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In this South-facing Mediterranean garden, multi-stem palms and Irises line the Western boundary. Red cedar deck, concrete paving and table, benches lit within through blue glass blocks and strong colours (blue and ochre) form a dramatic space. N London. Low maintenance Mediterranean garden design. Photographs by Helen Fickling. Click enlarge for Conran Octopus book case study.



Mediterranean garden design



Mediterranean garden design :: Islington


This courtyard was nestled between 4 other spaces in a very urban corner of Islington.


It was also neglected for a long time and had a huge Sycamore tree right in its centre. The space however did have one brave owner, a lot of sunshine and some great potential. The first couple of months since meeting on site were spent on coming to terms with losing the tree, organising some delicate access matters and getting the application to remove the Sycamore. With the client hailing from the south of France and a hot climate courtyard there was only one way to go - design a Mediterranean garden.

With helpful neighbours providing access, the tree gone and the client on holiday we could get our teeth into organising this place. Square space can be tricky to resolve and I would normally avoid the centre and design asymmetrically. Yet here, where the tree once resided I could create a focal point in the shape of a seating area and wrap it with a jungle of plants. This would create circulation around the garden to appreciate the foliage. On the search for some Mediterranean plants I ended up with 3 palm trees from China... Trachycarpus is fairly common in northern Europe, yet the large specimens I found at the nursery were multi-stem - this gave them a very sculptural, Mediterranean feel.

A wall was built to separate one set of neighbours from the garden, which in turn created a wonderful and warm fabric for both to plant against. The textured rendering gives a tactile appearance to the walls and really come alive when the sun highlights the grains and specks of sand. I chose a blue colour on this and the back walls, contrasted by an ochre colour for the other 2 walls – in a sort of Yin and yang fashion. This eastern influence is woven through into this Mediterranean garden design where plants, colours and cultural references intertwine. The long and narrow stepped path into the garden was decked in Western red cedar, which continues to create a sun deck by the line of pots. The cedar is contrasted in both colour and direction by the slim flags of white concrete. The white is continued in the cobbles covering the palm bed on the right.

The benches were built in concrete blocks and rendered, yet left hollow within to be able to keep lighting inside. Blue glass blocks were made part of the front elevation design for the lighting to glow through. A sculpture provides a double focal point – one from the house towards the garden, the other from within the garden itself. 3 groups of pots line the various walls. Box balls line the approach to the garden on the stepped path. Variegated Yucca give sharp contrast against the blue wall in tall vases and square egg pots line the sun deck against the ochre wall. These egg pots are used for seasonal displays and over the years I have planted them with different Mediterranean planting designs of Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) Verbena bonariensis (in this photo) and recently Pseudopanax from New Zealand.

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