mylandscapes contemporary garden design & build

landscape revisited japanese garden

modern japanese garden design

blog / project recap

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Rockscape Gala

Having known the clients and the site for a few years, we returned to create a third project in the Essex countryside, and transform a 220-square-metre, west-facing corner into a modern Japanese garden. For our clients, this unique adventure signified a celebration of visits to the Far East, in an anecdotal vignette of the family's life and travels; for us, the project formed an energising achievement. We spent three months on site through winter, managing 100 tonnes of excavations, footings and craning rocks, where the result is a serene, allegorical composition – a rockscape of crafted detail.

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1. wall 2. deck 3. ferns 4. rocks 5. water 6. cherry 7. quartz 8. granite 9. lighting 10. seating

japanese ferns
floating garden deck
garden wall cladding

1 wall

tactile tapestry

The garden's setting formerly functioned as access for a carport, while its lacklustre herringbone pavers merely gathered moss and weeds. To provide shelter, humanise scale and enhance intimacy, we designed a tactile, stone cladded wall. Utilising grey and crystal black granite segments, our stonemason's effortless virtuosity produced a gamut of randomly protruding dynamic patterns. The 2.5-metre high boundary wall defines a solid backdrop, highlighting a sculptural Cherry tree silhouette, while integrated fluidly into flint walls.

2 deck

floating podiums

Two hardwood decks were cantilevered across steel frames, floating in minimalist clarity. Lit below by LED strips, these expansive daybeds provide ample room for snuggling, revitalised at twilight when lighting redefines the garden. Crafted in solid Balau, the fascias and 6” deck boards are situated perpendicularly to the back wall, leading the eye towards an Essex horizon. This linear wood anthology was extended into the sunset lounge and guests' annexe to delineate a cohesive, contemporary blueprint, within modern courtyard garden ideas.

3 ferns

rustle of tassels

We included a concise palette of Japanese Ferns, augmented by native species. Dotted sparingly into granite gravel, under Bamboo and trees, this foliar array forms dainty, filigree textures. Self-reliant, graceful and resilient, our fronded allies are fast-growing, gleaming in the mellow light. Tassel, Soft shield, Wood ferns and Hart's tongue soften the granite rocks and boulders with their foliage – infusing serene aura alongside a multi stem Japanese maple.

4 rocks

metaphoric ridge

We craned in over 15 tonnes of green granite rocks – this remarkable material was sourced in nearby Kent, forming a narrative for the hard landscaping framework. Six unique boulders were positioned across a diagonal axis, decreasing in height to resemble a family's hierarchy. The ultimate rock, set within the deck, was transformed into a gentle bubble fountain. The water feature demarcates the culmination of this metaphoric mountain ridge, producing subtle reflections, while keeping it in the family!

large japanese rocks
cherry blossom
japanese water feature

5 water

gentle cascade

We often integrate aquatic elements into urban gardens, where they impart an organic layer of resonance and reflection, while expressing a connection to nature. Here, a sculptural, green granite boulder was transformed into a miniature, mountainous cascade, and since every crevice, cleft and undulation of this rugged stone has been shaped by millions of years in metamorphic evolvement, its overflowing water is diverted ad hoc through unexpected paths across the irregular rock face. Framed with low, clipped Box hedges, while emerging from hardwood decking, the waterfall design augments the garden with soothing reflections, amid a vitalising, green architectural matrix.

6 cherry

pink confetti snow

The ‘Accolade’ Cherry tree is a hybrid cultivar of two Japanese native species – Sargent and Rosebud cherries, producing an early spring interlayer of pink confetti snow – supplying copious wildlife friendly nectar relished by local bees. We planted a semi-mature, multi stem specimen, positioned in an asymmetrical bed carved into the granite paving. Mulched with a ridge of quartz paddlestones, this graceful tree defines spring, while generating all-year-round essence, where its growing season culminates in a glorious, autumnal crimson spectrum.

7 quartz

gridded matrix

We selected a dozen of natural stones to articulate the palette of surfaces and detailed nuances, where one of my favourites is a quartz paddlestone arranged around Cherry tree trunks by the granite wall. The serrated edges protrude upwards, densely packed, forming an intermission in the paved seating area. Facing west, in a perfect grid, fallen Cherry petals are continually collected within this sculptural saucer of decay and renewal.

8 granite

religiously raked

We included half-dozen granite chipping sizes, from large cobbles under trees to medium-sized for the hedging, defining a Japanese temple's spirit. The 6mm granite which envelops the sunken garden is raked religiously by the client into sinuous forms, spread below a Japanese Holly cloud tree and Bamboo, while reflecting vital light. The tactile surface transforms this once clay filled obsolete space into a harmonious Japanese garden within renewed level changes. Since we've provided the minimalist, invigorating platform for the connoisseur of all things Japanese, our tireless client treats the stones as his own progeny – a truly dedicated family man!

japanese gravel
quartz stone detail
japanese garden lighting

9 lighting

shadows & light

Every landscape design & build project we create features outdoor lighting – a practice synonymous with expressions of architecture, urban living and a contemporary, alfresco lifestyle. Yet, here in the heart of the Essex countryside, surrounded by fields and a sunset above a flat horizon, the garden lighting glows gently into a Debden evening zephyr. The myriad of trees and shrubs is highlighted with stainless steel fittings, where uplighting captures every trunk, stem and leaflet. The floating decks produce warm ambience, while modern apparatus contrasts the continuum of granite rocks, emerald Ferns and glossy Camellias. With such an organic, natural material palette, cross lighting takes a leap into the unknown, as every nook and cranny creates an enchanting interplay of shadows and light.

10 seating

modern additions

The clients added an elegant collection of modern garden furniture to expand our initial design concepts. The eclectic mix of Dutch and Austrian white seats, sofas, loungers and tables completes a renewed setting, where Viteo's Low collection and FueraDentro's Banca Lounge convey contemporary garden ambience. Outdoor seating is enjoyed by the clients and their guests – each spot defining a favourite perch, where a nonchalant disposition simply runs in the family!

stunning outdoor seating modern town garden
beautiful cherry pink blossom petals spring japanese landscape garden
planting topiary and hedging modern japanese landscape design

– coda –

A Personal Landscape

We utilise experience and intuition when developing design concepts for new clients; we contemplate, follow sites' integral topography and genius loci, or indulge in our own designers' whim to devise the most apt landscape blueprint. Yet, here in Saffron Walden, this was no such occasion, as we knew the site, the clients and the surrounding village thoroughly – the project's distinction was in the context of designing and building a contemporary Japanese garden right in the middle of the English countryside! To create a spiritual landscape for a trusting client, and emerge it from the ground up, is to produce an evocative outdoor setting – a very personal landscape design.