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
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.