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Project: Tiny London garden

Project: Tiny London garden



Designer John Ward transformed this overlooked garden in Balham


Before the new owners moved in, this tiny garden was an unloved, bare patch of earth, overlooked by houses on all sides. The clients, who were carrying out extensive home renovations, wanted a garden to match the contemporary style and high-end finish of the new interior, while creating a functional space that would also look great when viewed from indoors. The garden would be used mainly for al fresco dining and entertaining.

Designing such a small garden is tricky, as there is no space to hide and attention to detail is critical. The two biggest challenges were how to create that all-important sense of privacy and use the limited space in a functional manner.

Two bespoke cedar benches set into white rendered walls divide the main areas and create an intimate dining space that doubles up as informal seating. A raised bed at the same height provides further seating when required. This multi-functional approach is a useful tool when space is at a premium. Newly rendered boundary walls topped with cedar slats add height and provide a contemporary feel that unifies the space.

Four pleached Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ planted along the most overlooked boundary provide seasonal interest, with masses of spring blossom and autumn colour. Several focal points draw the eye away from the neighbouring houses.


After - A bright, inviting, private garden created from an unloved patch


I knew we needed something impactful that was viewable from the new kitchen, and this led to the design of the large feature wall. The structure was softened by painting it a deep purple and planting tall grasses and perennials nearby. This will blend in further as the planting matures, with ferns viewable through the lower aperture that are back-lit at night.

In addition, a multi-stemmed Amelanchier planted in the corner of the raised bed offers an architectural focal point from the sitting room, especially when up-lit at night. A mixture of perennials, grasses and shrubs helps soften the hard lines and breaks up the expanse of white wall. Also, a series of wall planters made from cedar battens to match the trellis are filled with fragrant herbs and create a feature of the long, narrow side return.

As the garden is often used in the evenings, it was important to have lighting that is functional but also creates an inviting ambience. Uplighters highlight the main features within the planting beds, while downlighters and recessed wall lights gave a subtle wash of light across the contemporary Heath Sawn Sandstone paving.

The clients are delighted with their new garden and have commented that not only do they have a space that feels more private and inviting, it also feels a lot bigger. Find out more about John Ward’s designs at

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