! I'm thinking lawn in front of the shed. I have an apple tree in a pot that I'm thinking of putting mid way between the 'n' of the word 'triangle' and the patio. A laurel grown as a tree in the top right hand corner, and perhaps another one mid way along the right hand fence for screening?

shovetheholly Mon 08-Jun-15 13:40:57

OK, so take a look at this picture I pinched off the internet. Does it ring a bell in terms of where your shade is each day? (It would make sense, because that shady triangle would only get sun first thing, which would explain why it is difficult!)

Obviously it depends a bit what you've got already, but you could think about getting a fairly attractive shed and putting it there, maybe with composting or storage behind making use of the triangle bit. It would mean that you're not using a nicer, sunnier part of the garden for it. Also convenient for storing your patio furniture/toys!

You could then have your circular lawn more on the left hand side, almost bisected (if that is the right word?!) by the patio area. This would also solve the problems you'd possibly experience in having grass in a shadier part of the plot (particularly if you want to put a tree in the corner, which will make it dry). You can do shade grass with specialist varieties- I have it my garden under an apple tree - but I found it a bit of a hassle to establish. It is definitely not as tough for kids to play on as it would be in the sunshine.

For screening - a laurel will give you it in heaps, but it's quite an exposed part of your garden in that you'll constantly be looking at it. By the looks of things, it might well get sun most of the day (depending on the shade your house casts). So you could potentially go for something a bit more ornamental but still large and evergreen, to anchor that side of the garden. Magnolia grandiflora if you're sheltered, maybe? (Others may have better ideas!!)

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