Cool and Contemporary

Sometimes the brief is very simple, and this was one of those cases. “We’d like it to look like a Chelsea Flower Show garden that we saw on TV.” I knew the garden in question – it had won Chelsea Gold for designers Tommaso del Buono and Paul Gazerwitz  and here it is , a study in cool, pared back elegance.20140807050241302 (2)

I gulped. It’s no easy task coming up with a Gold medal winning garden, and expectations were certainly high! I know I’m always saying this, but you can tell a lot about the garden clients want, from the house they actually live in. This large Edwardian house had been gutted to reveal good structural bones and then the interiors decorated in a chic contemporary style with a slight industrial undertone. That was my clue for the exterior. but first to take a look at what was already there……IMG02127-20140913-1548 (2)

It had nothing worth preserving in it except lovely brick walls and a couple of old apple trees. Otherwise it was bleak, had a lot of concrete and was very overlooked. Notice the awful pond- why does everyone make these tiny scrapes in the earth-if you’re putting anything in the garden, it has to be BIG, or at least bigger than you think to match the scale of the house.

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So privacy was the first issue to be tackled- you must always be able to wander around indoors in your string vest and Y fronts ( if you’re a bloke!) without anyone being able to see you. So we made a contemporary looking slatted trellis from Yellow Pine that valuable height above the wall,and supplemented that with a row of yellow bamboo Phyllostachys spectabilis aurea planted in a raised bed to give it even more height and evergreen cover.

The tool, log and bike stores all had their roofs tiled in slate to match the house roof – a trick which instantly improves any utilitarian  structure. Green roofs do the same thing.


Alongside the overlooked eating area, we put in these evergreen pleached trees in another rendered raised bed. They’re Quercus ilex trees or Holm oaks is their common name- but as I’m always telling my class- you should avoid common things at all costs, my dears. They’re basically hedges on stilts and form an instant high screen.

Isn’t the mirrored Crittall window on the wall great? Another Ebay find.


So as you look down the garden you see the canal , yes the canal! With a very simple pergola, again in Yellow Pine, leading to the rear:DSCN1753

And this just shows that breaking up a space into sections and adding masses of lovely planting always improves it beyond all recognition:



The white rendered walls gave the whole scheme a contemporary, clean look and the galvanised water shute added an industrial edge. I’d had to go to a metal yard to get this- the paying office was full of  burley blokes swearing and walls littered with topless trade calendars. A lot of persuasion later (from me- but difficult to flirt when you’re grey haired and in an M&S fleece) and advice (from about ten different ‘experts’), a rusty girder was chosen, cut to length, welded and galvanised. Looks good!DSCN1756DSCN1760

This is Popcorn the dog showing the way to the outdoor egg swing seat which provides a focal point at the end of the vista- ALWAYS got to have focal points to draw the eye!


Privacy in place, the garden looks cool and contemporary with a colour scheme limited to whites, creams, greens, blues and purples. Aren’t those Hydrangea ‘Annabelle’s lovely with their creamy heads?


We added some other fun touches- a sunken trampoline in the rear of the garden for their son to play on with friends ( or maybe the adults too if drink has been taken!) and a pizza oven to provide not only food but a glowing fire at eye level on warm summer evenings.

I really like being in this garden- the minimal colour scheme, sound of water flowing, and sense of enclosure, all give it a certain serenity and feeling of sanctuary. Manchester Gold? DSCN1757









  1. Congratulations, Anne! Really love everything about this garden. Hard to believe it is the same space shown in before pictures. When we win the lottery, yours will be first number I call!


  2. Yet again what can be done when you know how. It’s not Titchmarsh I’m hoping is going to surprise me but Anne Britt. Really enjoy this blog Thank you


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