Part of designing a functional outdoor space is to cater for all your requirements. I often found that barbecuing was a lonely profession so I always try to offer a `man area' where appropriate. In this garden the alpha male can prepare and cook his kill whilst communicating with subordinate males over a cold beer – perhaps recounting the daring and cunning it took to bring back the prize slowly cooking over the (gas) barbecue. Note the alpha male stands whilst the beta males sit!
When constructing a built-in or enclosed barbecue area do remember that the materials around the barbecue need to be fireproof. As heat rises, the temperature below the gas tubes is not a concern, but anything above should be fireproof. Ignore this at your peril and check your insurance policy!
So the men are happy with a barbecue and bar and yes, most of us simple creatures would be. It is functional, sociable and attractive.
The position of the barbecue and bar is important, but as it gets less use than the main in-built seating area, it was placed further from the house. As all areas need to be balanced spatially, it was important to create a feature at the far end of the courtyard that could draw your eye, making the space feel bigger.
Here this feature is a stone waterfall. Two waterfalls cascade down a steep stone face into a number of pools, where the water is recycled by a submersible pump. It is early days, but the plants will grow to soften the rock. Here I have specified hardy palms and ferns to add to the tropical feel but also a couple a native gems – the Muelhenbeckia auxilliaris and the Scleranthus uniflorus, two of my favourite ground covers.
The sound of the falls is quite hypnotic and the effect is multiplied when the lights are switched on at night as the waterfalls are uplit with great effect from subsurface 20W 12v lamps.
This Marlborough courtyard really is reminiscent of the tropics and such a surprise for visitors, who are unfamiliar with what can be achieved with good design and careful creation.
The building of the waterfalls and ponds, which are only 300mm deep at the deepest point, was hard work but quite simple. A 3:1 sand cement mortar mix was used with a waterproofing plasticiser. The stones are mortared on to the exposed rock substrate and are self supporting, with each higher rock sitting snugly on the ones below.
This was a fun project and one that, with some guidance, could be achieved by a competent DIYer. Stretch that back though, as tonne after tonne of stones can make you reach for the phone to call for a therapeutic massage.
Waterfalls and water features are a great addition to every property if done in proportion. Try to avoid off-the-shelf water features as these are very naff and have to surely rate above gnomes on the `no-no' scale.
This courtyard is now complete with all the client's requirements ticked off and it is being used practically around the clock – when the weather permits.
- The Marlborough Express