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large gardens whetstone

large family garden whetstone north london native planting

North London Haven

Rolling out across a steep gradient, this 0.5-acre landscape garden in North London is blessed with plenty of sunshine, privacy and mature native trees. The brave new owners sought to transform a dilapidated tennis court right at the centre into a thriving, modern family garden, where we reshaped a rugged terrain brimming with mighty concrete and tenacious weeds into an organic oasis of native flora, enveloped by natural stone walls, biodiverse meadows and wildlife habitats.

Design & Words: Amir Schlezinger

project images

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Total Transformation

The monumental metamorphosis of this large family garden, from a wholly decaying condition into a flourishing achievement, represents the close-knit collaboration between our forward-looking clients and an industrious design & construction team. With a liberating free rein design-wise, we set out on a 3-month epic journey, further challenged by a scorching hot dry summer, complex access and a 6-metre steep slope across the entire terrain. Having excavated and introduced 450 tonnes of materials, consumed 1,500 cups of coffee and planted over 60 native species, this thoroughly unique, ecologically natural garden was reborn – tucked away by the A1000 in Whetstone; a rejuvenated, wild yet modern haven for its owners mindful of nature and wildlife.

Indigenous Vision

With our clients relocating from the Hertfordshire countryside, enticed by the site's rural feel, we developed a landscape design to enhance their garden's remarkable array of existent, mature native trees – augmenting sight lines and adding pivotal focal points to a perimeter secluded triangularly among a leafy landform. While many of the majestic Oak, Ash, Hazel, Hawthorn, Alder and Birch trees in and around the large site are naturally protected, the multilayering of further indigenous plant species distinguishes various habitats, from a shaded woodland, to sunny meadows and a fernery. Wild service tree, Field maple, Rowan, Silver birch, Spindle and Walnut provide a year-round sculptural framework, underplanted with British grasses and herbaceous perennials to extend seasonal range, sustain wildlife, edify the children about local fauna and soften the modern layout.

Family Pursuits

While patio planting represents the Chinese ancestry of one client, further trees along the boundary symbolise the other's Siberian roots. Among these demarcators, which key into established plant borders, a diverse range of outdoor amenities fulfils the family's need for space, with two young kids, a teenager, two large dogs and a cat. Surrounded by exclusively native, sinuous drifts of wispy grasses, Yarrow, Betony, Meadowsweet and Purple loosestrife, a curved sun deck and circular stone fire pit benefit from the Southwest-facing aspect, forming a hub for the grown-ups. From this vantage point, which anchors the centre of the garden, between the woodland and modern patio, the parents enjoy watching the children ramble free between a spacious sunken trampoline, a paved basketball court and a mini football grass pitch. Oriented for shade, this play area is planted with softer native forest species, such as Foxglove, Anemone, Primrose, Cowslip, Ostrich fern, Cranesbill, Lily of the valley, Woodruff, Iris, Pasque and Bell flower.

Natural Materials

Recycling formed a key aspect of the design process, not only to endorse an environmental mindset and curb costs in such a colossal landscaping endeavour, but also to maintain simplicity and a rural, natural ambience. Materials found on site, wood in particular, were integrated into several zones, or utilised as firewood. Numerous plant species were preserved, propagated or relocated to retain the site's integrity. The stone used for the retaining structures, steps and fire pit was salvaged from a Lancashire farmhouse, built in a semi-dry wall technique, with planting crevices for native ferns in the north-facing elevation towards the woodland – aptly symbolising the place name of Whetstone, while heightening it with contemporary detail. Completing the native British flora habitats are Dogwoods, Willows and Rushes, as the garden is situated over heavy clay, and where sandy drainage was added, coastal gems flank the steps, including Armeria, Crambe and scented Dianthus to extend wildlife benefits.