A garden has been made more usable by dividing it into split-level spaces, each with its own look, feel and purpose
After spending six years renovating their cottage, this couple turned their attention to the back garden – a rectangular plot that sloped upwards behind the house. As part of the renovation work, they had added a rear kitchen extension with bifold doors and a spacious patio area beyond them.
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Apart from that, the owners were unsure what to do with the rest of the space. ‘It was mainly lawn and there was a very large apple tree taking up lots of room and casting shade over everything,’ they say. ‘It needed a complete rethink. It had to be low-maintenance with some structure and privacy, and we knew we wanted white flowers only, because we love the simplicity.’
They turned to Mike Reeves of Greenman Services, who suggested a split-level design with steps from the patio up to a flat, small area of lawn.
Although the garden is only a couple of years old, plant-packed borders make it look lush and established. Perennials and bulbs keep the interest and colour coming from spring to autumn. Ferns, evergreens and annuals like sweetpeas and snapdragons fill the gaps.
The owner is sticking to the all-white theme, but doesn’t stress when lilac, blue or pink blooms appear. ‘I’m fine with the odd bit of colour, but there was a wrongly labelled yellow rose I couldn’t ignore, so I moved that to the front garden!’
The sunken patio feels enclosed and sheltered, thanks to the retaining walls surrounding the next level of the garden. Judith used the same flagstone flooring inside and outside the house’s bifold doors to connect the two spaces. ‘We eat outside whenever we can, so the garden’s like an extension of our home,’ says the owner.
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A fabulous place for entertaining! Before and after: from shabby garden to tropical oasis with tiki bar
The rendered wall was built as part of the garden redesign and provides privacy as well as a modern, Mediterranean feel. In time, it will be mostly covered by clematis and jasmine. It’s painted in Farrow & Ball’s Bone: ‘It’s a good match for the patio paving and doesn’t compete with the greenery,’ says Judith.
Stepping-stone slabs and gravel create an informal and low-maintenance path. Edging strips keep the gravel contained so it doesn’t creep into flowerbeds. The owner’s lush planting spills over to soften its lines. ‘Full beds stop weeds taking hold,’ she says. ‘Our local garden centre sells neglected plants cheaply, so I get them to flourish again and use them to fill gaps.’
‘I had a raised vegetable bed at the back of the garden, but it needed a lot of attention. So, this year I’ve got cutting flowers, instead – they’re quick and easy to grow.’
Old fish kettles have been turned into quirky, slimline planters to top a low wall.
The middle part of the garden is laid to lawn, with steamer chairs for lounging in the sun. Climber-clad trellis fencing screens the garage and the clematis-wound archway gives a glimpse of another small seating area, which catches the evening sun, at the back. This trick makes the plot seem larger than it is.
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The owner turned an old ladder, bought for a few pounds at a market, into an eye-catching plant stand. ‘I like the rustic wood and having plants at different heights – it’s a bit of fun,’ she says.
Ready for another makeover? Before and after: See how greenery was cut back to create a more useable garden
The new layout has given the garden character and divides it naturally into areas for eating, sitting and relaxing. ‘There are so many bulbs and perennials, too – I love watching the flowers appear.’