Garden Tour: A Small, Leafy Haven Subtly Zoned for Activities
This compact plot offers secluded spaces for relaxing, dining, gardening and exercising in a calm, green oasis
Step forward Miles Raybould of Belsize Gardens, at the time based in London, though now practising in the Bristol area. Undaunted by the small space, Miles managed to fit in a lounging area with firepit, a kitchen and dining corner, a garden room, a water feature, and masses of gorgeous planting offering year-round interest – and all without the space feeling crowded.
Who lives here? A couple – Karen and Tom
Location North London
Property A first-floor flat in a Victorian house
Garden dimensions 11m x 11m
Designer Miles Raybould of Belsize Gardens
The garden, which is the back section of a halved plot attached to two flats, is accessed via a wrought-iron staircase that leads down from the first-floor balcony.
The owners asked Miles to keep a leafy feel while creating somewhere they could enjoy hobbies, entertaining and relaxing. “Tom wanted a studio and somewhere to cook; Karen wanted a largely green garden with only white flowers, intending to add a little seasonal colour in pots,” Miles says. “She wanted it to be calming, but quite ordered.”
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“Not having a lawn means that, even though it’s a pretty small garden, you can fit a lot into it,” Miles says. “It ticks a lot of boxes, but it’s also plant-heavy. That’s the joy of doing it in the more organic shapes – you can get in lots of flowerbeds.”
Karen’s a keen gardener and the individual beds make it easier to access the plants. “You don’t want huge beds, as you want to be able to get to everything,” Miles says. “It makes it easier to tinker.”
The London stock brick walls are original. “They’re all slightly higgledy-piggledy and characterful,” Miles says. He added slatted fences on top. “I wanted to give a bit of height, but low enough that you could see the surrounding trees – borrow from other gardens. You don’t want to go too high in a small garden like this,” he says.
Having the garden room, which has a sedum roof, means the couple can use the space all year round. Tom keeps a rowing machine and an exercise bike in there.
As the couple were keen to use the garden for most of the year, Miles has chosen plenty of evergreens. “The idea is that 60% to 70% of the garden will be evergreen and the rest will come and go, so you keep the structure,” he says.
Plants include a multi-stem Amelanchier lamarckii next to the water feature; Pittosporum tobira ‘Nanum’; Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’; Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’; Asplenium scolopendrium (hart’s tongue fern); Matteuccia struthiopteris (shuttlecock fern); Geranium macrorrhizum ‘White-Ness’, and
Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’.
Miles has included a Corten steel water feature that can be seen from all areas of the garden. “It has a tray at the top that fills up and bubbles over, so you can hear the water drop in,” he says. “Karen wanted to immerse herself in the garden and the sound of the water, along with the greenery, helps with that. Even though you’re in the middle of the city, it doesn’t feel like that at all.”
He built a frame and added 2m x 1m modules to hold the plants. “Karen didn’t want too much colour, so it was about getting different foliage,” he says. “You try to paint a picture with it, so you do splodges of one plant – nine of these, 11 of those. It’s about getting different textures and shapes – a broad-leafed one and then a grassy one – so you get waves.”
The plants include Vinca minor; Asplenium scolopendrium (hart’s tongue fern); Carex morrowii (sedge); Luzula nivea; Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’, and Pachysandra terminalis.
As the plants are in relatively small pots, they take quite a lot of watering, but Miles fitted a watering system on a timer.
Living wall modules, Treebox.
There’s some strategically placed, wired-in lighting in the garden to extend the times it can be enjoyed. “There aren’t too many lights, but I’ve included a few on the fences and a couple around the cooking area,” Miles says.
Miles has taken this small plot from overgrown and uninviting to a relaxing, leafy haven filled with interest. It’s a design that flows beautifully and has a tranquil atmosphere. “It feels so green, even though there’s no grass and quite a lot of hard landscaping,” he says. It’s no wonder the owners spend so much time out here now.
What do you like best about Miles’s design? Share your thoughts in the Comments.