An off-white porcelain tiled patio brightens up the garden's shadiest segment close to the house, reprised with light-toned small granite chippings in the ultimate section – bridged by a split-level hardwood deck. This proportional triad of surface materials subdivides the back garden's inherent elongation into a balanced composition of outdoor spaces, where rectangular tiles laid crosswise mitigate limited width, and set the scene as a lightful entrance to a multilevel modern city garden with a functional, yet highly detailed low upkeep strategy.
Accessed through a succession of level changes, this medium-sized back garden unveils a spatially dynamic framework, handily elevated in advantageous vantage points which enjoy magnified perspectives. The garden design's further segmentation of spaces, superimposed by subtropical floras, echoes these merits with proportionality of ground patterns, heightened by the multilayeredness of a sylvan landscape – evocative of a New Zealand forest. Ferny, palmy, cany, grassy, jungly and verdantly bosky, the lush yet consciously low upkeep planting scheme enhances much-needed biophilic well-being in the valuable shelter of a contemporary South London back garden.
How do we orchestrate the rebirth of a decrepit yet soulful urban garden space? Although the possibilities may seem unlimited, or at times randomly contrived, a site-conscious approach often unlocks potentiality. In this initially ordinary London back garden, enveloped by exceptional greeneries of various scales, foliages and silhouettes, already furnished in a wooden dining set and clad in timber fencing, the hardwood deck is situated between a tiled patio and a gravelled seating area to fittingly anchor and complete an understated natural colour palette in a timeless interplay of textures and visual concord.
Dependable, memorable and mightily longevous, Tree ferns produce dynamical patterns of decay and renewal with largeness of heart and scale. In this modern back garden, Dicksonia antarctica in five sizes, ranging from two to six feet in trunk height, alongside seven species of ground-cover ferns, articulates a vegetational oeuvre of cadenced legato beneath the towering canopy of a Tree of heaven – contrasted by the syncopated staccato of a Golden bamboo grove opposite. This landscape design philosophy of well-being, verdancy and expressive quietude distils big ideas in a limited shaded garden space, where forest sciophytes effuse woodsy aromas in a skilful tapestry which eliminates virtuosic know-how to foster the genius and lyricism of architectural plants as supreme low maintenance garden elements.
The challenging task of constructing balance between soft and hard landscaping which are effective, efficient and effortlessly maintained is often lessened by the indispensable attributes of outdoor lighting. With a frondy paradise in a newfangled commodious layout, this once forsaken South London back garden had regained equilibrial dignity; its dependability, functionality and down-to-earthness reimagined at nightfall. Aspirationally driven and rectilinearly composed, the garden presents its nocturnal persona at twilight, when diurnal mellowness assumes the role of an altogether livelier, sparklier, and to suit our clients' rather sophisticated taste in music – jazzier protagonist.
With a lower-ground patio, mezzanine balcony and capacious casements overlooking a thriving back garden, the rear elevation of this Stockwell townhouse encompasses diverse views enveloped by a landscape of lush mature treetops. The muted light filtering through verdant canopies in a north-eastern aspect delicately reanimates the multilevel garden and its luxuriant foliage. As in many rejuvenated small city gardens, a previously underused outdoor space conveys a sublimation process amid lack of light, style and context, where the perpetual trichotomy of size, privacy and upkeep are alleviated by a sympathetic design which considers microclimatic conditions and the surrounding environment to create a positively heavenly garden.
When we first visited our clients, their home's decor teeming with natural materials, organic shapes and jazz harmonies emanating from a baby grand conveyed a lucid expressivity of style. These ambiences, dynamically articulated in a gamut of period features augmented with consistent originality, have galvanised a personal garden design for a modern London back garden. This ternary interaction between client, designer and landscape celebrates the owners' laid-back mien and multicultural same-sex wedlock compositionally and horticulturally, sustained by a highly reciprocal landscape construction process.
As crucibles for botanical eclecticism, spurred on by the notable horticultural pedigree of John Tradescant the Elder and Younger, both resting in the nearby Garden Museum, Stockwell's halcyon days relish a socio-economic resurgence after a half-century of inner-city social pendulations – midway London Borough of Lambeth. This born-again cosmopolis embraces a thriving coalescence of Portuguese, Caribbean and West African communities, where contemporaneous literary and scholarly charismata explore their cushty niches amongst preserved Regency and Italianate terraces, albeit in a rather gentrified presence. From David Bowie to Joanna Lumley, and Roger Moore to Vincent van Gogh's sojourn back in the day, Stockwell espouses newcomers with its faithful nonchalance as a not-so-uncharted urban territory...
The spacious layout enables ample seating, perching and dining areas in every section of this multi-levelled garden, where socialising alfresco is soothingly enfolded in subtropical luxuriance, underscored by low hedge partitions. These green subdivisions structure the vistas up and down the garden to construct architectural focal points, while maximising inherent topography into a visually enticing yet practical outdoor space. Both the surfaces and plants progressively relinquish formality towards the garden's concluding part, as seating areas turn more casual. Each zone enjoys the canopy of a conserved tree, from a native Hawthorn to an imposing Ailanthus, where garden construction versatility unearths the greenable capacities of an urban back garden by merging existing features with brand-new stimulating elements.
A progressive garden design successfully achieves its goals when brainstorming undiscovered site potential, and while hedge methods are at times underutilised, the rationalisation of their design enables the creation of contrasty, picture-perfect vignettes of textured leafage. These scalable landscape ideas not only personify and stimulate the expressiveness of many contemporary London back gardens, but also contribute resourceful low-maintenance solutions rather reliably with forgiving attributes. Vegetationally subdivisional and linearly crisp, hedging mitigates compact outdoor spaces with substantial concepts, and here, in a multilevel garden, 3 types of hedge designs gradating in height with loose grassy Lilyturf, glossy prostrate Abelia and bushy Japanese holly form scaled-down versions of modern hedgerows.