People sitting outside on garden furniture around a fire
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

Outdoor Living Trends For 2017

Enhance your living space, move into the garden

The trend in recent years has been not to use the garden as a place for growing plants but as another room, for relaxing, entertaining friends and just chilling out. As more and more new properties are quite compact, making your outdoor space into another room makes perfect sense. This year is going to see the outdoor room being almost as warm and as comfortable as being indoors. Even the chilly nights don’t have to stop you enjoying the outside space, fire pits were the big thing of 2016 and this looks like continuing into 2017 with more stylish designs coming onto the market.

Everyone loves the crackle and primeval feel of a real fire and this is reflected in the stylish European design of the outdoor fires from Happy Cocooning and Morso. Happy Cocooning are gas powered but look just like the real thing and are ideal for those of us who don’t like the mess of a real wood fire. They have sleek minimalist lines to complement the clean lines of the latest all-weather synthetic rattan garden furniture, which has replaced ornate wrought metal and wood. The Happy Cocooning fires are made from either wood or a composite which looks like concrete, so there is a style to blend in with most design schemes.

The emphasis this year is going to be on comfort in the garden, gone are the hard wooden benches and ornate iron. There are plenty of comfortable options available, one of our favourites is the Buckingham range from 4 Seasons with large chairs and sofas just made for lounging. If you want a real comfy lazing experience try the 4 Seasons Kingston Chaise-lounge. Also staying with the comfort theme; hammocks, swing seats and outdoor bean bags are going to be really popular. Try the hanging cocoons for those days when you feel like hiding from the world.

4 Seasons Kingston furniture

In line with using the garden as an extension of the house barbecuing has become hugely popular and this looks as though it will continue as people realise that cooking delicious food outdoors is easy and not just confined to burgers and sausages. The new Genesis 11 is a really impressive bit of kit for the price; if you regularly cater for family and friends and usually stick to the more conventional barbecue fare, this is one of the best straightforward BBQs on the market. Low and slow grills such as the Traeger Pro Series 22 are really taking off as they produce such beautiful succulent, tasty large cuts of meat. This is the ideal way to cook pulled pork, ribs or even the Christmas turkey; you just fill the hopper with pellets, insert the probes into the meat and sit with your feet up until it is cooked.

Barbecue sales have been on the rise for the past few years so many people have become very proficient and want more out of their grill. So this year will see a rise in the use of high tech BBQ equipment such as the Weber iGrill which sticks magnetically to the BBQ hood, records the core temperature of your food and sends the results back to your smartphone. This is ideal for cooking a large piece of meat long and slow, as you don’t have to constantly nip outside to check. The barbecue is not going to be the only piece of outdoor kitchen to be prominent this year; sink units and preparation tables will also feature in the al fresco dining experience.

Garden design, focusing on a thought-out holistic scheme, will take over from a garden which evolves slowly over time as circumstances dictate. A grassy football area, no longer used, a low maintenance shrubbery that resembles a jungle or that scrubby veggie patch that only grows a few cabbages and a lot of weeds all look set to be re-designed, resulting in a more usable grown-up space for entertaining or just a lovely space for relaxing. As many people have less time to spend in the garden, low maintenance, more high tech design will be on the rise; with garden lighting, music and water features all being controlled from your smartphone. 

4 Seasons Buckingham garden furniture

Hard landscaping will see a shift from the hard angular lines of concrete and paving slabs to a softer more natural use of materials, such as timber and stone. Landscaping is set to move away from a single flooring surface and towards a mixture of wood, stone and gravel interspersed with low growing tough plants such as thyme, chamomile and small decorative grasses. Soft Scandinavian colours are still in vogue with the trend being towards bleached timber flooring and recycled materials.

The Pantone colour for 2017 is ‘greenery’ (15-0343), a soft spring green, which will really tone in well with the soft Scandi palette. A block of colour to accentuate a feature, in the form of a small painted wall which emphasises certain plants, or a bold rug is going to be a highlight of garden design this year. In line with making your outdoor space more comfortable inject a shot of colour to the decking or patio with a bold colour blocked rug matched up to some scatter cushions on your furniture.

Another big colour palette is going to be a tropical jungle look which incorporates the ‘greenery’ colour alongside red, orange, yellow and blue. Try covering an unsightly fence with the tender annual climber Ipomoea (Mina) lobata or Spanish Flag which grows to a height of about 180cm (6’), if you give it plenty of food and water; it is smothered in long exotic red and yellow flowers which change colour as they age. Try cannas, especially ‘Durban’ with its striking variegated leaves, the Ethopian Black Banana (Ensete ventricosumMaurelii’) with the colourful variegated leaves, Amaranthus tricolour and annual Zinnia elegans, particularly ‘Giant Double Mixed’. Pack plenty into a small space for a lush tropical look, don’t forget to water them well as they are all hungry, thirsty plants, but the cannas will stand a little neglect.


2016 saw a move from the cheap, boarded sheds to better quality, longer lasting materials. An example of this are the garden sheds from Keter which are constructed from a steel reinforced heavy duty plastic, which is maintenance free and can be painted to suit any garden décor. Another winner, essential for all those who ‘grow your own’, is the Eden greenhouse with a ‘Zero Threshold’, so no more tripping over the bottom bar. The ‘grow your own’ movement is set to expand again as people realise that you can easily grow a few vegetables amongst the flowers, in pots besides the BBQ or on the windowsill.

Our busy lifestyle, with never enough leisure time, is going to be a continuing balancing act, so the time spent tending a lawn might not feature in the schedule. An un-loved lawn is not a thing of beauty and today’s artificial turf is almost indistinguishable from the real thing, giving you the look of a well maintained lawn, and virtually maintenance free to boot. Try using it as a surface for your garden furniture, incorporate some ‘jungle’ plants and bright print cushions and you have your lovely green oasis. If you do go for a real lawn then a robotic lawn mower is an absolute must; just lay a cable around the edge of the lawn and off it goes mowing the lawn then puts itself to bed when finished!

All in all this year looks like being a year for living comfortably outside with either cool Scandinavian design or a riot of jungle colour. Convert a part of your patio into an outdoor kitchen for the barbecue or instead opt for a stylish Alfa pizza oven (not just for pizza); be inventive with your cooking and rise above the usual fare of burgers and pizza. Have fun re-designing the garden as a whole entity; it doesn’t have to be complicated. Just use the garden as much as the weather allows, even chilly evenings can be overcome with an outdoor fireplace and a lovely stylish wool throw.