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  • Writer's pictureNick

Contemporary, Shady Courtyard Garden with Sunken Seating Area and Water Feature

Garden view of patio and water feature

"Working with Nick and Doug was like a breath of fresh air. We had a 'so, so’ garden which we only ever looked at from the kitchen, and in no time at all, they turned it into a fabulous living space which we have used all the time over the summer. Not only is it a joy to look out at from the kitchen, but it’s a wonderful place to sit in and entertain, whilst the person cooking doesn’t feel excluded.

They were very collaborative on the designs and our needs, and met any suggestions with enthusiasm. Also, I couldn’t believe how quickly everything was done - it all seemed effortless (although I’m certain it wasn’t!) and everyone was very tidy, dedicated and personable.

To add to this, they are genuinely lovely people with a great sense of humour who clearly love what they do. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again." - Sue & Steven, SW14


This was a relatively unused part of a large wraparound garden, despite being adjacent to a beautiful kitchen diner with floor to ceiling windows. We were asked to make this garden into a much more sociable space for all the family, that would also form a stunning backdrop when viewed from inside the house.

Courtyard garden before work

You can see one of the biggest challenges in the photo above – possibly one of the highest conifer hedges in London! Beautifully kept and maintained by the clients, it’s something of a landmark in the local area, as it is even higher than some of the properties that surround it.

Courtyard garden viewed towards house

It was imperative not to disturb the roots of the mature hedge and to celebrate the lush dark green backdrop it provides. We created different levels within the space, partly to create more interest, but also to protect the shallower roots of the hedge.

The slightly sunken seating terrace allowed us to stay at ground level for the side and rear hedge to a total depth of 3 meters. This area consists of a gravel path and a deep ‘L’ shaped bed. The gravel path also has a practical purpose, as it allows easy access for the gardeners to trim the hedge with ease.

Sunken entertainment terrace garden feature

The clients wanted to use this part of their garden for morning coffee and pre-dinner drinks, as well as for general chilling out throughout the day and evening. The image above hints at the fact that this is a garden of two halves, one being blessed with several hours of sun and the other being in almost permanent shade for most of the day. But, as ever, and as the great gardener, Beth Chatto, would often say “Right plant right place!”

shady garden border

The image above shows the planting palette we used for the shady side of the garden. Largely foliage based, we chose plants such as Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, Dryopterist ‘Brilliance’, pittospermum ‘Tom Thumb’, Hakonechloa aureola and shade tolerant Astrantias to provide pops of colour. The feathery leaves of Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ and the variegated Aucuba give added height to the planting.

starry white flowers of Gillenia Trifoliata

The under planting forms a tapestry of foliage, with the starry white flowers of Gillenia Trifoliata providing a delightful froth amongst the lush greenery.

We used several different materials and textures for this design, including corten steel (for both the water feature and edging), Dutch pavers and limestone cobble setts. The water feature creates a soothing sound as the water gently cascades over the edge of the bowl. The Dutch pavers add a classic touch while the limestone cobble setts bounce the light around the sunken seating terrace. The outdoor heater, which looks like a giant anglepoise lamp, adds a funky contemporary feel to the space.


From this…..

Garden before

To this….

Finished garden with sunken terrace and water feature

If you would like to discuss transforming your garden, why not get in touch?


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