By Chris Beardshaw
Over the past 18 months, many people have come to realise the value of a garden for wellbeing. In addition to the environmental, ecological and health benefits, a garden can provide a much-needed additional living space — anything from a quiet, relaxing escape to a lively, social hub. When I am designing a garden, I work with the client to come up with a variety of options so they can get the most out of their outdoor space.
Taking on a new garden can feel daunting but a blank canvas such as that of this three-bedroom flat in London, on the market for £2.4m, can be an exciting opportunity to create a space that suits your needs. Your garden deserves as much thought and attention to detail as your home’s interiors, and concentrating on a few key areas can bring instant results.
Know your boundaries
My eye is immediately drawn to the dark grey fence, which is a screen to shield the view of parked cars. An intense colour has the effect of shortening the garden, I would paint a boundary with a recessive colour such as Brouns & Co’s pearl grey (£52 for a litre). The integral bench here could be accessorised with cushions, or used to display a collection of containers to green the space and create vertical interest, which would break up the long horizontal plane.
The adjoining brick wall also dominates so I would introduce pleached trees to soften the impact and help mask the hard landscape beyond. Pyrus Chanticleer is a lovely choice for its beautiful pear blossom in the spring (see picture inset). If a heavier canopy is required for thicker screening, then beech or hornbeam would be good options. Growing climbers up into pleached trees adds colour and fragrance; a mix of roses, clematis and honeysuckle would look spectacular.
One of the first things you notice about this garden is the lack of plants. A big benefit of pleached trees is that they have clear sculptural stems, leaving plenty of space in the raised bed to plant a wide range of foliage and flower-rich plants. These would soften the garden and create greater interest.
There are already plenty of sharp, defined lines and angles in this house and garden, so I would avoid overly upright, spiky plants and instead opt for a succession of rounded shrubs and herbaceous plants, which are more restful on the eye. Domed yew, lavenders and rosemary (pictured) would all fit the bill.
Choose materials wisely
I can see there has been an attempt to echo the internal colour palette outside but two different adjacent types of paving break up the space, which is unnecessary in a relatively small garden. Instead, adopting the shape and form of the internal herringbone flooring would demonstrate a spatial generosity if continued outside. Using Cheshire Sandstone’s porcelain herringbone timber-effect planks in brown (£335.63 for enough to cover 6.3 sq m) would give a seamless view from the interior to the exterior.
While faux lawns, as here, look the part from a distance, they provide none of the sensory benefits of real grass. One of the beauties of a finely mown lawn in an urban environment is the softness of texture underfoot and the coolness of the grass blades in summer heat. If you do not have time for or dislike mowing, get a robot mower. You could even install trickle irrigation under the lawn, fed by rainwater from the property’s down pipes.
There is an opportunity to introduce more greenery with carefully chosen and positioned planters. For a contemporary scheme such as this, I would keep any pots simple in shape and colour, and have them all uniform. A handful of sizeable containers, rather than a high number of smaller pots, looks confident and uncluttered. I recommend this Asa pot in bone white with a light drag texture from Torc Pots (prices range from £552 for extra small to £2,717 for extra large).
Bring in statement furniture
The garden currently feels impersonal so there is plenty of scope to make it more inviting and comfortable. Do not be afraid to use vertical space for outdoor art; I used porcelain leaves in a recent garden scheme. The table and chairs match the paving, but I would opt for something that would look just as good inside as out such as the teak and glass X-Frame dining table by Gloster (£2,600, available from Chaplins).
I would also add a generous number of cushions, throws and rugs from Weaver Green, made from recycled plastic. I like the patterned Jaipur cushions (£45, pictured) — along with candles, lanterns and solar lights such as these festoon lights from Solar Centre (£69.99 for 20). The garden would become as inviting as the rest of the house.
Photography: Martin Haswell; Strutt & Parker; K Clarks Photography/Dreamstime.com; Haritonovstock/Dreamstime.com