Family Garden in Orpington

Family Garden in Orpington

This was one of my first projects – and I learned a lot from it.

Three things stood out from my first visit: a practical requirement, an opportunity, and a constraint.

The practical requirement related to the patio. It wasn’t deep enough for a proper seating area and clearly need to be extended. Doing so would also require excavating and rebuilding the retaining wall that separated the patio from the rest of the garden.

It was the rest of the garden that provided the opportunity. Apart from a trellis fence across the middle, it was laid out entirely as lawn – like a room with no furniture or decoration. There was no reason to go into it, and nothing to interest or delight you if you did.

And then there was the constraint – which, as is so often the case, related to the budget. Good garden design is always about helping clients make the right trade-offs between what they want and what they can afford. In this case, however, it wasn’t clear that the client’s budget would even cover the work on the patio.

Part of the answer lies in creative solutions. For example, by extending the patio at only one end I created the seating area while greatly reducing the costs of construction – less excavation, less wall to rebuild, less stone to buy and lay. The new shape also increased the interest of what had been a featureless garden. And the simple device of rendering and painting the retaining wall added a fresh, contemporary feel – and avoided a potential mismatch between old and new.

The concept phase of the design is also critical in striking the right balance. By presenting three concepts to the client, I was able to help him explore different ways of balancing ambition and cost. Sometimes the cheapest option is not the best value for money.


In the rest of the garden, soft landscaping did the heavy lifting. I used the existing trellis fence to create spaces with distinct identities. Nearer the patio organic beds with herbaceous planting provided the summer colour the client required. Beyond the trellis, I suggested an orchard feel, with meandering lawn paths between beds planted with small flowering trees and low ornamental grasses.


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