This 1930s semi-detached house had a long garden that stretched for 100 metres plus. It was mainly lawn but dominated by a huge conifer that blocked views of the garden and allowed nothing to grow in its shade. The owners wanted to be able to use all the garden through a design that was interesting and informal.
When their children were little, the long lawn of Di and Brain Barrett’s back garden was great for lots of outdoor play and games.
“The garden is about 100 metres long, or more,” said Di, “So when they were teenagers they also liked hanging out at the far end of the garden where they could chat to their friends and chill. But once they’d left home we wanted to be able to use all the garden.”
The Barretts decided that the giant conifer tree that overshadowed a lot of ground, preventing anything from growing in the shade, had to go. That led to them looking for a designer who could create a vision for an interesting outdoor space where they could sit and relax or just potter.
Di explained: “We wanted something relatively low-maintenance, for the size of the garden, and not very formal. We’d never really used the top end of the garden; we wanted to use all the space. It’s the top end of the garden that gets the sunshine throughout the day and there was nowhere to sit up there; no flowers and nothing to attract you up there. That was our criteria. All the ideas for it, except our veg patch, were Joyce’s.
“The biggest change that Joyce made was the creation of a beautiful path that winds up the middle of the garden. Everyone comments on it.”
The Barretts already had a round-edged patio at the bottom of the garden and Joyce started the new tumbled block path from there, taking it past a small seating area and winding it right to the top of the garden where she created a new paved area surrounded by a low retaining wall with lots of plants and a water feature nearby.
“The path takes you up to a lovely round seating area,” said Di. “Everything flows, it’s all curved lines. There aren’t any straight lines other than the edge of the veg patch. Joyce put in three pergolas over the path with wisteria climbing up and over them. They also break up the garden so you lose that cricket pitch feel.
“We spend so much time in the garden, in the areas Joyce created, especially at the top. It just draws you up there. Everyone who goes up there says how much they like it. It’s just an oasis. It’s beautiful. I just love it.
Di confessed to knowing very little about plants and welcomed Joyce’s advice on providing something of interest all-year round: “There are lots of plants that flower and seed so we attract lots of bees, butterflies and birds too.”
There are three new flowering trees and what was an old, rather random digging spot, overshadowed by the original huge tree, is now a proper veg patch.
Di explained: “The team put timber sleepers around the edges, so it now looks as if it should be there, not that it’s just where the lawn has stopped growing. We can grow tomatoes and all sorts of vegetables.”
She added that the team Joyce used (Marbail Gardens) were ‘fantastic’.
“We could be involved as much as we wanted to be. They were very friendly and relaxed. Watching the garden transform was an amazing experience. We moved here in 1986 and of all the things we have done with the house, this is the one that’s given us the most pleasure. Especially during COVID, having that space was a therapy in itself.
“I loved it from the start, but it gets better each year as plants mature.”