Ula Maria’s new book, Green, providing you with a plethora of good ideas for your garden

PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 July 2020

ULA MARIA - GREEN - Alice Vincent, Balcony Garden (c) Jason Ingram

ULA MARIA - GREEN - Alice Vincent, Balcony Garden (c) Jason Ingram

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If you have a small outdoor space, there’s no reason why it can’t still be beautiful.

ULA MARIA - GREEN - Alice Vincent, Balcony Garden (c)Jason IngramULA MARIA - GREEN - Alice Vincent, Balcony Garden (c)Jason Ingram

It is often thought that people who live in the countryside, with large sweeping gardens and borrowed rural landscapes are the lucky ones. Those of us who gaze out of a window onto a tiny courtyard, balcony and street scene often do so with these rolling acres in our futile imagination and a sense of regret in our hearts that such a fantasy can never be.

But when life hands you lemons, or small, urban spaces as the case may be, it does not do to discount the possibilities.

Enter Ula Maria. Winner of the RHS Young Designer of the Year competition in 2017, she earned her stripes magnificently before as well as since, and she is now taking in hand the despondent would-be lifestyle gardener, providing lots of inspiration, a plethora of good ideas and a persuasive kick in the pants through her new book, 
Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces.

“There is a general misconception that an attractive garden equals a green-fingered owner, but don’t let that discourage you from creating the garden of your dreams,” she begins encouragingly. “You don’t have to be a plant guru to have a beautiful and functional outdoor space.”

Ula Maria - GreenUla Maria - Green

The book approaches garden design as if designing an outdoor room – which is a sensible premise as many very small gardens are intimately connected to the house. Divided into sections, the introduction makes you think about your approach: how you use the space, what the vernacular materials are, and it makes the point that, even if you don’t spend an awful lot of time in your garden, there is a lot to be said for making the view from the window as beautiful as it can be. It goes on to address the scale, colour, texture and materials, with each step setting you on the road to fulfilling your ambitions.

The central part of the book is a series of vignettes covering elements of style. Some of these are quite specific, such as balcony gardening or creating a tropical jungle, and some very much more conceptual, such as ‘Colours of the Desert’ or ‘Glamorous and Edgy’. This forms the meat of the book yet each of these topics is covered with commendable efficiency and consistency; in the same way as the book is concerned with small gardens, each concise, precise spread does not waste time with the unnecessary. It also includes a liberal quantity of example gardens to drive the point home, each beautifully photographed by Jason Ingram.

The layout is accessible and tempting, designed in such a way that the information can be seen at a glance; absorbed and drooled over, or noted before proceeding. Leitmotiv elements of colour palette, texture and material keep us on the straight and narrow throughout, before tumbling us into the sections on furnishing and planting our, by now reimagined, outdoor utopia.

On the one hand, Green is practical and well thought through; very much a sourcebook for garden design inspiration. Most experienced gardeners would find it a bit on the light side when it comes to actually growing things and this area is less than comprehensive, but to criticise it on this is to miss the point. What Ula Maria is about is making emotive garden spaces and stimulating a connection with nature. Practical skills can follow – after all, we all started somewhere.

So if the purpose of Green is to inspire the reader, to fill their minds with sparkling visions of what could be; to demonstrate that the enclosed light well, the exposed balcony or the tiny space, dominated by brickwork, can really be a desirable, productive, habitable space, then it does it very well indeed.

Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria, Michell Beazley, £20

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