garden design trends


Once the long winter has made way for spring, I went out with my camera to capture inspiring garden design elements around London. The shapes, textures and colours of nature forever form the rudiments for designing gardens. A cool or trendy garden design does not exist in isolation but is rather an interpretation of nature and an accumulation of experimentation and collaboration. For me, there is nothing better than the close observation of nature to inspire and augment my own garden designs.

1. Trendy wall art 2. Cantilevered bench 3. Stylish lighting 4. Cool bamboo 5. Buddha serenity 6. Chic decoration 7. Planters 8. Box hedging 9. Cutting edge LED lighting 10. Cedar screen 11. Hardwood cladding 12. Candle feature 13. Curves vs. lines 14. Texture elements.
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The orange lichen on these beautiful trunks in Windsor Great Park reminds me of the rust on this wall sculpture in Clapham. By choosing this intense wine red colour the texture of the render on the wall comes to life in the sun in sharp contrast to the foliage. The cool art creates shadows on the wall and draws you to it to inspect it closely; a similar experience I felt when the orange lichen glistened in the sun and drew me to it from a couple of hundred metres away. Although presented in a rough texture, the wall art is stylish being displayed in the right scale, proportion and placement within the long wall by the side of a pond.

Contemporary stylish wall art in a courtyard garden


The cantilevered bench, once a cutting edge attribute of modernism, is now a fairly popular feature in town garden design. There is something incredibly stylish about having all fixings concealed and to recreate the fun of such a feature and engineer it properly is always an exciting prospect.

A cool cantilevered bench in a modern patio garden


Smooth surfaces produce a lot of reflection and in this garden design the lighting is quite dramatic due to the tiles and rendered walls. Cavities always help create ambient lighting and here the space under the bench provides just such ambience. Architectural specimens will always lend themselves to great lighting and here the sculptural maple allows light through its outline to project shadows of branches and leaves onto the wall.

Ambient low voltage garden lighting is truly popular in modern landscaping


The Wisteria bridge in Queen Mary Gardens reminds me of this photo of my Regentís Park garden. The texture of the bamboo and Willow, The bridge and bench, the water elements in both gardens and the purple and yellow tones. Bamboo is easy to grow and fairly popular as an evergreen screen in urban areas. It enjoys the London clay soil and moisture, shelter from trees and buildings so it is quite happy here. The Chinese species are clump forming, reliable and tough. With so many bamboos available and such a profusion of use I try and think of new ways to incorporate them into my garden designs to transform something popular into a unique feature. Here it is emerging from the base of the raised bed appearing suspended in the planter. Another example in a small garden design is the very tall Narihira bamboo magnifying the scale to enlarge the space.

Bamboo in a trendy contemporary planting design in a London garden  


While south east Asian art is fairly trendy in urban gardens it can either overwhelm a space in scale or become too disjointed. Here, the medium scale works just fine and the texture and colour is repeated in selected elements of wood. The smooth powder coated planters and Box balls provide a good contrast to allow the intricacies of the statue to stand out. Presented with somewhat traditional elements and wanting to distinguish my signature pieces I designed the series of 6 planters (in 2 trios) at a large size and used extra large Box balls.

Buddha a spiritual element in a roof terrace in Shoreditch London


Decoration is by no means the way to form a garden design but it can add character and style to a place. There were no furniture or orchids in this garden when I finished the project and itís nice to see someone elseís touch added to the scheme. As the courtyard is dense with lush tropical specimens the clients have added a small gecko figurine by the waterfall, small statuettes amongst the bamboo and other decorative ornaments. Using decoration stylishly personalises the garden and gives it another dimension.

White orchids decorate a stylish dining table in a contemporary courtyard garden


There is serenity in a single tree in the landscape be it an Oak tree in Windsor Great Park or an Olive tree in a Barbican roof terrace. Whilst everything is emerging from the ground in parks and gardens, in roof terraces we usually use planters and I prefer to design my own. This powder coated steel planter was shaped to the outline of the building and compliments nicely the shape of the tree. Stylish planters in city gardens are imperative to create sleek urban spaces adjoining modern apartments. While sometimes I would take a cue from a piece of furniture in the interior, more often than not I would search for a composition to combine the style or trend of the client, the architecture and the elements in the landscape around.

