Secret Garden, Portishead


Unused side garden of modern detached house in Portishead.


To design a quiet, secluded place to sit and take in the view beyond a gate to a magnificent old tree. The space needed a sense of purpose and be accessible throughout the year. My client’s wish list: a place for a bench, small water feature, wall screening and planting that would thrive in the predominantly shady aspect and poorly drained clay soil.

My Solution:

Having walls on 3 sides lent an air of intimacy and seclusion to an otherwise unused space. I sectioned off the main garden with a low screen of hedging to subtly enclose the space and create a transition from the main garden. The lawn was problematic as it was very wet in winter and cracked in summer.  I decided to do away with the grass and instead designed a gravel garden.  The gravel makes the space appear much larger, allows easy access all year and provides a lovely backdrop to planting.

Plants were specifically chosen to withstand the wet-dry conditions. Predominantly green and white planting lightens up the shady spaces between existing trees. A mixture of ferns, woodland grasses and textural evergreens are interspersed with spring bulbs earlier in the year and naturalistic perennials later on. This gently understated planting gives way to a pop of colour against a sunny white wall. Here the soil drainage was better and allowed for a wider range of plants. The expanse of the wall is broken up using a removable trellis covered in evergreen fragrant climbers.   I echoed the warmth of a brick wall in the planting – using soft apricot tones.  My client wanted the flexibility of containers and so I included a collection of topiary balls for all year structural interest plus pots of bulbs giving colour from spring through to autumn.  Terracotta pots, a warm shade of gravel and a Cor-ten steel water bowl complete the look.

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