Creating an award-winning family garden
I’ve been a landscaper for over 15 years, so I’ve worked on all types of gardens over the years. However, this project tested our skills in new ways. From extreme weather to building on a 3m incline, I’m proud to say we beat the odds and the customer got their dream garden.
Designing the garden
We were asked to design and build the customer’s outdoor space, so I spent around a month backwards and forwards with the customer; sharing ideas, discussing plans and refining the design itself. The main criteria was to create a multi-levelled entertainment space which was safe for their three small children to grow in.
We looked at pictures online of the types of gardens they liked. From this created a mood board of ideas to refine and discuss, before I then went away with the difficult task of incorporating all these ideas into the space itself, which was on a 3m incline. My finished design included built in features such as a summer house, climbing wall, a seating area and a bio-ethanol fire.
Building the garden
Dealing with the garden slopeThe most obvious challenge with the build of this garden was the incline. With this garden, our starting point was to dig out the area and remove 420 tonnes of earth. This stage of the work began in winter 2018, unfortunately for us this was just as the Beast from the East struck. Excavating and building on a slope in these conditions was very hard going. In order to retain the banking and form the garden structure, 500x500x1200 concrete blocks were used weighing 1.5 tonnes, and were lifted into place using a city crane. We used additional blockwork to create planters, water features and steps.
The garden pavingAs a Marshalls Accredited Installer, there was no question over our choice of supplier for this garden with all the paving sourced from Marshalls. I used Symphony Porcelain paving throughout the garden. Blue Symphony was used for the general patio areas, walkways, steps and to clad the bespoke fire pit. The colours were chosen to complement the surrounding environment and to blend with the neighbouring houses. I also used Umba Symphony Porcelain alongside veneer walling Harvest Stoneface to clad the walls and the summer house.
To truly make this a garden like no other, we created a bespoke pattern using Symphony paving. Designed to give the illusion of stacked cubes, the pattern was created by cutting down three different colours of the tiles to exact angle measurements, in order to fit together perfectly. The cuts themselves took two days alone for a total of 14m2 across two areas of the garden.
Bringing fun to the gardenOur customers really wanted their garden to be fun for the whole family so we installed a 1m by 2.5m high slide down the centre of two water features and planters. We also created a climbing wall using artificial grass, ropes and climbing holds and added an extra area of grass with a feature chalk board for creative play. All of these things were built strong enough for adults to use as well as children. In my view, when incorporating fun factors into the garden – don’t be afraid of going big! This allows the adults to get involved; adding to the fun, as well as allowing the design features to grow with the family and stand the test of time.
Garden seating area and summer houseWe built the seating into the garden using yellow balau hardwood timber and cedar red slatted screen fencing. Built in seating is a good way of maximising space and can create a key visual feature within any garden, alongside under planting and lighting to highlight this at night. The summer house was built into the hillside with seamless porcelain flooring and bifold doors linking to the outdoor balcony with in-built fire pit; giving the customers a beautiful view of the surrounding landscape to be enjoyed all year round. We covered the summer house roof in sedum to blend into the natural environment and to promote the conservation of bees and other local wildlife.
Planting and lightingAs we had made such a dramatic change to what was originally a very green hillside, it was vital that we used the planting to soften the hard landscape we had installed. Carefully selected planting not only had to fit in with the style and colours of the design, but also had to withstand the weather conditions that come with a hilltop garden.
When it came to lighting the garden, because it is across several different levels we needed to consider safety as well as aesthetics. We chose Ansell lighting to highlight the key garden features and LED light strips under the built-in seating area, highlighting the planting beneath.