A Hid­den Re­treat

This peace­ful gar­den – tucked away from the sur­round­ing town – is a haven for its busy own­ers


This peace­ful ur­ban gar­den is clev­erly tucked away from its busy town sur­round­ings.

Cre­at­ing a tran­quil ‘se­cret gar­den’ in a busy com­muter town was the brief given to gar­den de­signer Marja van Asperen (left) by her clients, Rob and Tineke, who longed for a mod­ern, peace­ful outdoor space. When the cou­ple had first moved to their ur­ban home in Soest in the Nether­lands, the gar­den was in a sad, ne­glected state, but as their pri­or­ity was to ren­o­vate the house, it was five more years be­fore they en­gaged Marja’s ser­vices to trans­form the out­side space.

‘The own­ers had built a con­tem­po­rary new wing at the back of the old house – which dates back to around 1900 – in­cor­po­rat­ing lots of glass,’ ex­plains Marja, who de­scribes her­self as a ‘feel-good’ de­signer. ‘It’s a very in­ter­est­ing shape ar­chi­tec­turally, and that re­ally in­spired me to de­sign the gar­den along those lines.’

Rob and Tineke had some def­i­nite re­quire­ments that Marja needed to in­cor­po­rate, some of which proved a chal­lenge. ‘There were a lot of el­e­ments to the de­sign, but as the gar­den it­self is not very big, I had to be very cre­ative in a limited space,’ she points out. ‘The clients wanted a pond, along with sev­eral dif­fer­ent

ter­races, but they also re­quired the gar­den to feel re­laxed and laid-back.’ Not least, pri­vacy was of prime im­por­tance: while the cou­ple’s street is quiet, the neigh­bour­ing houses are very close, which means their gar­den could be over­looked on all sides. To over­come this, plants that would pro­vide pri­vacy were in­cor­po­rated into the over­all de­sign. ‘I used bam­boo and ev­er­greens, to­gether with spe­cially trained trees to cre­ate screens around the bound­aries,’ ex­plains Marja. The hard-work­ing cou­ple also wanted the plant­ing to be low-main­te­nance and in­clude va­ri­eties that would re­sult in a gar­den that was in­ter­est­ing all-year-round. Shrubs like

La­van­dula an­gus­ti­fo­lia and Hy­drangea ar­borescens were in­cor­po­rated, to­gether with a va­ri­ety of hostas, all of which pro­vide a plethora of peace­ful green tones that soften the hard landscaping and bring life to the grey stone.

Nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als – gravel, cob­ble­stones and wood – have been used in the de­sign to en­sure the over­all look is one of clas­sic sim­plic­ity, with the square pond and pa­tio form­ing the struc­tural fo­cal points. These el­e­ments, com­bined with a sim­ple colour pal­ette and few or­na­men­tal dis­trac­tions, en­sure that the gar­den is a very quiet, calm­ing place to be. It is in­deed a re­treat from the busy out­side world – a se­cret gar­den, just as the own­ers and their em­pa­thetic de­signer en­vis­aged.


Above The gar­den was de­signed along the same an­gu­lar lines as the house’s con­tem­po­rary glass ex­ten­sion.

Prac­ti­cal­i­ties – such as this pa­tio area with out­door sink – have been sub­tly in­cor­po­rated into the gar­den’s de­sign. Care­fully cho­sen plants and shrubs in gen­tle colours help to em­pha­sise the sense of calm.

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