2020 has really shown the value and power of outdoor spaces too many more people than ever before. Being asked to stay home for extended periods of time made us value our own outdoor spaces and the ability to sit outside. As a nation, we have realised the importance of having a private and relaxing outdoor space to utilise.
This newfound appreciation of the outdoors has been noticed up and down the country, The Royal Horticultural Society saw a dramatic spike in internet searches for how to grow potatoes—and the number of people asking how to compost, or how to divide perennials, was six times higher than the previous year’s figure. People were fighting the lockdown lows by spending time in their gardens. The ability to get out of the house into an outdoor space has never been so significant to us.
There are in fact scientific reasons that spending time in an outdoor space is beneficial to both our physical and mental health. Research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment that involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown that combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature helped those with mild to moderate depression.
Lead author Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said:
"Spending time in nature certainly makes us feel healthier, but until now the impact on our long-term wellbeing hasn't been fully understood.”
Exposure to green space reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, preterm birth, high blood pressure and stress.
“One of the really interesting things we found is that exposure to green space significantly reduces people's levels of salivary cortisol -- a physiological marker of stress.”
Doing things like growing food or flowers, exercising outdoors or being around animals all have lots of positive effects. Calming nature sounds and even outdoor silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body's fight-or-flight response. A study by Campaign to Protect Rural England and WI in May of this year found that 57% of people said lockdown had made them more aware of green spaces for mental health and wellbeing.
For those of us lucky enough to have a garden at home we can create and benefit from that sanctuary on a regular basis. Your outdoor space should be an extension of your home and who you are.
There are three main functions to any outdoor space, all of which you should keep in mind. The service area is the functional space like where you keep the bins, vegetable patch or a dog kennel. The public space is the area that can be viewed by the general public. A lot of the time that is the front garden. Public space may include other areas of your outdoor space, depending on how your home is situated on your property.
The most important space is the living space. Outdoor living spaces can include patios, spas, games areas and children’s play areas. It’s not just a space for plants and gardening but a place to relax, entertain or invigorate. Lots of outdoor living spaces include the same aspects inside the home such as lighting, heating and furniture. Your outdoor space should be what you want it to be, whether you want a place to garden and grow food for your family, a place to relax with a book or a place to cook and entertain.
New garden trends are on the rise like creating ‘working from home’ garden studios to encourage motivation. People are wanting to protect the planet by adding trees and providing space for wildlife. Sustainable design and reducing your carbon footprint are all important factors to consider; ‘rewilding’ is a rising trend. The outdoor space can be a perfect place to encourage children’s learning. Throughout the design process, there are a few important things to consider. You need to understand your space for plant selection and activity location. Keep in mind what you want and need. The plants you choose are important to both you and the environment.
Designing, sorting and crafting your outdoor space can seem like a daunting task, especially now knowing how important it is to you and your family. If you have been inspired to get your own outdoor space in order but want to talk to someone about really making it yours then contact me. I design for you, creating beautiful and atmospheric gardens full of emotion that you will fall in love with. I keep it personal. It’s me and my business and I personally look after all my clients. Your garden is an extension of your home. It’s my job to continue your individual style and practical requirements from your inside living space to that outside.