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  • Writer's pictureLucelle Pillay

Conceptualising a Green Space

The conceptual process often begins with a picture in a magazine, a walk through your local garden centre or perhaps a traipse through Pinterest. The image above was a display in a lifestyle centre. What started as a random photo on my phone emanated into many months of creative endevours focused toward a beautiful, peaceful, green sanctuary. I knew the space wouldn't look exactly like my inspiration image, but that should never be the intention when embarking on a new project. Inspiration is merely a catalyst that points you in the right direction and gets you started. The dynamics of the space I chose, the elements I had to work with and the budget would all determine the final space.

It's important to enjoy the process of making, learning new skills and even being prepared to fail in some areas of the design. I will share my experiences with you on a series of projects that would eventually constitute my green conservatory.

My selected space wasn't chosen because of it's closeness to the kitchen, but because of it's odd, gloomy inability to serve any particular purpose. An angular semi-enclosed space which overlooked our tenant's kitchen window. Hardly private nor a conducive space for a contemplative cup of coffee in the morning. However there were benefits, after 12pm the area became a sun trap which would be perfect in winter. Although not completely north orientated, the space and it's facing courtyard was perfect for growing a range of full sun to semi-shade plants. The "Before" pic above indicates STEP 1: Upcycling two old solar sheets as a privacy screen. Made from a light weight plastic substrate called 'Corex' the panels worked perfectly as it is made to withstand exposure to sun and rain. The slate black colour was perfect for my intended colour scheme and the plants would 'pop' against the dark background.

Before working on the fun part with plants, the walls needed preparing and painting. I chose to paint the 'potting area' wall and the 'vertical planter' wall black, as I wanted them to dissolve into the background. The dark backdrop also helped to eliminate the weird angles and unified the space. STEP 2: The mock brick wall, I wanted to create a rustic brick wall and although the space had an existing brick wall it wasn't the right colour and the brick work was inconsistent. It proved far too difficult to remove the layers of existing paint, so I opted to paint a mock wall. I used outdoor wall paints, white and a neutral stone hue for the shadows, once this was painted I was ready to install a shelf.

Renovating this space made me an expert on aging wood, as STEP 3: required installing a weathered table top (for potting area) and a wall shelf (for potted plants). My expert status acquired after watching several You Tube videos on the subject and preparing a vinegar and steel wool solution in advance. Basically if you have new pine timber and would rather it look like it's been sitting outside for a year, then apply this vinegar and steel wool mixture to it. It worked amazingly and after letting the wood dry, I sanded it down and applied a water based clear sealant.

I was quite pleased with my results thus far, but I knew it was only the start, so in order to boost my momentum I decided to plant up my STEP 4: hanging baskets. Often when you have an extensive DIY project on a limited budget, break your tasks up over a few weeks. This will enable you to focus your energies on individual aspects without becoming overwhelmed both physically and financially. The hanging baskets were to be a tribute to my late mom, she loved ferns. What started as four baskets ended up being six, I couldn't resist while shopping at the garden centre. If you like me and get carried away when shopping for items, I advise you to take someone with you to curb your enthusiasm. Also make a list and stick to it to avoid any overspend which could derail or delay your project. An old metal garment rail worked perfectly as a hanging structure for the baskets. Making use of items around the house saves money and often adds character and memories to the space. Metal springs from a discarded trampoline worked well as hooks and varied the heights of baskets. A good tip from British garden guru Charlie Dimmock is to line hanging baskets with plastic, then cut slits, not at the base but at the sides. This allows water to gather a bit at the bottom of the basket ad acts as a reserve for plants to draw from. I made a soil mix of potting soil, compost, washed silica, vermiculite (water retention) and perlite (draininage). Prop the baskets between some logs or bricks to keep stable, line with plastic, half fill with soil, place plants, continue to fill soil around plants and firm by pressing down.

Hope you are interested enough to keep watching this space for more Red Brick projects I undertook to complete my green conservatory. Coming up next: creating a trendy vertical planter, stenciling outdoor floor tiles, a mosaic table and a log-framed mirror.

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