HOW OUR GARDEN BECAME OUR SANCTUARY // and helped us survive three months of lockdown

Turning our garden into a sanctuary - main shot

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When we moved in here a decade ago, the back garden was more Amazon jungle than oasis.

It was tangled and overgrown, but despite its sorry state I instantly saw its potential. We were moving out of London, where we’d lived in a second-floor flat for five years, so the idea of being able to open the back door and walk out into our very own outdoor space was intoxicating.

It took two gardeners two full days and an overflowing skip to hack it back, but once it was cleared out and opened up, we realised we had a space much bigger than we’d even imagined.

We were excited about the blank canvas we now had to work with, but, with a baby and a two-year-old, it was over a year before we could actually do something with the space. The properly was on a slope, so we had the levels cut in and bordered with wooden sleepers, then decked the lowest level that approached the house.

It was simple, but served us nicely for nearly eight years… until we embarked on the big extension, and the garden became a building site. So two years ago then we did it all again – replacing the ruined decking and adding a sunken paved BBQ area in our latest garden transformation.

Turning our garden into a sanctuary - folding sliding doors

There’s no way we could have foreseen a global pandemic would confine us to our homes two summer’s later, but when it did we were so thankful for our outdoor space.

The mild weather meant we could throw pull back the sliders, entirely opening up the back of the open-plan kitchen-diner. It massively increased our living space and prevented us from feeling so trapped.

And, with the world temporarily ground to a halt, it felt like nature had a chance to take centre stage again.

The weather (particularly for March in the UK) was phenomenal, and the blue skies stretched endlessly, unmarred by planes and their pale contrails. Our garden seemed to be filled with butterflies and dragonflies, and, without the background hum of passing cars and trains, the morning bird song was loud enough to stop me in my tracks.

tomato plant

I took advantage of the time to get on top of a few gardening jobs, planting lavender and honeysuckle, repainting the faded garden sleepers and even growing tomatoes.

We began spending more time as a family out too – cooking barbecues and watching the girls splash about in the blow-up pool and toasting marshmallows around the fire pit – things we hadn’t done together in a while.

When I was in the garden my anxiety totally disappeared; it made me realise the importance of our little garden hideaway and it’s motivated me to put more time and love into the space.

Last year we bought a budget outdoor sofa to fill the space in the paved area, with the plan that one day we’d upgrade it to something bigger and better. Now we’re using the space all the time, I’ve been drooling over all the gorgeous luxury rattan garden furniture you can order online.

I’ve got my eye on a contemporary chaise longue-style corner suite, with thick, comfy seating pads and scatter cushions. I want to surround it with plants and create a little leafy oasis where I can go to listen to music, or read a book, or just lie back and watch the clouds shuffle across the sky.

If there’s one thing lockdown has taught me, it’s that home really is where the heart is.

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