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PENNY LITCHFIELD GARDENS
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spaces and styles by
PENNY LITCHFIELD GARDENS
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"We really do love the garden and were determined to have coffee and papers in it on Sunday morning despite it being 10 degrees. It is definitely the best thing we've done so far and the least stressful. We're really pleased with how your design worked out - it's exactly what we wanted, except better! I think it's really going to improve the quality of our lives no end - I can't wait for the summer." (Courtyard garden in Chiswick: garden design, construction and planting)

 
"I would highly recommend Penny - she listened to what I wanted and designed a beautiful garden which I am delighted with. Throughout the process Penny and her team were reliable, hard-working and pleasant." (Small back garden in Chiswick: garden design, construction and planting)

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Releasing space through imaginative garden design

"There's nothing wrong with it; it just doesn't work for us." This dilemma, often tinged with guilt, is what many of my clients say. The garden they inherited was ok. They really could live with it. But, with outside space at a premium, our gardens need to be more than ok; they need to be ideal. Don't worry about the amount of space you have - or the state it is in; there is always something that can be done to make it work better for you. The following examples show you some of the options, whatever type of space you have or style you want:

bullet_facing_rightFront gardens
bullet_facing_rightTiny courtyards
bullet_facing_rightLarge gardens
bullet_facing_rightOdd-shaped gardens
bullet_facing_rightSide returns
bullet_facing_rightRaised planting borders
bullet_facing_rightPenthouses, roof gardens, balconies
bullet_facing_rightJapanese-style gardens
bullet_facing_rightLighting
bullet_facing_rightWater

[Click on each photo for a larger view]

Front gardens

The design request was for a garden which had formality, repetition and a minimal colour palette

With only a lacklustre lawn and two trees, this unusually large front garden in Ealing lacked interest. The client wanted a design that incorporated formality, repetition and a minimal colour palette. Rows of white and purple lacecap hydrangeas provide late summer repetition alongside a row of variegated lollipop holly trees. White, spring flowering, evergreen skimmias, interspersed with alliums, continue the minimal colour theme. Box balls add formality. Tree preservation orders meant the trees could not be removed so it was essential to bring them to life. We removed the lower branches of the spectacular fir tree and installed a wraparound circular tree seat. Compacted gravel and sandstone paving complete the overall look.

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Front garden in Chiswick

Seldom used, front gardens are both a public face of a home and a private view from it. Here, in Chiswick, a couple with a new baby wanted to be screened from passing traffic, including buses, while being able to see passers-by approaching to avoid collisions when wheeling the pram or pushing the pushchair. A dominating hedge that had blocked their view was replaced by a brick wall with railings; dwarf bamboo provides screening while letting in light (it is likely to grow only to the top of the railings). An olive tree planted in the centre will eventually help screen the view from passing buses. It's low maintenance (the bamboo needs the occasional clip, the rest can easily be swept) and includes a hidden spot for recycling and rubbish bins.

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Front garden in Chiswick

You've got space for the car - a boon when parking is so hard to find - but you don't want the car to dominate. The brief for this garden in Teddington was to create a structured, formal space and to draw attention away from the car, keeping the Yorkstone path. The car clearly has its own space, just out of view at the front of the photo, but the garden takes centre stage. New stone, closely matched to the original, is softened by the gravel; neat ball-shaped bushes of box surrounded by woodchip add definition and colour; the lawn softens the whole effect - modern, sophisticated and stylish rather than dated, utilitarian and dull.

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Tiny courtyards

Tiny courtyards

For many Londoners, a small space is all they have so making the most of it is essential. In this 5m x 5m space in Chiswick there is now a courtyard, of sandstone and timber sleepers, for entertaining. The eating area is delineated by a line of ball-shaped box, planted in pebbles. The remaining space, a strip along the house wall, is useful for storing a barbecue. Planting has been kept to a minimum for low maintenance. Small spotlights between the narrow borders enhance the space at night, providing a lovely view through the patio doors.

