This is the rear garden to a ground floor flat in Hackney.
The garden is accessed via a set of French doors at the back of the house that lead out onto a steep stone staircase. Two low-lying bedroom windows from the storey below overlook the ground level of the garden.
There were a group of trees occupying the south-eastern corner, the majority of which were removed, and the adjacent corner had an old decking, in front of which was an area of astroturf; the rest of the garden was covered by slate mulch. The boundary of the garden was fenced on all sides, with three of the fences being willow screens.
The owners envisaged this space to be a contemporary urban garden, transformed from its original state into a beautiful garden that delivered a fresh and balanced design within a low maintenance scheme that could be enjoyed all year round as an outdoor room. They wanted to see the rear garden revitalised into a space that is fantastic for entertaining friends as well as providing some play space for their child.
The main challenge to the garden was the height difference between the back doors and the rest of the space. The original staircase was too steep and dangerous so we introduced steps and platforms into the garden to reduce this dramatic change in height.
The use of composite decking provides the creative way that the garden now steps downwards and was selected to match the colour of the living room and kitchen floor, in order to create continuity between the two spaces. We included glass balustrading that not only adds a contemporary aesthetic that matches the interior of the flat but provides that additional safety to the steps. Planters are used to effect at strategic points on the steps and platforms.
The main entertaining space benefits from the inclusion of built-in seating with raised beds, that not only looks fantastic rendered and painted, but provides excellent year round seating opportunities. The timber-topped benches also double up as additional storage for any garden tools or children’s toys.
A mix of raised and ground level beds provide a nice mix of heights to provide low maintenance structural planting. The entertaining space sees the inclusion of a designated BBQ area, keeping the space tidy and allowing the owners the option of having a BBQ whenever it takes their fancy.
As well as having a main seating area we also included some additional seating into the space that takes the form of a more informal bench style. As well as being an ‘outdoor room’ for entertaining, there is also some garden space remaining that is designated as a play area. Astroturf was the material of choice for this space and the area is big enough in which to fit a paddling pool.
The boundaries were changed from the original willow screens into a more solid boundary of timber fencing with the addition of a horizontal trellis giving a more contemporary feel.
Once the trees were removed from the garden, the rear southern boundary was slightly more over looked by the neighbouring properties, so we included pleached tree planting across this back boundary providing the perfect evergreen screening effect. The pleached trees not only add softness to the garden but also take up very limited space.
In terms of planting, our clients expressed a desire for a fresh scheme of fairly low maintenance planting that looks attractive throughout the year whilst still including some seasonal variation and interest. A selection of evergreen species and structural planting provide backbone, whilst a carefully selected palette of perennials provide injections of interest.
Lighting adds an exciting dimension to the whole garden, making it not only usable on summer evenings, but also visually accessible in winter months. Inset lighting to the decking, steps, wall lights and up lighting to the structural planting creates brilliant effects. However, with the use of different circuits, a subtler feel can be achieved, according to the mood and occasion.