How to Create a Vintage Style Garden Getaway

Three Parts:Planning Your Garden GetawayChoosing a Vintage Planting StyleAdding the Finishing Touches

Vintage style doesn’t just work in your home – you can extend the shabby chic look to your garden as well. This can transform your boring little patch of grass into an idyllic getaway where you can entertain friends or just relax with a book.

Part 1
Planning Your Garden Getaway

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    Think about what you’ll be using your garden for. Try to think of your vintage style garden as an extra room in your house. What do you want to use it for? A quiet spot for a coffee in the sunshine? A shady spot out of the heat of the sun? Or a place to eat with friends or family?
    • Have a think about seating areas and plan your garden around these places so that you make best use of this outdoor space.
    • You might like to start with a bench, deckchairs, outdoor table and chairs, gazebo, or even a hammock, then plan the rest your garden in harmony with the position of these items of furniture.
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    Arrange the garden in a soft, asymmetrical manner. The best approach to garden design is always to consider where the focal points are and how the eye moves around the space. Most gardens are square but the vintage garden should defy a ‘boxy’ look and be less rigid.
    • Soften the symmetry by putting any seating to one side and planting towards it so that the garden is focused around this visual point.
    • Consider where the eye will be facing when you are seated in the garden and arrange the planting scheme to best effect.
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    Aim to have more than one point of focus in the garden. If you have a large garden, try to have more than one point of focus. A table seating area, a bench in a different spot, and a small sculpture, pond or fountain are some ideas.
    • Think about how you use the ground surface to draw the eye to these focal points. A garden path can lead the eye to a seating area. Vary your ground surfaces to create a sense of there being different areas to the garden.
    • For example, a seating area may have paving but the rest of the garden could have a small lawn area and a different area covered in shale. This will add interest and create the impression different areas of the garden are for different activities, such as relaxing.
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    Consider sectioning off parts of the garden to create secret spaces. It’s always better if the eye can’t perceive the entire garden at once. Consider making some areas hidden from view, making it necessary to move through the garden in order to take it all in.
    • If you can, make a hidden seating area invisible from the house or the outside street, this increases the sense of a calm space to get away from the world.
    • Consider using trellis screens, large planters with tall plants or use hedging to create a private, hidden space away from the world.

Part 2
Choosing a Vintage Planting Style

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    Choose natural, softer-looking plants. Vintage style planting tends to be informal and romantic. You’ll see fewer spiky architectural or tropical plants in the vintage garden and more natural, softer looking displays.
    • You’ll sometimes hear garden designers refer to collections of plants as ‘cottage garden plants’. This isn't a precisely defined category of plants, but plants that are sometimes included in this style of garden include:
    • Bellflower, Columbine, Daisy, Delphiniums, Roses, Foxgloves, Lupins, Forget-me-not and Violets. You should void using plants that look too robust as this isn't the gentle effect you are creating.
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    Aim for a slightly overgrown, crowded effect. Cottage garden style planting tends to pack lots of plants into small spaces. Soften any hard edges in your garden (such as the sides of beds) by letting plants grow over the edging to soften and conceal it.
    • Soften corners by letting plants such as moss or Mexican Fleabane Daisy (Erigeron) invade cracks or by putting planters in. The idea is to prevent the eye being able to see the edges of the space.
    • Although the effect is crowded it has the curious result of distorting the sense of space so a tiny area can appear bigger because it isn't as easy to identify the shape and size of it.
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    Plant quick-growing flowers and grasses to conceal bare surfaces and sharp corners. You shouldn't be able to see bare earth or hard surfaces such as paving slabs in the garden. Therefore, you should plant fast-growing plants and flowers that spread easily in order to cover these surfaces up.
    • Use trailing plants such as ivy or long grasses to conceal edges and right angles and to soften flat surfaces.
    • Try planting masses of tiny flowers that grow in drifts such as Baby’s Breath (gypsophila) or Lobelia to create a soft, dreamy effect.
    • Also grow plants that spread out, such as Snow in Summer (Cerastium) and Aubretia.
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    Opt for quirky, vintage-style containers. Vintage style can mean some quirky and unexpected container choices. You might consider making planters out of old ceramic kitchen sinks – this works well with a plant display of Sedums.
    • Try painting an old wooden stepladder with chalk paint and arranging terracotta plant pots on the steps to introduce height to the garden. Old metal buckets or wheelbarrows also make good choices to repurpose as planters.
    • Because the idea is to introduce as many plants into a small area as possible, try raising plants to eye level by nailing planters to fences. You might use old oilcans or tea pots as planters, positioned at eye level.
    • Hanging baskets work well too. Try using plants that cascade down, such as ivy, trailing sweetpea or geranium.
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    Mix and match different container styles and sizes. A collection of several small planters can work just as well as one large one. Aim to mix and match styles and sizes rather than have several planters of the same type.
    • Having an odd number of containers tends to work better than having an even number, as it creates a more natural, informal effect.
    • Make sure that whatever type of container you use has good drainage. If you aren't able to drill holes in the base, consider adding an inch or two of gravel to the bottom of the container to improve drainage.

Part 3
Adding the Finishing Touches

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    Decorate your garden furniture with a variety of colors, patterns and textures. The vintage garden is all about softness, texture and muted color. Dress your garden with floral cushions, crochet throws, lace shawls and patchwork items.
    • Dress a small outside table with a lace tablecloth, or a vintage-style oilcloth in a dotted or floral print. Some vintage crockery will also work well with this.
    • Don’t be shy about including a cut flower arrangement in your garden. An old earthenware jug, milk bottle or even a jam jar will make a good vase in the vintage garden.
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    Remember to think about lighting. Vintage style is all about being quirky, so consider making old tea cups or jam jars into candle holders for evenings in the garden.
    • You could also consider hanging a string or two of fairy lights overhead, as long as you have a convenient power outlet to connect them to.
    • You’ll need to bring some of these accessories inside when it rains, so make sure they are portable.
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    Add some vintage accessories. Style your vintage garden using quirky vintage accessories to really capture the old style look you are after. Specific accessories that really work well in the vintage garden include:
    • Wooden or wrought iron furniture
    • Furniture painted with chalk paint or using distressed painting techniques
    • Wire planters
    • Wooded bird houses and feeders
    • Bunting, especially using old fashioned floral and stripe prints
    • Slate signs
    • Rustic garden tools used for display
    • Wire hanging baskets
    • Bird cages with plants inside
    • Picket fencing
    • Old kitchenware or porcelain sanitary ware used as planters
    • Wooden crates repurposed as planters
    • Outdoor mirrors in gothic frames
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  • Vintage style usually means faded matt colors rather than bright fresh ones. Consider using chalk paint in pastel shades or trying different painting effects to capture the distressed look – you’ll find some great tutorials online on sites like YouTube and Pinterest.

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Categories: Gardening