Garden Tour: An Urban Plot With No Soil Gets a Nature-rich Revamp
This garden had no scope for flowerbeds or a lawn, but its designer has turned it into a child-friendly wildlife haven
The homeowners – a young family – had found garden designer Melanie Hick on Houzz and liked her plant-led work. In their initial approach, though, they suggested artificial grass, thinking it was the only option for some play space for the children, but Melanie discouraged them. “The Society of Garden Designers is campaigning to steer people away from artificial grass, so I helped them to build a brief that was much more sustainable and eco-friendly,” she says.
The resulting design is an enveloping, wildlife-friendly haven with naturalistic planting that’s full of intrigue for the children, including built-in bug houses and containers for collecting their finds from nature walks.
To see more great projects where the homeowner found their professional via Houzz, take a look at our Born on Houzz series.
Who lives here? A young family with two young children
Location The Olympic Park, east London
Property A three-bed, new-build terraced house
Garden dimensions Around 5m x 5m
Designer Melanie Hick of Melanie Hick Garden Design
Landscaper Garden Tamers
Project year 2022
Photos by Melanie Hick
“To move the clients’ thinking on from plastic grass being the most child-friendly option, I focused on the importance of play and a connection to nature in childhood,” Melanie says.
As such, she designed a series of large bug hotels, contained inside gabions and positioned around the garden. Here, you can see one of them, alongside a bench seat with more insect-enticing detail beneath it in the form of logs.
The gabions are intended not only for insects to enjoy but also for the children’s nature finds – leaves, pine cones, twigs. In this one, pre-filled with Scottish pebbles, they’ve already poked in a cardboard tube. There are no rules!
The children also have large, squishy outdoor bean bags (not shown) and a flat surface for scooting around on and playing with toys.
Having to keep the existing porcelain paving, however, was no bad thing. “Reducing waste and reusing existing materials in any garden is a huge sustainability saving,” she says. “You’re not creating more landfill. And, as this is a new-build, those tiles are new, so it would have been a terrible waste.”
Find reviewed garden designers in your area and see photos of their previous projects on Houzz.
Behind one of chairs, on the right, Melanie has planted herbs that the owners can use for cooking and the children can explore.
The purple flowers are Salvia ‘Amistad’ (at the back) and Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (on the right).
The tall grasses and jasmine will soften the top of the fence as they grow, as well as providing some screening and a sense of privacy from the neighbouring flats.
Grasses play a big part in that. Here, you can see Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’, underplanted with the shorter Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’. “The miscanthus – with a pink flower – creates height and sound,” Melanie says. “The wind swishes through it and the height of it makes it feel private, but it’s also translucent, so doesn’t block light.”
She highlights how good the design would be for a rental property, as everything is moveable.
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The homeowners are delighted at her transformation – and left this glowing review on Melanie’s Houzz profile: “Melanie is absolutely fantastic, and created a stunning garden for me and my family. She transformed a blank, new-build terrace into a lush garden that is inviting (and low-maintenance) year round. So delighted.”
Melanie adds, “They said I really listened and understood that it was a garden for the children as well as the adults. They absolutely love it.”
What do you think of how Melanie has created this wildlife-friendly urban garden? Let us know in the Comments.