Garden Reveal

The big reveal at last.  After our mammoth renovation project and new garden installation it is time to share!  The interiors are being finished in the next few weeks so in the meantime here is what we did… all photos by me on the iPhone!

My plan – Firstly look at what you need and want. These are two separate things!

What was it we needed? – Shade because it is SW facing. Space, I wanted to open the garden to its full potential, and use it to extend the feeling of space in the house. We have a long narrow living room 10m x 4m and the garden runs the length of the living room. With many full length windows I wanted to extend the feeling of the house

What was wanted? –  I wanted a space for dining with family and friends and sitting quietly to admire the plants and relax. The shape was a rectangle so the space immediately by the house was laid to paving and since I did not want a lost space and I wanted to add charm. I designed a  stepping stone walkway around the outside of the sitting area, to see the plants and a bench to sit on and give the garden more depth since this happens when you create an area to draw your eye through. 

Gardens not only add a great deal of charm to a house they are also a good investment!

Reflect your interior especially if like me you want to increase the feeling of  your interior space.  I wanted a calm restful mood, casual to reflect the style of the interior.  Luckily we have a forest as the backdrop to give instant greenery, on a new build landscape you need to work much harder to achieve this.   Connecting your garden to the surrounds and blur the lines is also a good way to give the impression your garden is bigger. We have sloping areas that connect with the forest beyond and I wanted water to connect to the lake we see. It is not exactly infinity style but nevertheless still works.   The sound of slowly moving water also creates a calm mood.

Lake of Zurich from our house in Erlenbach

I gave the gardener a mood board showing the plants and style of planting I  wanted. I gave him a plant list based on the orientation to the sun and shade given by the structures around.  Some plants had to thrive in full sun and others needed shade. This was a simple scheme.  You can find everything you need on Pinterest.  If you are making new beds as we did we could choose any soil we needed so that gave more freedom.  You need to know if you have chalk or clay soil and once that is done you can choose.  By comparison to our garden in London, which is sheltered and not too cold in winter I had a few compromises to make!! 

I sourced the stones locally, it was about -10 degrees that February day!! I wanted grey with some warm tones.

Designer Tip: always consider the surrounds of your home – the Vernacular –  otherwise your  garden will look out of place and faux.  When you have cold long winters warm coloured Mediterranean stones look quite out of place so I sourced landscaping granite locally. The seasons are reflected in the planting with some evergreens for structure when winter comes and all plants are cut back and sleeping under the snow.   Unless you live in a permanently warm climate you really need to consider how things will look throughout your seasons and plan to have something happening in each.

How I maximised space:

  • cutting back old shrubs and pushing the garden further towards borderlines
  • re-planting around the edges of the property with plants that takes less space but create screening.
  • I moved the steps to the lower pond garden and gained a large patio area
  • created zones and planting that made the area feel larger

So without further ado, even though its a brand new garden with fairly young plants, this is what it looks like now! Starting small….


BEFORE: was an overgrown area only to store our bins.AFTER: a larger, looking lighter area to grow herbs and teas and sit in the shade on hot sunny afternoons.  All pots are terracotta and the flowers (hydrangea/geranium/hosta) are all white.  This pops in the shade. In my mind I think I may add some raised vegetable beds then I remind myself to be serious!!



BEFORE: Shady grassy area not really used much.  Large copper beech had grown too large for the garden and was touching the roof.  It’s big plus was shade.  This garden was a legacy of past owners. There was no form/structure, no contesting textures to add interest, and a lack of colour. It all had to go!

So we removed everything …..BEFORE: We moved the existing stairway down to pond garden across the garden to make more space. AFTER: a much more open interesting space…. don’t you think? 

Design is about form/structure.  This was achieved with the paving/gravel areas, creating a stepping stone pathway and fencing area around.  The flower beds had 5 plants repeated this makes things more calm. Contrasting hard and soft. 

Below in the Living room garden shade lost by the removal of the tree is given now by large awnings which span 40m2 fully extended.

Decked Terrace outside Kitchen/Diner: S/SW

We took away the steps down to this terrace,  and raised all on decking to create a larger space.

A focal point in the garden is the stone water feature, it really anchors the area. The swiss grey granite has warmer tones which blend well with the gravel and wooden elements making things softer/warmer and less hard landscaped.  I selected plants that grow tall and that sway, you can look through them and this makes the garden feel deeper by making you eye look through something… Being a new garden it will take a few seasons to grow up into itself, but the Verbena bonariensis (Purpletop vervain) carried the garden this summer whilst the rose bushes and lavenders and grasses grew. Over the summer the garden was full of hummingbirds, dragonflies, bees and butterflies. They definitely approved of the choice of planting! We do not use any chemicals in the garden so perhaps that is why we were so well visited. 

Above –  Pleached trees around and behind bench.  They are grown on a large trellis and trimmed to be flat.  You gain screening without losing space.  They are also great windbreakers and are very popular in the Netherlands which are quite flat and windy. Having the bench in the corner lengthens the space, and gives a reason to walk around the stepping stones. All of the space is used.

A few months earlier: we used recycled granite blocks to extent towards the street and create something that looked like it has been here a while.  Recycled materials can work our more cost effective if you don’t mind the limited supply and randomness.

To screening the street and neighbours opposite instead of the standard laurel I planted a slow growing and dense Prunus Lucitanica (Portugese Laural) hedging. This does the same job taking less space.  Topped off by pleached Evergreen Photina (Red Robin) to screen above.  This is more interesting that just a larger laurel,  both evergreen with red stem interest in winter/spring. I carried the Photina around the garden where I needed screening about the fence. In a couple of years this will be dense and we will remove the bamboo frames.

You can see how the recycled granite was blended into the rockery. The stones create a soft fall towards the street with swaying grasses to soften the look and evergreen Japanese Ilex (a great alternative to Buxus Sempervirens (Box) which needs chemicals to combat moth blight)  to give some interest in winter.  These will grow larger in time.  These stones were a mix of all the colours at the stone yard blending cool and warm – they will also look good in the snow!


As mentioned I repositioned the steps to our pond garden. This is the view from below. I reused all of the existing granite blocks and added a few more recycled ones and new granite steps.  I designed minimal handrails to match the rest of the railings.
We only needed to add an new wood deck at the pond and a few flower beds in the lower garden to link the two gardens and it all worked out as if it had been designed like that from the beginning! The area behind the pond (not really seen) sloping down to the forest will be a project for next year! 

Before: A granite cobbled area and large laurel hedge taking up a lot of space in the garden.  There was an evergreen sloping garden which was not very interesting. After: By setting the garden more to the right it opened up the house and made it more welcoming. The front stone garden was continued around to the front door.  The block paving remained. We added a new porch area with new doors to balance the house.  A new doorstep, mailbox and little pathway into the garden was added.
Hope you’ve enjoyed a sneak peek at what I did!

If you want more design advice regarding gardens check out my blog on The RHS Chelsea flower show here 

Thanks for reading!