When a client gives me permission to design a garden with no lawn, I am literally over the moon. Of course, you still need paths to help you move around the garden, but those paths don’t have to go in straight lines and they can be permeable. All paths need stopping off points. The movement of the sun around this rectangular garden calls for a morning (coffee) patio, a middle of the day (lunch) patio, and an evening (gin) patio. I designed them all circular in shape and all varying sizes (I love a circle and, to be fair, you’ll find circular elements in most of my garden designs).
As well as a free licence to dispense with the lawn, the clients gave me a terrific wish list which included a summerhouse, a water feature (or features) and loads of wildlife-friendly planting.
We chose a square summerhouse from Garden Affairs which felt right alongside the Georgian architecture of the house and the regular shape of the garden. Painted Farrow and Ball Hague Blue, the summerhouse looks elegant and smart in amongst the froth of foliage around it. Planted nearby, I chose a couple of David Austin climbing roses in pale pink to contrast with the blue.
The clients loved the idea of the sound of moving water but didn’t want a high maintenance water feature. So I suggested not one but two Urbis lily bowls to sit in amongst the deepest borders in the garden. One sits close to the house and the other sits close to the evening patio at the end of the garden. We put pumps in each but also planted them with water lilies, water soldiers and oxygenators. By not running the pumps constantly, the lilies are kept peaceful and happy.
Most of the pre-existing shrubs in the garden were kept in the new planting design, including a stunning Cornus Kousa, Acer Palmatum and Hydrangea Petiolaris. I used beech hedging to quickly screen the fence at the back of the garden (the side boundaries have beautiful random rubble walls, typical of Edinburgh New Town gardens). I also used beech hedges to create definition around two of the circular patios. Borders furthest from the house get the most sunshine and here I used a combination of densely planted feathery grasses and long-flowering herbaceous plants. Closer to the house the borders are far more shaded through most of the year. As a basis for the planting scheme I used three different kinds of fern, Hakonechloa macro ‘Nicolas’ and Geum Totally Tangerine. Pittosporum Tom Thumb and Philadelphus coronarius Aureus are scattered throughout the borders but are kept clipped to create a touch of formal structure. Hydrangea Annabelle makes an appearance from mid summer and a Pyrus Pendula provides shelter for small birds attracted to the bird feeders and water bowls around the garden. Herbaceous plants supplied by Binny Plants.
So much greenery makes the space feel tremendously calm and peaceful. Without a lawn to mow, maintenance shifts from weekly cuts to monthly weeding and occasional dead-heading with a good mulch in spring once cutting back has taken place. The rolling display of colour from pollinating herbaceous flowers and the froth from grasses all benefit insects and birds. This is an excellent example of how we can ‘wild the city’ by minimising hard standing and lawn areas and maximising planting through deep borders which help to absorb rain where it falls while providing food, habitat and safety for wildlife.