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Large gardens

Large gardens

In suburbia, having an acre or more can be typical; this 270 square metre garden is huge for Shepherd's Bush. Whether it is rectangular, square or misshapen there is always scope in large spaces to incorporate spaces for different functions. This family wanted a formal look so there is lots of lawn with formal planting to tie in with the theme. The area near the house is for grown-ups; paving and a large section of planting create a boundary between this area and the children's space. Kids play beyond the arch (where wisteria will grow, creating a pretty boundary) as well as in the Wendy House; there is room in this furthest section for a badminton net.

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Odd-shaped gardens

Odd-shaped gardens

Unusually, access to the garden of this house is from the side, through a wrought iron gate so it was important to have a good view of the garden when looking from the front as well as from the back of the house. The challenge was to make the long, straight, narrow passage more interesting and draw the eye through to the garden beyond. Using different materials and large exotic plants did the trick. At the back there are three areas: a patio, a timber seating area and a raised deck for sun loungers - all in the heart of Chiswick.

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Side returns

Garden side returns

Side returns can so often end up as wasted space, perhaps providing a corner for propping up tools or hiding the barbecue. With a little imagination, they can almost always be put to good use. Here, with a wider than average side return in Chiswick, redundant space is now a striking spot for extra seating - at parties or simply for relaxing while reading a book in the shade. Simple planting, in this case olive trees, and clean, straight lines means the eye is drawn down to the garden, giving an even greater feeling of openness.

 

West London side garden with water feature

Installing a water feature can enhance a long, narrow side return. Here an eye-catching rill, a canal of reflective water, complements the modern, glass extension to this Chiswick house. Small planting areas separate the water chambers which, at only 40cm deep, are easy to maintain. Behind the rill, tensioned wires run between timber posts enabling climbing plants to create a living wall, an evergreen backdrop to disguise the boundary wall. Sandstone stepping stones create a path to the rest of the garden. All that is needed is a small fishing net to clear the rill of garden debris.

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Raised planting borders

Raised planting border

Life on the banks of a canal can be peaceful but brings challenges - a dampness in the air and a wind that whistles down the water. But these clients are no strangers to this lifestlye; this is their second home close to the water's edge. The original imposing and ugly red brick curved wall was rendered and painted white; raised borders follow the curve of the wall and reduce the impact of its height. A tensioned steel matrix trellis gives the garden a modern look. A small range of plants, chosen specifically because they require little maintenance, will weave along the trellis to form a natural wall hanging; others were chosen for year round colour. A built-in bench provides a comfortable spot for watching wildlife on this west London canal.

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Penthouses, roof gardens, balconies

Penthouses, roof gardens, balconies

There can be so much more to roof gardens than the ubiquitous small table, two chairs and a potted geranium. Even the smallest slot can be used creatively. A narrow balcony (or whatever you have) planted carefully can be a herb garden and a decorative dining space or, as in this terrace in Chiswick, a contemporary, tropical suntrap. Just add a corkscrew, wine cooler, glasses and...

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Japanese-style gardens

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The tranquillity of Japanese-style gardens, creating a complete contrast from a rush-rush life, is what makes them so popular. Neatness and precision are key; using materials (boulders, granite, stone, slate, gravel) to represent or symbolise aspects of life is essential; arches, patios are musts as are mounded or rounded shapes and water. Towards the end of this garden in Chiswick, a formal grey slate path leads to an informal area where purple slate clippings evoke images of a river and green slate represents stepping-stones. Japanese planting - incorporating colour and lots of evergreen - includes bamboo, azaleas, acers (also known as Japanese maple), Japanese grasses and box. Repetition of plants throughout reinforces the feeling of tranquillity. At night a misting machine on the water adds atmosphere.

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Lighting

garden lighting garden lighting

Increasingly popular, lighting can be decorative (adding atmosphere) and practical (you can be out of doors for longer). It can be trained on a work of art, tree or water feature, adding a focal point or drawing the eye out from indoors, or used throughout.

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Water

water garden

Water can add so much to a garden. It provides a sense of tranquillity to make relaxing easier; it can be mesmeric and help you escape from life's pressures; it attracts wildlife and gives scope to use aquatic plants. It can also be incorporated in many ways - ponds, rills, in sculptures or features, moving or still - and it can also be lit, adding atmosphere and interest at night.

Water Water
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