FIDLER & FIDLER GARDEN DESIGN

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Willowbank

A fairly modern house with a very long garden, some 80m in length, sloping away from the house and with beautiful views across to the wooded valley side opposite. A recently built garden-office was located close to the house and other than an existing brick terrace with timber insets, the remainder of the garden was pretty much a blank canvas.

THE BRIEF

To create a series of separate spaces within the garden, without in any way losing or interrupting the views out to the countryside beyond. 

Integrate the office into what the client described as a 'Mediterranean cottage garden' type feel, to the area closest to the house.

Incorporate a firepit to allow for extended use of the entertaining area into the evenings when the temperature starts to drop.

All to be in a relaxed, informal style with which the clients were most comfortable.

Organise the working, utilitarian area at the bottom of the garden to accommodate a fruit cage, compost bins, and burning area

The garden as it was...

From a practical point of view the garden did not meet the families needs. The existing terrace was too small to cater for their outdoor seating / dining / entertaining requirements and access to all parts of the garden was gained across areas of grass which became very wet and muddy over winter. Rabbits had taken hold in the bottom of the garden and were begining to encroach into the areas of planting around the house.
From an aesthetic point of view the garden was dominated by large areas of grass with very little spatial definition and very little interest. The small areas of planting that were present were out of proportion to the size of the space. 
The change in level as the garden slopes away from the house had not been utilised.

THE PLAN

The extract from the Outline Plan below shows our suggestions for the new layout to the area of garden nearest to the house. 
A new retaining wall allowed us to create a much more useable space for sitting / dining / entertaining, as well as forming an attractive feature and effectively a raised viewing area to the rest of the garden. 
Steps leading down to a brick path would lead the eye down the garden.  Existing planting beds were extended and new beds added to give a better balance to the expanse of grass, which was further broken up by adding fruit trees to be set in areas of naturalised bulbs and longer grass. 
Old water troughs allowed the opportunity to grow some salad leaves, herbs and other vegetables close to the house, as well as providing the opportunity to have a small pond. A new post and rail fence helped to practically divide the space and allowed us to keep the top part of the garden rabbit-free.

THE BUILD

  • EXCAVATING AND LEVELLING

    The new area closest to the house is levelled, with the excavated material from the retaining wall footings being used as fill material. 
    The new retaining wall wraps around this area on two sides.
  • SHAPING

    We curved the retaining wall to reflect the shape of the extended border on the left hand side and to help give the relaxed feel the clients requested. 
    The gap in the wall allowed stepped and ramped access between the two levels.
  • PREPARING FOR CLADDING

    At this stage the wall has all been built. 
    We decided to paint the wall black prior to attaching the timber batten so that you wouldn't really be able to see the wall through the gaps in the timber and also to emphasise the beautiful lines and shadows created by the timber.
  • FINISHING

    The timber has now been bent to shape and attached to the blockwork. 
    We hadn't done this before and it was slightly experimental in terms of how tight a curve the timber could be worked into. 
    The external curves (like the one before the gap) were fairly straightforward, but the internal ones (the one after the gap) were much more difficult and we had to soak the wood for a few hours to help it to bend.

THE OUTCOME

The planting shows good growth even after just one season. The lavender hedge which edges the brick terrace is just about to flower and has filled out nicely. 
The small areas of planting within the gravel, together with the occasional stone slabs set within it, just soften and break up quite a large area. Access from grass to gravel area can be by either steps or a ramp, making wheelbarrow use easy. 
The view up to the entertaining area. The planting is relaxed and informal with Alliums and Anthriscus providing early highlights, followed by a mass of Geranium Johnson's Blue, Sanguisorba and Veronicastrum. Viburnum x burkwoodii provides some winter structure and the fence has been used to support espaliered eating apples. 
The fire-pit, just out of shot on the right, has been much used. It was built in the same manner as the retaining wall i.e. block walling, clad in timber batten with a stone coping. 
The beauty of the blocks and stone are their ability to absorb and retain heat and hence even when the fire was dying one can perch on the coping and still get some wonderful heat. The brick path is yet to be built.
A view down the left handside of the garden. The planting bed has been extended and now provides a mass of colour for many months. Rambling and climbing roses smother the fence
The working area of the garden. This area has all been rationalised and functions well with new compost bins taking all the green waste from the garden, a new fruit cage protecting blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries and currants from the rabbits which still inhabit this part of the garden, and a metal-sided burning area for those items too large to compost.  
For continuity we repeated the curved battening to create trellis to support an existing rose and also to screen the compost bins and fruit cage.