I’m a big advocate of making gardens legitimate living areas, and not just wild areas that are separate from the homes where we live. These days, with wi-fi connections so easy to establish, lots of folks enjoy being able to use their computers outdoors. I already take advantage of that sometimes, and we have a big table and several chairs that can be used for garden work, writing work and outdoor lunches. The surrounding trees provide nice shade, and the place is comfortable enough that I take naps up there sometimes. (I’m also a big fan of afternoon naps.)
Back when I was designing gardens, two of my favorite projects were for clients who allowed me to construct their gardens as a series of outdoor rooms. For the first clients I built a deluxe outdoor kitchen, complete with a beautiful, tiled sink; permanent barbecue, refrigerator and a set of waterproof cabinets. Next to the outdoor kitchen was an outdoor living room with a set of couches, tables and chairs that made for a wonderful entertaining area. Outdoor functions were more convenient there without the hosts having to go back and forth inside the house.
In the second garden, I built a whole outdoor office for a busy lawyer who enjoyed being able to work outdoors for many months of the year. It wasn’t much of a trick to run power and telephone lines out to the office, and we built a big desk and set of waterproof bookshelves waterproof that could be closed up easily when the weather was bad. There was even a discreetly hidden outdoor bathroom through a side gate. The client told me that this was his favorite feature. When I wrote my garden book, Gardening for the Criminally Negligent, the bit that got the most positive response was the page that advised garden designers to “make a place to pee in the garden.” Admittedly, it was mostly males who appreciated this practical advice.
In our own garden, one of the most useful features is the garden sink up on the top level. This garden sink is really useful for washing freshly harvested produce and very nice for scrubbing pots, muddy tools and dirty hands. It’s an unusual sink — really, just a pair of slate tablets surrounded by bricks, which that make a basin. There’s no drain, and the water just runs off into a pile of rocks at one end. The water runoff then flows into the soil of the adjacent raised bed, where we grow lettuce. The kiwi vine planted above the lettuce bed also likes the water, and the mints planted right next to the edge grow well in the moist conditions.
The one thing that we don’t yet have in the garden is electricity, but I have a couple of ideas as to how I can arrange to run a power line up there. I’d really enjoy being able to have a music system up there, and perhaps a gurgling fountain. Who knows, if this all works out, we might be able to rent the house out to tourists and live up in the garden during the warm months!