The clients of this large town garden in Didcot (800 sq metres) knew they weren’t happy with their outdoor space but had no firm ideas about how they wanted their space to end up. What they did know is that the space just did not flow and relate back to the house strongly enough. We consider the act of reconnecting the outside space with the house to be one of the most important tasks a designer performs.
Cedar decking makes up most of the hard landscaping around the back of the house. Steps led down to a rather untidy and neglected area where chickens ran about the place. This I transformed into a second social space, a tropical haven, away from the main garden.
There are four patio/terrace areas, each sited at key parts of the garden and each having its own function. The patio by the existing hen run has the feel of a tropical oasis, surrounded by lush planting of tree ferns, banana plants, Fatsia japonica and a palm tree. There is a water feature, where the water is passed over a stone shelf into the pool. The terrace by the existing summer house is a place for shade in the afternoon, where one can sit under a wooden pergola (stained a dramatic black) which has a beautiful ironwork ring structure as its canopy, casting beautiful shadows on the floor and the adjacent water pool. The dining terrace is designed as part of the lawn area and is part of a pattern of semicircular forms coming off a diagonal axis which connects back to the water pool by the shady terrace. The fourth terrace is much smaller, designed for a more private mood, and will catch the last of the evening sun.
While the curves form an interesting pattern it has to work as a space otherwise it is mere decoration. The retaining wall coming up from the pool, looping round the back of the dining terrace and out again by the side of the final set of steps improves on the function of the existing retaining wall because it is longer. It also provides a nice backrest for those who want to lounge on the lawn, or a perchpoint for drinks parties. The adjacent planting will feel like a magnificent raised bed. The lawn terraces go in steps of 15cm each time (low enough for lawnmowers to navigate) and are edged with white rendered concrete, above and to the side. Any areas where the lawnmower can’t reach can be clipped or strimmed. Three steps up from the dining terrace take us to a gravel path which leads to the evening terrace. Behind the terrace I would suggest the loquat tree, which would fit beautifully with the tropical/subtropical theme. Circulation is key to this design and so I have decided to keep steps at the south side of the deck. I have added a secondary circulation route in the shape of the stepping stones which ramp up between the first patio and the lawn. In this area I would suggest storage under the deck (see elevation), the Nogg as hen coop alternative, and also a small water butt (disguised by planting) if so desired. Planting suggestions: Dicksonia antarctica, Polystichum and Asplenium ferns, Fatsia japonica, Musa basjoo, Trachycarpus fortunei, Bergenia, Heuchera, Phyllostachys aureosulcata, Euphorbia mellifera, Hakonechloa macra, Liriope muscari ‘Monroe White’, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Fontäne’, Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Rudbeckia fulgida, Eryngium giganteum.