Barry Burrows reveals some of the secrets to being at home with your own landscape and making it work all year round.
These days, gardens and outdoor spaces are designed as multi-functional spaces to function as a changing backdrop to provide colour, space, fresh air, light, shade, play areas, private areas, food, scent and entertainment to any house. Personally, I like to think of a garden as a private haven and a public display, to bring it alive the house and garden should complement each other and create a seamless flow.
However, small or large your outdoor plot is, increasingly there’s a move to making the space work for you, family and friends. The key is unlocking a garden’s potential; a demanding aspect of garden design is to arrange and unite an unlikely combination of outside components, to make weather tolerant and look fabulous continuously. As a landscape professional, I’m drawn to the design and build process, to recognise the value that a thoughtful landscape scheme can bring to a property.
Plants, hard landscape and features are the core elements that need to work cohesively and create the perception of a property’s interior and outside. At the heart, plants bring colour, texture and changes to a space, but the huge variety can make choosing difficult. Considering the aspect, soil and microclimate is essential; a plant that thrives on a south facing terrace in Mayfair may not enjoy being sited on a cold exposed north facing wall or border in Hampstead. Seasonality is vital to produce interest every day of the year. This could be leaf colour, flower, scent, bark or texture. Ensuring the seamless interaction of the plants and understanding that proper plant management is as important as the choice, is key to creating a stunning garden.
Rarely are the harder elements of a garden given the same thought as plants and few landscapers are aware of the equally extensive choices that exist. Knowing your Otta Phyllite from your Alta Quartzite allows you to increase your design palette and offer a huge range of stones for a scheme. Hardscape also includes manufactured stone, timber, resin and any manner of surfacing and walling. Such diversity allows almost any interior design to be extended seamlessly into the outside to enhance the sense of space and dimension of the garden. Crucially, most interior finishes will not retain their look outside when exposed to the elements, particularly on more rural sites, which encounter harsher climates and weather conditions. The skill is to create a seamless expansion of space to the garden with materials similar in appearance but with different properties, that will perform and last whatever the climatic conditions.
Whether a waterfall, sculpture, fountain, seat, or ‘trompe l’oeil’, most often a feature is the wow factor in the garden. Irrespective of the size of the garden, correct placement is the key, so the feature has to draw the eye and lead to maximise effect at the end where the gaze rests. It should complement not dominate and harmonise with its surroundings and design, adding to the overall feel that extends from the house.
The final touch for a garden is lighting, particularly in this latitude, is a huge catalyst for enjoyment and appreciation. In the summer it creates a mood and paints a backdrop to entertaining. In winter, it allows you to appreciate the garden during the hours of darkness. From November to February, most people do not see the garden during the week, so subtle lighting is a must to enjoy it from inside. Crucially, garden lighting and security lighting are separate requirements and perform different functions. Floodlight has a place, but the subtlety generated by cross lighting paths and up-lighting plants will enhance the views into and across the space.