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Cobham Garden

Our clients had bought a large newly built house in a gated community within a tricky shaped plot of land (one third of an acre), with a good deal of space to the front of the house and garage (400 sq metres) and a larger triangular shaped rear garden (650 sq metres) tapering to a point.  The rear garden had a ‘developer’s finish’ of lawn and dull planting beds, a lovely mature Magnolia tree and a row of Cupressus leylandii at the end of the garden providing some screening from the surrounding neighbours’ properties.  There was very little screening on the right hand side boundary and the front boundary of the property had newly planted and unattractive Prunus hedging.

Running along the back of the house was an over-large patio and there was an unattractive traditional summer house in the apex of the triangle which only served to underline the unusual shape/footprint of the garden.  The front drive was paved in unattractive permeable paving, making it very hard looking and it was not large enough to accommodate the client’s cars.  The house faces West so the evening sun is captured only in the front garden and at the end of the rear garden.

The brief was to create a garden to fit all the family’s needs – they wanted an arbour/secondary seating area as well as a terrace off the house, a dining area and BBQ area, a large lawn and a large trampoline for their children.  Unusually they also wanted a sound-proof  ‘drum room’ in the garden as our client loves to play the drums. They wanted water in the garden and they also wanted privacy on all sides of the property.

The first decision for the rear garden was where to place the drum room and how to make it ‘melt into’ the surrounding garden.  Our decision was to design a discreet dark grey timber building with tall narrow windows and a green roof and put it on the left hand side of the garden where it would be easy to screen with planting.  We placed the trampoline next to it and created some good-sized planting beds around it. We replaced virtually all the boundary planting with layered hedging of mature beech and Taxus. We planted four mature trees including two Cercidiphyllum japonicum, a Parrotia persica and a Sorbus aria ‘Majestica’ at strategic points on the boundary to screen further. Finally, there is a row of ornamental pears along one side and an avenue of flat-topped London Plane trees along the path to the drum room.  These also serve to take the eye down the gravel path to an urn on a pedestal.

We then worked out the best way to maximise the wedge shape of the garden and created a large rectangular central lawn with, beyond, a seating area with an arbour, water feature and a fireplace centrally placed, and a dining area and built-in BBQ to the right.  Both areas were divided and softened by extensive planting including some ‘cloud’ planting of clipped balls of Prunus lusitanica, Buxus, Taxus and Ilex crenata.

We designed a new terrace paved in English limestone immediately off the house, with the main outdoor sitting area at one end separated from the principal access point to the terrace from the kitchen by a gravel bed punctuated with small clumps of sun-loving mounded shrubs and low Mediterranean planting.  By breaking up the space into ‘zones’, it regularises the odd shape and makes the garden appear and feel much larger than previously.

The decorative pear trees and beech hedging continue as a motif along the side of house to the irregularly shaped front garden.  Here, we formalised the hard standing area and replaced the existing paving with stabilised gravel and York stone setts to allow more cars to be parked and transformed the area to the front of the garage, which had previously been an area of grass and sparse planting into a modern parterre using gravel, tables of low Taxus hedging and rows of  Carex muskingumensis,  with two beautiful multi-stem Carpinus Betulus as focal points.  A diseased Prunus was removed from the front garden and replaced with two Zelkova serrata and a Parrotia persica.

Throughout the garden subtle garden lighting accentuates the form of the trees and highlights particular aspects of the garden.  The lawn is ‘moonlit’ from the Magnolia tree and large lanterns provide ambient lighting for the dining area.

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