The trans­for­ma­tion of an unloved town plot into a de­cep­tively low-maintenance, ver­dant idyll has in­spired its own­ers to en­joy it as an en­ter­tain­ing space that links inside and out

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words Stephanie Ma­hon Pho­to­graphs Mar­i­anne Ma­jerus

An unloved plot in Sur­rey has been turned into a lush, con­vivial scheme that makes en­ter­tain­ing a de­light.

Steve and Vanessa Cress­well are busy peo­ple. They have two teenage boys and they both work full-time so it was es­sen­tial the Sur­rey-based cou­ple had a calm, invit­ing and com­fort­able home to come back to each evening. Un­til re­cently, how­ever, their gar­den was none of th­ese things. In full view through bi­fold doors from the kitchen and sit­ting room, the plot was “just a slab”, Steve re­calls, a rec­tan­gu­lar area of black slate tiles and planters that was not much used, nor much loved.

Then Vanessa met gar­den de­signer Fiona Har­ri­son. Both women were part of the same lo­cal busi­ness net­work, and Fiona’s name had cropped up when Vanessa had asked for rec­om­mended gar­den de­sign­ers. Af­ter a suc­cess­ful ini­tial meet­ing, the Cress­wells de­cided to ask Fiona to trans­form their gar­den, to turn it into a space that would link the inside and out, and which they could use for en­ter­tain­ing fam­ily and friends.

“Our brief was to cre­ate an ad­di­tional room that we could en­joy all year round,” says Steve. “We wanted some­where we could spend time to­gether, but which would be rel­a­tively low maintenance.”

Al­though the gar­den is not large, mea­sur­ing 40 by 90 feet, Fiona de­cided to di­vide it into zones, putting two of them, a din­ing ter­race and a space for en­ter­tain­ing, clos­est to the house.

An alu­minium log­gia, com­plete with built-in heat­ing and light­ing and ma­noeu­vrable roof slats, makes the din­ing ter­race a year-round at­trac­tion while a hard­wood ipe deck, sim­ply adorned with lit­tle more than an eye-catch­ing firepit, pro­vides easy space for friends and fam­ily to gather for par­ties. “We use this area all the time and the boys love the so­cial as­pect of it,” says Steve. “They have their friends over and sit around the fire.”

Im­me­di­ately be­yond the ter­races, a slate path cuts through a band of gravel that spans the width of the gar­den. To one side of it stands a raised wa­ter tank and an ar­range­ment of box domes of vary­ing sizes, which o≠er green struc­ture all year round. Be­yond the path, Fiona combined multi-stemmed Pho­tinia trees and an un­der­plant­ing of the grass

Hakonechloa macra, with orange ‘Bal­le­rina’ and dark pur­ple ‘Queen of the Night’ tulips for wel­come spring colour. An­other lovely fea­ture here is a sculp­ture by artist Gary Scott, which Steve and Vanessa com­mis­sioned for the sit­u­a­tion.

The back of the gar­den com­prises a lawn edged by herba­ceous bor­ders, with a small shed tucked into the cor­ner. Cedar slat­ting tops the fences, and

wil­low, acer, holly and oaks o≠er a back­drop to dahlias, hy­drangeas, per­si­caria and gera­ni­ums.

New top soil had to be brought in but, aside from this, the work was straight­for­ward and took about two months. “The process was re­ally en­joy­able,” Steve says. The gar­den has now grown in and is a ver­sa­tile space where the fam­ily can re­lax and en­ter­tain.

“We wouldn’t change a thing,” says Steve. “It turned out to be ex­actly what we ex­pected – if not more.” In fact, they liked it so much that they asked Fiona to redesign the front gar­den, too. For­merly an un­happy patch of lawn with a park­ing space, it is now a che­quer­board of yew cubes and box-headed horn­beams, which looks smart and con­tem­po­rary all year and needs lit­tle maintenance. Not that this is such a trial for Steve who, as des­ig­nated gar­dener, likes to pot­ter. “My wife and chil­dren think I spend too much time out here now, but I love it.”

ABOVE In­stead of us­ing the log­gia as a sup­port for climbers, the Cress­wells chose a smart, white pow­der-coated de­sign with built-in heat­ing, light­ing and ma­noeu­vrable roof slats by Lou­vretec, to be the hero of the din­ing ter­race. OP­PO­SITE PAGE Gar­den de­signer Fiona Har­ri­son likes to in­clude wa­ter and geo­met­ric shapes in all her de­signs, and the Adezz wa­ter tank, from The Pot Com­pany, the­p­otco.com, of­fers both. Plant­ings of Fat­sia japon­ica, Hosta sieboldiana, Cer­cis canaden­sis ‘For­est Pansy’ and box domes of var­i­ous sizes are used to help set­tle the tank – which is filled with sev­eral fish and dwarf wa­ter lilies – into the wider land­scape.

ABOVE Hav­ing com­pleted the main de­sign, Fiona set to work on the front gar­den, again us­ing slate and gravel in a geo­met­ric lay­out. Horn­beams with box-shaped heads and top­i­ary yew cubes pro­vide a leafy pres­ence with­out com­pro­mis­ing the space needed for the Cress­wells’ cars.

LEFT The sculp­ture was com­mis­sioned from the artist Gary Scott, garyscottsculp­ture.

com. It orig­i­nally stood at the bottom of the gar­den but the cou­ple has since moved nearer the house, where they can see it clearly.

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