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  • Writer's pictureNick

The new parterre

In the summer of 2015, which was the first year of the garden’s restoration, I laid a lawn in the area that opens out from the garden room. However, by the winter it had become a sad and soggy no-go zone. I tried introducing extra drainage, but combined with constant winter shade, I had to admit defeat – the lawn had to go!

My solution was to create a parterre and dining area. I have always loved parterres, with their raised beds and gravel pathways. The raised beds would enable me to grow both flowers and vegetables in a spectacular way. Here's how I did it :

How to build a parterre garden

1. Design

The first job was to work out the layout. I purchased the raised bed kits from Quickcrop and laid them out in position.

Experimenting with the layout of the parterre

I decided to paint the raised beds black. I knew this would look great as a contrast to my proposed planting scheme and would also add to the contemporary feel I wanted the parterre to have.

2. Foundations

As the old lawn was enclosed on all sides, I did not need to dig it out to allow for the depth of the gravel so I just laid the weed control membrane straight on top of the lawn.

Laying the parterre foundations

A critical element was the choice of gravel. I chose 20mm Cotswold Buff gravel from Decorative Aggregates. Having 2 cats, I did not want the gravel to become a cat toilet, so the size of the gravel pieces was crucial. The great thing with this gravel is that it locks together and does not move about too much. Not only does this deter the cats from trying to move it, but the subtle buff colour of the gravel is very pleasing to the eye.

The gravel should be laid at a thickness of 4-5cm. The overall area was 4 x 6 meters, so 2 large bulk bags promptly arrived and did the job nicely!

Filling the pathways with gravel

3. Furnishings

Once all the gravel was laid, I added a metal obelisk from Wilko to the centre of each bed to give impact and create a sense of theatre.

I then added a table made by my 15 year-old son, which I painted black to tie in with the raised beds. The orange wire benches are from Ikea and look fabulous against the black table and will hopefully complement the orange King Californian poppies that I have planted in the large terracotta planters on the table.

The finished parterre garden

4. Planting

A planted metal water tank makes an appearance on one side of the parterre with a small olive tree at its centre, under planted with violas and foxgloves.

Metal planter with olive tree, violas and foxgloves

The raised beds are planted with hardy annuals, the deep purple dahlia Rip City, and vegetables. I have chosen Calendula Indian Prince with their deep orange flowers and crimson backs as a signature plant for each raised bed. This should look stunning in contrast to the other flowers and the black of the table - and also tie in with the orange benches.

The finished parterre garden

The obelisks will soon be covered in sweet peas and Morning Glory Heavenly Blue. Box balls in terracotta pots finish off the more structural elements of the design.

The dimensions of this parterre are roughly the size of an average town garden. If you are thinking of giving up on your lawn and creating a more productive but beautiful year round entertaining space, why not get in touch?

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