SE15 London - Dog friendly back garden

SE15 London - Dog friendly back garden

Design considerations and challenges:

  • Waterlogged in winter
  • Overlooked
  • North facing, some sun, mostly semi-shade
  • Triangular shape with a sharp dead end apex
  • Storage required
  • No area to sit outside
  • Poor lawn
  • Big height difference at back door threshold to garden level
  • Pandemic driven lockdowns lead to high prices and lack of availability for both plants and materials

The Brief

The clients initially contacted me about laying artificial turf (not something I do I might add).

When I asked what they were trying to achieve they explained they’d had years of trying to get a lawn to grow in their North facing garden that gets waterlogged in winter. They simply didn’t know what else to do. They have dogs and wanted a space for them to be able to go out and play.

I was able to offer them much better solutions than fake grass and drew a quick sketch on a back of a napkin to explain my thoughts. They hired me on the spot and I created a contemporary garden space with a patio, raised beds, firepit, gravel to replace the lawn and sleepers as a pathway through the garden. One of the things that struck me as really quirky and interesting to work with was the unusual triangular shape of the garden, which to me really adds to its appeal and meant I could create interesting viewpoints from different areas of the garden.

The former apex and dead end of the garden became a focal point with the simple introduction of a fire bowl inviting you to explore. Raised beds were introduced to stop the dogs from going into the beds and the sleepers also offer additional informal seating around the garden in particular the patio and firepit area. The new patio allows for level access out of the kitchen and offers a nice place to sit, enjoy the garden and have a meal.

The planting scheme is loosely a cottage style, this best complemented the roses, grasses, peonies and geraniums my clients wanted to retain. The design has shades of pink, mauve, and apricot offset by soft stipa tenuissima and yellow pops of alchemilla. The original design had small trees in it to create more privacy for the patio area and to create a focal point when looking out onto the garden from the house.  The pandemic meant that prices for trees rocketed and were hard to come by, so the decision was taken to wait and install these at a later date when availability was better and prices more normalised. Average prices for plants went through the roof during lockdowns, and often stock was not available. To stay within budget I switched to 9cm pots instead of 2L sized perennial plants and substituted some of the original plant choices depending on what was available.

Key plants used

Shrubs: Osmanthus burkwodii / Pittosporum ‘Elizabeth’ / Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ / Lavandula angustifolia / Rosmarinus prostratus
Climbers: Trachelospermum jasminiodes
Perennials: Stipa tenuissima Heuchera plum pudding / Nepeta ‘Prussian blue’ / Alchemilla mollis / Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s apricot’