A contemporary powder coated planter on a cool roof terrace with Olive tree


One can discuss trends and styles for hours but Box hedging remains the most used, loved and beautiful hedging one can use. Bamboo at the base of the raised beds formed the approach in this garden design. This gave contrast to the Box hedging being flush with the paving, relating to the shape of the bench providing a safe zone and an entrance to the upper patio. Box can be an all too popular element in garden design becoming tedious on the eye. It also suffers from blight at times, is a greedy feeder and requires some skill in its pruning regime. Put all that aside, it is just brilliant how an ancient native tree can be transformed and feature in trendy restaurants, hotels and private gardens.

An angular low Box hedging in a stylish patio London garden with sandstone and decking


There is a surreal quality in the way Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park merges into the Shard photograph as if it was the Thames. More than that it emphasises the polarity between the urban view and the natural view and the differences in light quality. There is perhaps only one hour difference between the time the photographs were taken as the beautiful light fades onto the Oak trunks and the artificial lighting takes over in the roof terrace. As in the forest image where warm yellow light blends with cool blue light, the LED light strips in this terrace contrast in similar tones. LED is a cutting edge technology where minute diodes embedded in thin tape, coil or rope enable us to create various shapes and conceal them easily. Cleverly incorporated it can add a stylish feature to any modern garden design blueprint.

Cutting edge LED lighting in a roof garden in Bermondsey


Cedar has established itself, though pricey, as a popular screen and cladding material. It is trendy all across the garden landscaping market from housing to private and commercial applications. Cedar provides immediate chic, even before youíve done much to it. That said I find the tendency to use it as entire walls a bit heavy on the eye as the gaps between the thin slats can create too much detail. Cedar is easy to use and lightweight so lends itself to a multitude of techniques. We have previously managed to dowel it to create movable vertical louvers in a roof terrace screen. As it is fixed with lost head nails and can be milled quite thinly and remain strong I always look for new ways to create mixed patterns of varying widths Ė I could not do that easily with hardwood.

Trendy cedar cladding as a screen in a roof terrace with Olive tree


Hardwood is extremely versatile and very beautiful, though it can look heavy and out of place when not detailed carefully. This partition wall between two roof terraces is stylishly intercepted by a Pine tree, a shelf and a bench and although the entire elevation is made out of one material it manages to present chic. Hardwood fades to a silvery grey in the sun and benefits from a coat of Danish oil to bring out the colour and grain patterns.

Chic hardwood cladding shelf and seating in a small roof terrace in London


I created 3 large square window bays in this large wall making a small patio appear deeper. The client added various sculptures and artefacts, which gave the space style and character. There are some trendy stools and fire pits but also classical busts as well as high-tech gadgets. Personalising the space became one of the best elements in this project having occurred beyond the initial garden design.

Organic shaped cool candles and palm tree in a London small patio


There is something classical in geometrical designs and a modern presence in asymmetrical curves. In this garden design the angular lines negotiate their passage around existing mature palm trees. The curved bench does just the same but its shape assists in relieving the linearity and add further seating. Using cutting edge laser technology we were able to transfer the small scale plan to full scale and prepare the seat and supports. The lines in the floor are accentuated by LED light strips while the curve in the bench is echoed by an LED tape meandering underneath it. The result is a stylish garden that gives great visual presence from both ground and the upper levels.

A cutting edge curved steel bench and angular paving


The art of creating new trends always relies on basic natural principles. In order to balance a composition and give interest to the eye smooth textures are juxtaposed with coarse ones. Here, the rough trunk of the palm tree is softened by the granite cobbles at it base; the smooth powder coated steel bench is offset by the serrated artificial grass, while the silky limestone paving is contrasted by the lines in the fence and bamboo leaves. Matching the right elements in the garden design assures a cohesive scheme.

The coarse texture of the cool palm tree trunk

Clifford Stoll, The American astronomer, once asserted that 'The first time you do something, itís science. The second time, itís engineering. The third time itís just being a technician.' In garden design you could argue, similarly, that the first time you create something new it is cutting edge. The second time it is cool and trendy. The third time itís Ikea-like. Itís incredible how natural elements become chic or stylish elements in our homes and gardens when taken out of their context and rearranged to fit our aesthetics. Natureís ways are adopted by us to create stylish concepts and I would always revert to natureís patterns as the biggest random generators of inspiration. The American environmentalist, Professor David Orr, suggested that 'It makes far better sense to reshape ourselves to fit a finite planet than to attempt to reshape the planet to fit our infinite wants'.

amir   Written, photographed and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

Smooth branches and orange lichen in Windsor Great Park

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