Oh, I do love to be beside the seaside!
John and Heather’s garden had a rectangle of grass, with white fences around it and a shed in the corner when I first saw it. The existing strip of patio was only just wide enough for their wicker-effect table and chairs.
They had an idea about making a sunken seating area where the lawn was but needed help with the details about levels and steps. It was finding an image of my show garden, ’On the Sea’ (‘Best English Poets Garden‘, Hampton Court 2011) which made them decide to call me. They loved the style of planting I had used there. Making the fences look better and hiding the shed were also high on the ‘to do’ list.
My first suggestion was that we expand the existing patio…just another meter or so to stop it looking like the garden was cramped and to allow room to navigate around the furniture. This was done by matching the existing paving and keeping the existing retaining wall at each side, but building it further back in the middle with the step relocated. The fences were obscured by making them a duller shade of grey and building horizontal trellis work in front of them.
The sunken area was designed in oak sleepers set at an angle so as to maximise the space available and create more interest. The back of the seating was made to look like breakwaters with some of the sleepers set at different levels. This line of random verticals continues away into the planting with the path to the sunken area passing through.
We also made a path out of genuinely reclaimed sea defence timber, using smaller pieces set closer together as the path curves slightly and falls away. All of these details create an impression of greater length as well as drawing you in and making you want to explore.
In the winter the sunken area is partially concealed by the vertical sleepers but in the summer ornamental grasses grow large enough to conceal it much more so that within a small and still quite open space there is a journey of discovery to be made. The ornamental grasses give a strong sense of the changing seasons.