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The Design challenges of a small garden

Unlike large areas, where there is good scope to exploit the area with plants, features, structural elements etc but in more confined spaces the design requirements and demands to achieve a practical layout with good visual aspects is much more difficult and challenging. A recent project was a good case in point. The site featured a new house build within an existing (corner site) garden and by the time the construction of the new house was completed, the outdoor space was restrictive. A small spatial area but with an unusual but dual purpose (a) a Patio area for the owner to sit and enjoy and (b) a place to park the owner’s car. To add to the design challenge, the space was not level and also somewhat overlooked. The ‘Before’ photos show the site and end of construction and also a new concrete slab which the Builder had poured for a car parking space. It proved very strong and difficult to remove but it had to go.

Early on in the design process it was agreed to define the space in terms of two functions and on a split level. Planting it was agreed would be restricted to mainly rear at perimeter and some trapped beds within the ‘patio’ area. To balance privacy with openness, we specified mainly specimen planting, for example Photinia (Red Robin) standards in Patio and Olive Trees for eventual easy to maintain rear screening. Buxus Sempervirens (Box hedging) was cleverly utilised to disguise and soften the otherwise 'I' roll track for the garage/side gate.

Having considered a number of different natural paving types, including sandstone and granite, the client was keen to utilise granite (bush hammered grey finish), as it was considered the stone best suited to provide a contemporary look as well as being ideal surface for car parking. The finishes were very defined and broadly simple clean lines used throughout. There were however some contrasting granite forms used (granite setts and granite kerbing) to provide added visual contrast.

One might also notice the garden statue which had been within the original family garden and the owner was keen to retain for lots of warm childhood memories etc. We did manage to re-position the ‘garden lady’ discreetly behind one of the Olive tree.

Crisp clean lines with good definition are hallmarks of this particular project, and one which despite its relative small size, demonstrates the importance of paying attention to details and achieve a simple but harmonious end result. The planting scheme involved more emphasis on mature specimens, with the simple geometric forms of Bay Laurel and Photinia Standards contrasting nicely with Chamerops and Olive Trees. To retain interest over the winter months, the Mahonia with its scented yellow flowers will give lift to the lower growing Hebe Heartbreakers, again the simple compact forms of this variety will produce spectacular colour variations. As temperatures change from winter frost to summer sunshine, the hebe heartbreaker will dramatically change colour from glowing pink to firey red to augment the plant's more regular variagated look.

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