Whilst the waterfall masks the traffic noise, the 3 small fountains provide a calmer setting. Such a large body of water requires maintenance and the clients were committed to it right at the outset. Most of the cleaning, however, is done automatically by a UV filter, which is situated outside the pool in a separate chamber. As garden designers in north London, a lot of the work concerning roof gardens and terraces is usually further south. North London has more gardens than roof gardens as there are less apartment developments and more houses. With so many houses, there are a lot of gardens and courtyards and for garden designers this is a challenge in contemporary terms regarding style, content, size, conditions, logistics and budgets.
When we met in early spring, the clients had just returned from a holiday in Bali and were looking for garden designers that could tackle their space in an inventive way. The cue for the design was therefore taken directly from this experience. There were lots of wood artefacts in the house and as I love this material, by the time I passed through the kitchen it was fairly obvious what needed to be done. When the compass indicated a southwest facing garden it was anticipated that a lot of exotic and unusual plants could be used in this sheltered haven. Although the garden was a real mess, the tall brick wall on the west side was going to provide a backdrop for some amazing planting and dramatic lighting designs.
The courtyard was previously much cluttered and neglected. In such a small space it is important to use simplicity and strong lines to create a space that flows out from the house as well as back in. The grey limestone paving continues the pattern and size of the kitchen surface, which benefits both of the rather small spaces. This is then contrasted by the colour of the wood and bricks – the scale of the existing yellow brick wall on the right is repeated on the left with an Ipe hardwood deck. With the space balanced and made to look twice as big as before, the pool was detailed. Although it started as a functional white noise element it had to stand out in its own right. I wanted it to appear almost as a garden on its own – so a palm tree is situated close to the waterfall tying it to the rest of the garden in a triangle of palm trees.
I always travel to the plants nursery to choose the plants by hand – too see them, appreciate them, experiment and learn. It has to be hands on – this is how I create my planting schemes. Here, there was scope to further specialise, particularly in palms. The plants were collected from 3 different nurseries, trunks cleaned, canopies thinned and ramps built in the garden to be able to lift the very heavy specimens into the high raised beds. The final picture reveals plants from Japan, China, Australia, South Africa and Mexico. As garden designers in London we are privileged to be able to use such an extensive range of plants. That said, I always find it hilarious how so many garden designers in hot climates try typically English plants what ever the situation. Vice versa, there is always a lot of exoticism going on in the British Isles whenever there are 2 hours of sunshine...
The water feature can be used in a variety of settings to suit the occasion. The small bubble fountains are gentle, while the wall chute cascades vigorously. A palm tree appears floating in the pool, repeated with a taller one in the raised bed opposite to move the eye across. The edge of the pool offers informal seating while the dining area is set back towards the lush jungle – here also safe from splash from the waterfall… With the world becoming more and more cosmopolitan via the Internet and social media, so is the content of so many creations of art, architecture, design and landscape. Garden designers, as part of this process, contribute and absorb from so many sources hence the all so varied materials, plants and cultural references.