Yard of the Week: Elegant Curves in a Leafy Backyard for Lounging

Photos by Simon Orchard

Yard at a Glance
Who lives here: A man and (part-time) his partner and daughter
Location: Blackheath, southeast London
Size: The garden is now about 3,336 square feet (310 square meters), about 102 by 33 feet (31 by 10 meters). The new section added about 36 feet (11 meters) to the length.
Designer: Simon Orchard Garden Design

Before: The newly acquired plot, seen in the foreground of this photo looking back to the home, was visually divided from the original yard and in need of some attention.

As part of the work to link the two areas, Orchard removed the privet and the two mounding shrubs seen here. “They were quite imposing and right in the middle of the new, merged garden,” he says.

Before: This is the view looking the other way, from the house, before work began. You can see the new section behind the large tree at the back.

After: In streamlining the two spaces, Orchard took elements from the original yard and continued them into the new section, though not without some expert tweaking.

“The garden already had curved borders, which I don’t usually do, as weak curves can look like a mistake, a bit wishy-washy,” he says. “So I exaggerated the ones that were there and flowed them into the new space.”

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Deeper into the yard, Orchard raised the crowns of numerous shrubs and trees to make space for underplanting, which can be seen here.

Orchard’s landscape plan clearly shows how the yard flows now, with the newly merged area beyond the circular patio at the top of this drawing.

Before: “On the boundary of the new and the old [yards], there was a shed and a circular patio,” Orchard says. “I had to work the design around those.” This is that patio before work began, with a curved outdoor sofa on it. The shed is on the opposite side of the yard.

In Orchard’s reworking of this part of the yard, he transformed the patio and boundary area into a relaxing spot to sit or socialize.

“I don’t like a long, straight garden with no focal points, where you can take in the whole garden from the kitchen window, so we made a feature of the boundary line,” Orchard says. Rather than opting for a hard divide — a hedge, for example — he put in elements to draw the eye in and stop it from going straight to the end of the garden.

The large potted tree is an albizia (Albizia sp.), and the water feature is a sandstone ball chosen by the owner. The designer removed the existing tree seen in the first photo. “It was very large and was acting as a divide between the two spaces,” Orchard says.

In the revamped circular patio, Orchard also installed a sandstone bench and fire pit the owner had bought. “The big sofa has been moved to make this a more calming, less cluttered space,” Orchard says.

Orchard designed the base around the water feature to be about 18 inches tall, just the right height to double as a seat. “The owner also has the space to bring in extra freestanding seating when friends and family come over,” he says.

Before: Because the new plot of land was previously attached to a property on a perpendicular street, the path seen here ran across the merged spaces and under the fence, so Orchard removed it.

Before: Here, you can see the new plot looking rather unloved before its redesign. The ivy-covered walls are on the left and along the back as you look through the garden from the house. Orchard removed the ivy and cleaned up the bricks, which add character to the new space.

At the back of the property is a sandstone paved dining area, which Orchard raised a little for definition. Behind it, against the newly cleaned-up brick wall, is a row of pleached osmanthus (Osmanthus sp.) trees. “They give off a really lovely scent,” Orchard says. The trees also help screen out adjacent buildings.

Just glimpsed in the left-hand corner is a space Orchard designed specifically for a hot tub, as that spot gets the last of the evening sun. Installing the tub is a future project.
The shed, which the owner plans to paint, remains in its original location. This photo is taken from the raised dining area and looks across chipped dove gray limestone gravel. The stack of log slices, with insect-enticing crevices, is made from the trunk of the tree that used to stand on the boundary line. It’s the perfect home for a birdbath.

The new part of the yard is less shady than the original section, so there was more opportunity to introduce some color by way of a muted palette of green, white, pink and purple.

Planting seen here includes the veined ‘Jack Frost’ large-leaf brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’) and bee-friendly purple ‘Plum pudding’ coral bells (Heuchera ‘Plum Pudding’), along with sage (Salvia sp.) in the raised bed. “The Salvia has gone over here, but you can see its spikes,” Orchard says. The furry, low-growing leaves are lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina). The white pompom flowers are ‘Annabelle’ wild hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’).

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When the owner of this suburban home bought a plot of land at the end of his yard, he called in designer Simon Orchard to turn the two separate areas into one seamless outdoor space. The homeowner liked the backyard he had, which was also fairly established. “So rather than ripping up the original,” Orchard says, “it was about keeping what he had and making a new garden in the same style — and merging the two so the extra space didn’t feel like a new plot bolted on.”

This content was originally published here.

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