By build­ing a trio of ter­races and putting in pock­ets of lush plant­ing, the own­ers have trans­formed this com­pact gar­den into a wel­com­ing city re­treat

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - words jodie jones Photographs mark bolton

Ter­races and lush plant­ing have trans­formed this city space.

Awav­ing sea of fo­liage fills the won­der­ful view from Sue and Andy Chap­pin’s house. It is not so much a gar­den as a vi­sion of the nat­u­ral world, framed by bi­fold glass doors that al­low the open-plan liv­ing space to blend seam­lessly with a Mod­ernist din­ing ter­race. From here, the gar­den de­scends through two more stages to a deck that juts out over a river where, if you pause for long enough, you might spot a pair of munt­jac deer com­ing down the far river­bank to drink.

It was, how­ever, all rather dif­fer­ent when the Chap­pins moved in to their St Al­bans ter­raced house four years ago. Although they were drawn by its amaz­ing lo­ca­tion on the banks of the River Ver, the Six­ties prop­erty was dated. In­side, there was a tra­di­tional ar­range­ment of small rooms, while out­side long, thin bor­ders em­pha­sised the nar­row­ness of the site. “As soon as we moved in, we ap­plied to build an ex­ten­sion, which was clearly go­ing to af­fect the gar­den,” says Andy. “Although we knew what we wanted, we had no idea how to achieve it.”

De­cid­ing they needed a gar­den de­signer was the easy bit; work­ing out who that should be was more tricky, un­til Andy came across Rose­mary Cold­stream on the So­ci­ety of Gar­den De­sign­ers web­site. Her projects fused mod­ern and clas­sic in­flu­ences within a sim­ple frame­work, a style he thought would be per­fect in such a small space.

“We had to fit a lot in,” says Rose­mary. “Andy and Sue wanted a din­ing area and some­where to sun­bathe, and the space by the river was cry­ing out to be turned into a re­lax­ation zone. Given that the slop­ing site, which mea­sured barely nine­teen by thirty-two feet, was go­ing to be on full view all year round, there wasn’t much room for ma­noeu­vre.”

Rose­mary be­gan by di­vid­ing the length of the gar­den into a se­ries of shal­low ter­races, bas­ing her mea­sure­ments on the di­men­sions of the rel­a­tively eco­nom­i­cal gran­ite slabs they had cho­sen for the paving. “This gave us good pro­por­tions and also restricted the amount of ex­pen­sive stone cut­ting we had to do, which helped to keep the bud­get down.”

On the shal­low top ter­race, an L-shaped bench was built to make use of ev­ery inch of space, while the flower beds, which blend seam­lessly with their sur­round­ings, are ac­tu­ally raised planters from the mid­dle ter­race, dou­bling as de­sign el­e­ments on both lev­els. They are filled with a sway­ing mass of Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis and As­cle­pias in­car­nata in shades of pink and pur­ple, laced with wisps of the or­na­men­tal grass

Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea ‘Hei­de­braut’, which act as a gauzy screen, di­vid­ing the top ter­race from the rest of the gar­den.

Wher­ever you look, clever de­sign makes this space ap­pear larger, but there is one el­e­ment that has ac­tu­ally in­creased its size. The deck at the end of the gar­den is can­tilevered out over the wa­ter to add valu­able ex­tra feet where a curved bench now cre­ates an eye-catch­ing fo­cal point, of­fer­ing the per­fect place to sip a glass of wine while watch­ing the sun go down.

Although Rose­mary has won sev­eral awards for this de­sign, in­clud­ing the 2015 Pocket Gar­den category from the So­ci­ety of Gar­den De­sign­ers, her great­est re­ward comes from the Chap­pins. “Thanks to Rose­mary, this is now a beau­ti­ful space,” says Andy. “I would strug­gle to name a sin­gle plant, but I know we have some­thing amaz­ing.”

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