The Relaxed Country Garden

This garden is in a conservation area. It has seven mature Yew trees and a large sycamore, within it, all with Tree Preservation Orders on, which means planning permission is required before any work can be done on them.

When my client contacted me, the garden was dominated by a large drive, down the central and sunniest part, which divided the space into two. A stopping space for cars was carved out of the garden, beyond the gates, reducing the available space. The kitchen window looked out onto the drive, and an unappealing view beyond.

One sitting room, looked out onto an empty, rubble area where a garage used to be, and the main sitting room looked out onto paving and a cherry tree, which had been mis-shapen by being positioned in a wind-tunnel.

There was little grass in the garden, most of which was fairly unsuccessful, due to its position under a large Yew tree. It also came to a sharp point, making the space less relaxing or attractive than it had the potential to be, and awkward to mow.

There was a large area of paving around the house, which butted up against a fence, creating unappealing angles, not softened by planting.

However, there was also some rather attractive planting in the garden, but it was positioned in the corner farthest away from the house, where it was least likely to be appreciated.

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My client wanted the garden reorganised so that it functioned as an attractive, informal, restful place to sit, welcome visitors, and enjoy, but without involving too much maintenance. She wanted a large area of lawn, a small space to grow vegetables, a paved area at the back of the house, improved views from the windows, and the elevations of the house to be softened by planting. She was keen to reuse as many existing resources as possible, and preserve a lot of the planting, though not in its existing position.

The new design, softens the harsh corners of the paving and grass, extends the lawn through the centre of the garden, creates curvy paths for easy access all the way round the garden, brings the attractive planting close to the house, and re-uses as many of the client’s existing resources as possible.


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The patio at the back of the house was designed to be constructed entirely out of existing paving, lifted and re-laid, cut to size where appropriate. The drive has been relocated in the corner of the garden, where it will be largely shielded from view by planting, and the unsightly view beyond the garden, has been screened by yew hedging plants, dug up, saved and relocated along the central part of the boundary. We also dug out and potted up a lot of the existing perennials for re-planting.

New planting beds on the south facing walls of the house soften the elevations. Many of the existing shade-loving plants, have been moved to a new bed alongside the fence at the side of the house, along with some shade tolerant climbers. New shrubs have been planted, chosen to make the garden attractive throughout the year, whist keeping the maintenance down.

Our client had the canopy raised on the large yew trees and sycamore, which has let more light into the garden and made it feel more spacious. A Silver Birch will help the garden sit well within its wider environment, and bridge the gap between the shrub layer and the large mature trees, as well as bringing year round interest to the garden. Birch canopies create dappled shade, rather than the deep shade created by the dense canopy of the yews, and my client particularly liked silver birch. The shrubs are a mixture of evergreens to block views of the compost, and deciduous shrubs with a more airy growing habit to create a partial screen in front of the drive. A partial screen will make the garden feel spacious, rather than closed in, in a way that a more solid block of plants would.

I specified self-binding gravel, from a local quarry, for the paths, which creates a firm surface easy for wheeling bins, trolleys, pushchairs and wheelchairs. It is less messy and with less weeding required than ordinary gravel, but with the same quality of relaxed informality.

We tucked the compost bins away behind the shed, with planting in front and a curved path designed to make them accessible, but not visible, from the main garden.

The new design aims to unify the garden, make sensible use of the space, and provide a comfortable, relaxing environment that suits the house. The large dominating Yew trees, feel less oppressive, and my client should begin to enjoy the garden.


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