At Neptune, we talk a lot about seeing your garden as another room of your home. You might have noticed how we’ll suggest activity after activity that can be spent in your great outdoors so that it can be used to its fullest potential.
One of the clever things that we can do to help our gardens along is ‘zoning’. While it may sound like a new-fangled game of sorts, or a kind of outdoor meditation, zoning is in fact nothing new. This design practice has long been popular in open-plan spaces, but in the realm of interiors more so than our exterior worlds. In our gardens though, it’s a technique that still feels a bit overlooked.
Quite simply, zoning is about separating a space into different areas (or zones) according to their function. It makes the layout more thought-out. It makes things feel more organised. It’s simply a way to make the most of every inch.
You don’t need a big garden to zone it. A large garden might only have two zones or it might have ten, but equally a small courtyard garden has the potential to have more than a few zoned sections. Below, we’ve suggested some of the areas that you might like to make room for in your outside spaces, so that you can see past the turf and beyond the paving to something so much more exciting and inviting…
A place to entertain
This is an obvious place to start. One of the main things that we enjoy doing in our gardens is eating at the garden table. If this is true for you, invest in a table that works with your space and your lifestyle, and set it up in the perfect spot: balancing light with shade.
Table for two
If your outdoors is on the roomy side, a nice touch is to introduce a secondary table and chairs that fulfil a different purpose. A tea-for-two set placed away from your main dining table creates a place for you to share a morning coffee with a loved one, or to savour all by yourself. It’s a more low-key, a more simple, and a more intimate table-and-chairs alternative.
Fill your space
Zones for dining decided, make them look and act the part with the right furniture. Think two-person bistro set for your ‘coffee on the terrace’ section and a long-stretching dining table for your entertaining space.
A place to read
It’s never easy to find the time to put your feet up. But if there’s a garden sofa, armchair, or both, waiting for you, there’s much more of a chance that you might. Reading, by its very nature, is a cathartic exercise, but the setting where we choose to read plays a huge role too. By zoning a small section of your garden into a place for you to relax with a good book or glossy magazine, you’re building yourself the essence of an al fresco living room. Add in a coffee or side table to echo your interior version, dress it with cushions and keep a blanket box to hand, and it soon becomes something that’s near-impossible to walk past.
If you have the room, every garden will benefit from a zone carved out specifically for lounging. And that doesn’t have to mean sun lounger and parasol (although it could). Outdoor sofa and coffee table combinations work just as wonderfully.
Garden zoning can be as functional or as fanciful as you like. If you’d rather keep it to a few core zones such as a place to eat, a place to store things, and place to grow, that’s perfectly fine. Garden zoning will help you to achieve that with more rigour.
But, if you’re looking to transform your garden into something that feels a little luxurious or special, you can introduce as many purposeful pockets as you like, to enjoy as often as you please.
Zoning is about opportunities, and making room for the things that you want to do in your outside space in the hope that they’ll encourage you to do precisely that.
It can feel rather fun to have a section of your garden dedicated to after-supper cocktails. It might be a raised deck area beneath a pergola or a cosy terraced section in a far-away corner, or it could be as simple as an outdoor console table stationed close by to French doors with enough space around it for mingling.
Play dress up
Garden zoning isn’t all about layout and the bigger pieces of furniture. Think about scene setting and props, and how they might add to the character of a specific area. If you’re creating a little cocktail corner for grown-ups, top the table with martini glasses and wheel out our Manhattan bar cart for the evening to display drinks.
Picnics and tea parties
If you have little people in your life who love to throw tea parties with toys or to turn lunchtimes into garden picnics, they’ll love the suggestion of having a certain patch of garden dedicated to their fun and games.
Room to grow
It might be one spot that you ‘cordon off’ for growing a certain something, or it might be one of a few growing zones that are peppered around your garden – the choice, as always, is yours. We always love the idea of a couple of sections that become an environment for one type of plant: a herb garden, a cutting garden, an evergreen area. And this is something that can be done on a big scale or as small as several balcony growing boxes. Or, earmark a corner for potting, giving you a clear-cut space to enjoy your green-fingered hobby.
Cross the border
Creating clear-cut sections in your garden can be helped along with the use of planters, pots and considered arrangements of garden ornaments.