Unlocking the Garden’s Potential



The Brief

My clients had been in their newly built house two years when I met them.  Generally uninspired by their back garden, they wanted to unlock its potential.  To make it work for them, their 3 children, 2 cats and seasonally outdoor housed tortoises! 

The garden had been largely laid to lawn, but due to the space bearing the brunt of recent new build work, it had settled uneven and lumpy.

My brief was three-fold.  To create a country style garden where the adults could relax, entertain and potter; a fun space where the children (aged 9 – 13) would spend more time outside playing and relaxing; and last, but not least, make the most of the fabulous view of the garden from a large picture window in the kitchen.

There was certainly no shortage of ideas from my clients who were happy to maintain the garden, but ultimately wanted to get more out of it.  To entice wildlife, grow fruit and vegetables, add a water feature and incorporate an area large enough for ball games.

My Design

The key was to create a modern family garden with soft shapes and discrete areas which worked for a range of ages and uses.  From the techno teens to the wildflower loving adults!

My approach was to create a real fluidity to the space, with specific areas linked by pathways, planting and natural materials like wood and stone.

To incorporate elements to heighten the senses, for example; planting to attract wildlife, a water feature, space to grow vegetables and an orchard, but also by contrast create space where the children could play ball games without wreaking havoc on plants and have their own discrete “chill out” zone.

With the existing sandstone terrace stretching across the back of house, I suggested formal beds frame a sandstone path, leading up into the garden, creating a vista from the house up to the lawns beyond.

From the house and terrace, the eye is now drawn across the longest part of the garden, which has been laid with large interlocking, circular lawns where the children have plenty of space for ball games.

At the heart of a secluded teen area is the “den”, a timber summerhouse, with its own lighting and power, so the children can hang out, listen to music and play computer games.   There’s still room for their trampoline and the entire area is screened by a hornbeam hedge, the perfect backdrop to lawns and planted beds in front.  The teens get seclusion from adults and vice versa.

A small fruit orchard now sits amidst a wildflower meadow designed to produce flowering plants from early Spring to mid-Autumn, a natural food source for birds, and habitat for butterflies and pollinating insects – great for the productive garden next door, with a perfect spot for the tortoise house.

My client chose a summerhouse with unglazed windows, so they could be inside and still feel connected to the garden, even if it’s pouring with rain.  With lighting and power, it’s the perfect space for evening entertaining.  Surrounded by a light gravel garden with trees providing shelter, privacy and movement behind, they can now make the most of the sunny south facing aspect and look back across the garden. 

With the hard landscaping built, we planted at optimum times, allowing the garden to settle in between.  Initially, planting hedges and trees in Spring, but delaying the shrubs and perennials until Autumn, so they could root down securely before the Winter frost.

The planted beds offer an abundance of colour with soft flowering in purple, white and pink including alliums, lavender, sedum, nepeta, agapanthus and cyclamen.

I retained the existing deciduous hedging, planted flowering shrubs and perennial ground cover in the rear borders to create year-round interest, attracting wildlife but robust enough to survive a few knocks from unruly balls!

Now both generations are making the most of the garden and really using it to the max!


“We cannot thank Nicola enough for our garden transformation.   She listened carefully to our wishes and converted them into a fantastic plan which she then project-managed into a wonderful garden.  Incorporating details to ensure it worked for us, like box hedging to protect the borders from our sons’ footballs, so the garden meets all our needs.  She also took great care to source plants that would work together and in the conditions of our garden.

Two years on we are still thrilled with our new garden and everything in it, from the seating designed to give us different views of the garden, to the mini orchard, the vegetable patch and the lighting which means we can even enjoy the garden at night.”

Mr & Mrs B , Twyford

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