Bruce Waldock took on an undulating plot that backs onto the North Downs
The client brief was to create a family-friendly garden with a contemporary feel and space to entertain at their new-build near Maidstone in Kent. They didn’t want the new garden to land them with a huge maintenance burden, but equally some general weekly maintenance would be acceptable. The garden was a blank canvas: a north-facing plot in an elevated and exposed position that follows the undulating topography of the North Downs.
My challenge was to create a garden that would sit comfortably with the new house and the neighbouring black weatherboard buildings that dominate the scene. Most importantly, the garden had to provide a strong visual link up and into the North Downs beyond.
The main functional spaces adjacent to the house have a strong geometry, with polished concrete paving, composite decking, natural stone retaining walls and an oak-framed covered structure, all reflecting the architecture of the neighbouring buildings. This geometry is reinforced but also softened with clipped box hedging and topiary spheres.
The colour palette for the materials is drawn from the interior of the house itself; the greys and silvers will help reflect light during the winter months, and the polished concrete surface paving reduces establishment of moss and algae. From a maintenance standpoint, these robust materials can be easily kept clean.
At the top of the terrace steps, there is an immediate and abrupt transition from hard geometric angles to organic curves. The pathway leading to the top of the garden traverses the slope, drawing attention beyond the defined garden space and into the surrounding landscape.
The new juvenile plantings are also robust and structural, partly due to soil conditions, but also with maintenance in mind. Clumps of Betula utilis var. jacquemontii surrounded by ‘fairy rings’ of variegated Euonymus ‘Bravo’ provide strong vertical punctuation throughout. The shape and texture of the infant Pinus sylvestris adds a softness to the fencelines, and their evergreen presence will provide a dark foil for the white stems of the birch. Clumps of red-stemmed Cornus and swags of red-berried Pyracantha will further soften the boundary fencing, and these will be trimmed into mounds and arcs.
To further reduce maintenance, the borders are mulched with crushed local stone laid over a weed-suppressing membrane. Different sizes of stone have been used to vary the texture.
This garden has a fresh ‘out of the box’ showroom feel, but even in its infancy, the project provides an exciting and successful design solution. Most importantly, the clients are thrilled.