On first viewing, the large south facing front garden of this modern house was rather uninspiring. None of the plants that my clients had tried to grow had thrived and even the lawn struggled to survive. Jemima was tasked with transforming this boring patch of hard baked parched turf into a colourful and exciting space. The clients also wanted a low maintenance scheme made up of plants suited to the poor free draining stony soil, with dissecting paths, a small seating area and a water feature.
The architecture of the house did not lend itself to a formal scheme. Instead, a free-flowing contemporary gravel garden was designed, with self-binding, brick edged gravel paths leading from the parking area to a central water feature and onwards to the front door. Another curved path leads to a small west facing triangular seating area with a chunky timber pergola overhead, supporting a Wisteria. The central water feature acts as a focal point and is formed from a dark resin basin that overflows into a hidden reservoir below the surface – a tranquil spot to stop and take in the scents, textures and colours of the surrounding planting. A few large boulders and smaller rocks have been sunk into the bank that slopes down from the driveway and these sit naturally within the gravelled surface and amongst the Mediterranean plants that make up the scheme. The plants have been chosen to withstand drought conditions and most maintain their structure throughout the year, even during the winter – the grasses and late flowering perennials are only cut back in the spring. Many are allowed to self-seed, thus producing a naturalistic effect. Areas of gravel have been left without plants, mimicking dry riverbeds typical of Mediterranean districts. Tall deciduous and evergreen shrubs, suitable for a north facing position, have been planted between the windows of the house to soften the walls and to provide a textured year round backdrop to the more ethereal planting of the rest of the scheme.