“The gar­den looks good ev­ery day of the year”

This chic modern gar­den in Ox­ford is full of sea­sonal in­ter­est yet is low main­te­nance at the same time. De­signer Sarah Nay­bour re­veals its plant­ing se­crets

Garden Answers (UK) - - Contents -

This chic, modern oa­sis has good struc­ture and is full of low-main­te­nance plants

Novem­ber is a good month to as­sess the ‘bones’ of a gar­den. In this ur­ban plot on the out­skirts of Ox­ford the struc­ture is es­pe­cially dra­matic – thanks to its an­gu­lar gran­ite paving, ar­chi­tec­tural tree sil­hou­ettes, sculp­tures and a hor­i­zon­tally slat­ted fence. “It was just a nor­mal ur­ban gar­den when we moved here,” says owner Dieuwke van Es, who lives here with her hus­band Henk. “It had grass in the mid­dle, a shed and seven beech trees that had to be re­moved be­cause they were very close to our neigh­bour’s house wall. We didn’t want the lawn ei­ther – we’re not that young any­more and we didn’t want to spend time mow­ing it.” Dieuwke con­tacted gar­den de­signer Sarah Nay­bour to come up with some de­sign ideas. “We wanted a low­main­te­nance gar­den with year-round in­ter­est and a sub­tle pal­ette of pinks, pur­ples, blues and mauves,” says Dieuwke. Sarah was de­lighted to take on the brief. “Dieuwke and Henk are a very de­sign con­scious cou­ple,” she says. “They’re min­i­mal­ists and their at­ten­tion to de­tail is strong. For in­stance, it was im­por­tant that we could match up the gran­ite plank pavers with the colour of the in­te­rior floor­ing, for con­ti­nu­ity in­doors and out. We had the pavers cut to the same size as the floor­boards and aligned them care­fully for a seam­less ef­fect, ei­ther side of the large glazed doors. “Dieuwke’s in­te­rior colour scheme is very chic and min­i­mal­ist too,” says Sarah. “My ap­proach out­doors was to keep the pal­ette very re­strained with lit­tle ac­cents of colour, se­lect­ing fewer plants but then re­peat­ing them in large quan­ti­ties. “One of the plants Dieuwke did want was Al­chemilla mol­lis, as her mother al­ways had it in the gar­den. Another plant I’ve used that works re­ally beau­ti­fully is Anaphalis triplin­ervis ‘Sum­mer Snow’. Its tiny white flow­ers al­most look dried

“My ap­proach was to keep the pal­ette very re­strained with lit­tle ac­cents of colour”

min­i­mal­ist de­sign (clock­wise from top left) Epimedi­ums colour up in au­tumn; struc­tural ev­er­greens, trees and sculp­tures en­liven the plant­ing ar­eas; Dieuwke and Henk’s home; low box hedges run along the sight­lines with gaps to ac­com­mo­date Dieuwke’s sculp­tures; the pavers were matched in­doors and out for con­ti­nu­ity

in sum­mer, above a mat of hairy green fo­liage. The flow­ers last right through to au­tumn, and look like a dust­ing of snow. “For win­ter there are lots of ev­er­green ferns and a mix of helle­bores. Peo­ple don’t re­alise how much va­ri­ety there is among helle­bores but their ev­er­green fo­liage is re­ally use­ful.” Epimedi­ums are another good source of ground­cover. “They look fan­tas­tic un­der trees,” says Sarah. “They colour up in au­tumn, pro­vid­ing a range of sub­tle tints just as hy­drangeas do.” Pretty Pen­nise­tum thun­bergii ‘Red But­tons’ adds a gen­tle, wafty ac­cent among easy-care shrubs such as fra­grant

sar­co­cocca, climb­ing tra­ch­e­losper­mum and low box hedges. “I’ve used the box along the main sight­lines of the gar­den,” ex­plains Sarah. “They’re de­signed to be all the same height, even though the gar­den nat­u­rally dips in the mid­dle, with a sunken ter­raced sec­tion. I in­cluded breaks in the box hedges so Dieuwke can po­si­tion her sculp­tures in the gaps.” Trees pro­vide height and sea­sonal in­ter­est in the gar­den. “We kept a few, in­clud­ing two plums and a rowan, which all pro­vide good au­tumn colour. We added a cou­ple of multi-stemmed Ame­lanchier lamar­ckii for their ar­chi­tec­ture and an ev­er­green mag­no­lia at the far end. “The hit-and-miss fenc­ing is made from treated soft­wood and cut ex­tra wide for a more in­dus­trial feel,” says Sarah. “The fact that it runs hor­i­zon­tally cre­ates the vis­ual im­pres­sion that the gar­den is longer than it re­ally is.” Sarah has lots of de­sign tips for those ren­o­vat­ing a small city gar­den. “Avoid curves if the gar­den is small or nar­row,” she says. “Straight lines and an­gles work far bet­ter. But, never put a path down the lim­ited pal­ette (clock­wise from above) Plums and a rowan pro­vide good au­tumn colour with a multi-stemmed ame­lanchier for ar­chi­tec­ture; a blue-grey bench echoes win­dow frames; white flow­ers of Anaphalis triplin­erv is ‘Sum­mer Snow’ pop among the ev­er­greens; Henk’s stu­dio; heathers and epimedi­ums add splashes of pink

mid­dle be­cause it cuts the space into two halves. Asym­me­try feels more spa­cious.” Dieuwke loves Sarah’s de­sign and says the fam­ily use the gar­den all year round. “All the views from in­doors are lovely; the gar­den feels very much like it’s part of the house. The two spa­ces seem to melt into each other. Our slid­ing doors are so huge that even with the win­dows closed you can’t re­ally see where the house ends and the gar­den be­gins. When it’s rain­ing we love to sit un­der the log­gia – the shel­tered over­hang just out­side our pa­tio doors – look­ing out at the gar­den. “Al­though I love the gar­den, I’m not a keen gar­dener so it had to be very, very low main­te­nance. We have an ex­cel­lent pro­fes­sional gar­dener, Ge­off Burke, who comes to look af­ter the gar­den ev­ery four to six weeks. With his help, ev­ery sin­gle minute of the year there’s some­thing to look at and it al­ways looks pretty. I can’t praise Sarah’s de­sign highly enough.”

“The hor­i­zon­tal fenc­ing cre­ates the im­pres­sion that the gar­den’s longer than it is”

DRA­MATIC STRUC­TURE An­gu­lar gran­ite paving, ar­chi­tec­tural tree sil­hou­ettes, sculp­tures and a hor­i­zon­tally slat­ted fence pro­vide the bones of this chic ur­ban plot

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