Garden Design Brief
When I first met the lovely owner of this estuary town garden in Essex, I was delighted to find that she was very much a plants lady and had spent many years developing her attractive garden into one rich in shrubs, trees, herbaceous perennials, annuals and spring bulbs. I learnt during our first meeting that the garden had been in the family for many years and many of the plants were introduced by the owners' parents, so had intrinsic sentimental value.
With time however, the larger plants had started to age and as all gardener's experience, the ability to control their growth sometimes becomes a challenge and occasionally beyond control. Some can be rescued, cut back and they start all over again, but some can't. This was the case for this client and the brief was to take out some of the large overgrown shrubs that were making life difficult and provide new planting areas that were easier to manage. Understanding the care and historical significance to the family that went into this Essex garden, any changes I was going to make needed to be made sensitively.
The garden plot was approximately 18m wide x 13m deep including a driveway to a garage but being perched on the side of a hill the site dropped nearly 2 metres between the front boundary and the front of the house. The garden was set out with a central sloping lawn, bordered with curved beds. Even the path curved through the garden to the front door, so curves were already quite a theme.
The existing raised border nearest the house had lost definition and was completely dominated by an ancient Rambling Rose (shown left), which blocked light to parts of the front of the house and had over time become entangled with itself. Pruning back wasn't an option in this case.
So, this unfortunately had to be the first casualty along with some other plants demonstrating similar habits. Removing plants that seemed almost like members of the family, is always quite a wrench but had to be done.
The border closest to the road also had a number of ancient shrubs, which had grown into each other and therefore some shrubs also had to be removed to enable a fresh start to be made on the border.
Given the garden sloped in different directions, which made maintenance generally more challenging, the use of terracing within the design was going to offer the best solution going forward. The house itself was built using a soft red brick and several curved red brick walls already existed. So, without wishing to dominate the garden completely with more new walls, two subtly added curved walls were built following the original curved and sloping landscape. These would enable easier access and border care in the future but to ensure brickwork didn't dominate, the walls were both partly sunk into the surrounding landscape. Over time the red brick would fade and blend in with the existing brickwork
In addition to the new walls, further terracing was achieved within the design by introducing 6mm thick steel retaining strips following the topology of the slope, which would present a series of flat planting beds graded in height following the landscape.
There was a slight challenge to this as the top edge of the border would be also edged in steel but as it curved across the slope it couldn't also be curved ‘down' the slope, whilst remaining vertical. So, I designed a short extension to the existing stepped wall that fades into the slope and takes care of one end of the terrace, while the existing sloping path takes care of the other end.
Over time with the steel being at ground level this will blend naturally into the slope of the plot and once planted up, the steelwork will virtually disappear. The use of steel was also more cost effective.
I would like to offer my thanks to Greenfingers Landscaping Ltd and his teams for a job well done.
The new garden has now been revitalised with lots of new refreshed borders, with easier access for a keen plants woman to start filling the borders with new and interesting plants.