A small east London garden with a characterful and relaxed design by Ula Maria
Using different layers of planting, designer Ula Maria has created the space with soul her clients desired, full of contrast and character. Photographs Rachel Warne
Some of us like a very ordered approach in our lives: a place for everything and everything in its place. Others prefer things to be a little more free and easy, with space for the unexpected. The young, creative owners of this garden in Stoke Newington, east London, fall firmly into the second camp.
Having been impressed by designer Ula Maria’s work (Ula was RHS Young Designer 2017), they approached her in the hope that she could bring a similar sensitivity to their north-facing plot. “They didn’t want anything too polished or perfect,” says Ula. “They wanted it to have character and texture, to feel like it had soul.” There were some more tangible requirements too: space for a large dining table; a contemporary feel with a sense of warmth in the materials; a strong connection between indoors and out; and a wish that the garden could be made to seem a little larger than it actually is.
Ula had a blank canvas to work with. She took as her starting point the view from the kitchen, imagining the bi-fold doors as a frame within which to compose a picture. Pots fill the foreground whilea row of glossy-barked Tibetan cherries (Prunus serrula) stands at the rear to draw the eye beyond. Read on to see more of how Ula injected style and personality into this small London garden.
Ula used a combination of brick (laid in two different patterns), wood and gravel for the hard landscaping. This same wooden walkway featured in her 2018 garden at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Flower Show. Here she has imagined it as a bridge between the two brick areas. The garden is on the same level as the house, maximising the link between outside and in, and the architectural foliage of evergreen Euphorbia mellifera, with its bright-green, pale-veined leaves, makes a striking statement in a pot, alongside herbs and seasonal flowering plants.
Ula’s design is very textural – note here the contrasting presence of the glossy-leaved fig, the breezy grasses and the small, narrow leaves of the Tibetan cherries at the back, a combination that also demonstrates the different layers of the garden. Alongside slatted panels offer privacy but give a sense of space and airiness.
Key plants from the garden
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A striking fig tree (Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’) underplanted with matte, diaphanous grasses, including Stipa tenuissima, forms a voluminous mid-layer that prevents the whole space from being seen at once.