Garden Tour: An Overlooked Space Becomes a Private Haven
Trees, water and a zoned design create separate destinations in this garden, each offering a pocket of intimate space
By designing separate ‘destinations’ in the garden and adding trees to create screening and greenery above head height, where it was most needed, Nigel transformed an almost unused space into a calm and private retreat. The garden now extends seamlessly from the house and looks beautiful year-round, ensuring it is much used and enjoyed by the owners.
Who lives here? A couple, both lawyers, and their two teenagers
Location Hammersmith, west London
Property A Victorian terraced house
Garden dimensions 6m x 19m
Designer Nigel Gomme of Cityscapers
Project year 2017
Photos by Nigel Gomme
The owners had moved into this house a year or two before Nigel worked on the garden, and they were renovating the entire property. The architect working on the house, Giles Lovegrove of Trace Architects, recommended Nigel to the owners. Nigel in turn used Giles’s design for the rear of the house as inspiration.
“The window is amazing,” Nigel says. “It’s like they’ve taken a slice out of the building and glazed it. When there’s bold design like this in a house, it’s nice to create some visual connection with it in the garden. I wanted to find a way of reflecting that in the landscape, which I’ve done quite literally with a band of water and planting.”
Find a garden designer on Houzz today.
“Magic happens with odd numbers,” he says. “I often subdivide gardens into three, never two. One is OK, but if you can have three…”
He also incorporated a level change to emphasise the different areas. “It’s a flat plot, and was slightly uninteresting, so I introduced a step up to create some three-dimensionality,” he says.
Geranium psilostemon, also known as Armenian cranesbill, adds a patch of intense pink above the bench.
Evergreen star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) grows up the fence. “It will flower in almost full shade, so long as it gets just a flash of sun, and it smells great,” Nigel says. “Anything graphic and linear teamed with planting becomes extra intense. You get a strong contrast between the vertical lines and the natural forms.”
The tree in the middle of the garden is a Cornus kousa. “It’s a lovely, small, elegant tree with white flowers like origami,” he says, “and it doesn’t mind shade.”
Against the garden wall is a cherry. “Cherry trees work here,” he says. “They get enough sun because they grow tall enough to reach it.”
Nigel also introduced water, with a pool just beyond the polished concrete terrace that mirrors and aligns with the tall window in the house. “It’s like glazing in liquid form and it reflects the sky,” he says.
He got the steels cut to size and galvanised by a steel working company, then used cedar for the seat. “We only use FSC-certified timber,” he says.
All the water features are bespoke. “I used chopped down steel H-beams as spouts to match the H-beam legs of the benches,” he says.
Nigel used yew hedging here and there, too. “It creates some blocks of green and hides bits of unsightly wall,” he explains.
Browse more photos of garden water features.
Pink hydrangeas and the contrasting white Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ add colour, while Hakonechloa macra grass softens the edges of the terrace and beneath the bench.
A Cotinus ‘Grace’, or smoke tree, turns translucent red. “And when the colour drains from hydrangeas, they also still look really nice,” he says.
Mindful of using water sustainably, Nigel installed an automatic irrigation system, which delivers water to the roots, so less is lost to evaporation and surface run-off. “Hard surfaces slope towards planted beds and the decking is free-draining, too, so rainwater is kept within the garden and utilised,” he says.
What appeals to you about this urban garden? Let us know in the Comments.