Colonise your garden all year long

The heatwave has made the difference between staring out at and getting into our gardens. With pods, ponds and yurts, we can get the best from our domestic outdoors


The recent spell of good weather has made us fall back in love with our gardens. Now that we can eat, play and even sleep under the stars in them, it’s possible to imagine using them on a permanent basis. Amp up your exterior with great outdoor guises from architectural retreats to outdoor art.

Garden pod
Yvonne Hegarty

Forget the traditional garden room. Modernist Yvonne Hegarty’s garden pod is a slick futuristic sphere with gold-tinted windows that looks like it has been teleported from another planet.

Designed for you to enjoy your garden from the outside, whatever the weather, the pod has nautical-style seating and a table that breaks down to form a large covered lounger.

It was given to her as a recent landmark birthday present by her husband, Joe. She chose the super-sized bauble over a piece of statement jewellery.

The pod got its very own welcome-to-the-family party with friends and clan invited to get up close and personal with the extra-terrestrial form.

Her teenage kids, Karl (15) and Anna (14), think its “super cool”. “It’s a great escape,” says Yvonne. “We can escape them or they escape us.”

The neat design is suitable for even a small garden. Prices start from about €10,000.

Love yurts
Triona Lillis and Gavin Morgan

Triona Lillis and her partner Gavin Morgan met while working for Galway-based street theatre company Macnas. She’s a costume designer who also runs fashion and vintage shop Astor on the Tuam Road in Galway. He’s a set designer and prop maker. Their garden in Moycullen is awash with ideas inspired by music festivals they’ve been involved with, including Electric Picnic.

They love the outdoors. Every summer they erect a Mongolian yurt they bought in the UK for €3,000 that acts as a spare room for friends staying over.

They also love a long soak in their hot tub built by Gavin from wood off-cuts left over from his set design for The Crucible. Like something from a Wild West movie, the water is heated by a fire lit in an old gas bottle brazier and travels through copper piping to create a convection-heated tub.

Triona says: “Lots of our friends’ younger kids think our garden is a bit like Butlins. Friends drop by, bring food and end up staying all weekend.”

When the nights get cold, they withdraw to the custom-built bar in their basement.


Pond life
Elma Fenton

During the boom, an indoor pool was an essential piece of arriviste kit. Times have changed. Those who still have deep pockets and plenty of outdoor space are exploring Elma Fenton’s natural swimming pool, an ecological style statement that requires less maintenance than a traditional chlorinated pool.

It’s an idea that she first mooted at the 2005 Chelsea Flower Show and reprised at Bloom in 2007 where she’s pictured (right) wearing a very becoming swim hat. She’s just finished a commission in a Co Wexford property. Natural planting acts as a filtration system and attracts pond life which results in cleaner and clearer water. In terms of operational costs, the natural pool is cheaper than traditional pools and requires less maintenance. It also offers an aesthetically pleasing addition to your garden.

Only big garden owners need apply – the minimum water area is 60sq m . Prices to bathe au natural are from €30,000 upwards.

Four fun ways to liven up your outdoors

Hanging garden
Bring a little Bablyon into your backyard with a hammock to hang out in. Try this fringed berth, €65 (Carolyn Donnelly’s Eclectic collection for Dunnes Stores) The addition of geo weave cushions (€35 each), cowhide rug (€200), side table (€120), tribal baskets (from €5 each), a bird house (from €12) and a hanging ball (from €3) all enhance the outdoor room feel.

Zoological garden
Add a sense of the exotic to your exterior with inflatable animals. Create a menagerie of living and extinct species from African plains herbivores like giraffes (€59.95) and zebras(€24.95) to Jurassic-period dinosaurs such as the stegosaurus (€26.95), triceratops (€29.95) and T- rex, (€26.95).

Garden party
Break out the bunting and create an instant holiday mood as per this image featuring an American lounge chair, about €29, from Dobbies Garden Centre in Lisburn. Three metres of paper bunting costs €7.50 from Waterford-based You can also make your own by watching easy-to-follow YouTube tutorials.

Art for park’s sake
The popularity of the art tunnel, a public space in Smithfield that holds public exhibitions, demonstrates our appetite for art in an outdoor setting. In a home setting, the front garden of Sandymount-based Les Wannick, owner of the Copper Gallery, features found pieces of metal, wood and machinery to create a mini sculpture park.

Sculptor John Coll’s work ( featured at Electric Picnic’s Body and Soul area last year. Recent private commissions include a kinetic piece and a water feature. Prices from €3,000.

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