Colour and lightness in a small family garden designed by Jack Wallington
A playful design by Jack Wallington for a family garden in south London is all about concealment and discovery – and for making memories. Words Natasha Goodfellow. Photographs Claire Takacs
When designer Jack Wallington first saw this garden in Clapham, south London, there was not a single flower in bloom, even though it was high summer. The plot was attractive but it was dominated by evergreen shrubs and presented as one long, single view. “It was more of a picture postcard than a fun, family garden,” says Jack.
The clients, a couple with three young boys, very much wanted the latter. “They wanted colour and lightness and a space they could all use,” says Jack. A new architect-designed garden room also had to be accommodated, and the owners were eager to keep their vegetable beds to the rear.
Taking the house and the modern, angular garden room at the opposite end as his starting points, Jack divided the space into a series of zones based around irregular geometric shapes. An existing sunken terrace was retained, with Jack matching the stone for the new barbecue area he created beyond.
A lush lawn – and another outside the garden room – provides plenty of space for ball games, but it is in the central planted area, designed as a triptych of ‘mini meadows’, each slightly different, where the garden really comes alive. “I obsessed about the shape of those beds,” laughs Jack. “I grew up in the country and remember how much my siblings and I loved running through the fields, so I wanted to give the boys something to chase around. As the main planted area in the garden, I treated it as a work of art too.” Read more about the garden below.
What Long, narrow city garden. Where South London. Size 6m x 42m. Soil London loam on a clay base. Aspect Southeast-facing. Special features Innovative layout incorporating several seating areas, a vegetable garden and three prairie-planted mini meadows. Designed by Jack Wallington (jackwallington.com).
Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’ is in almost every bed in the garden. Here it is seen with Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ and the seedheads of Allium cristophii.
Self-seeded opium poppies and wild carrot are allowed to mingle with the perennial plantings, which include Liatris spicata, Salvia yangii ‘Little Spire’ and Kniphofia ‘Green Jade’.
A window seat in the garden room (designed by Matthew Giles Architects) appears to hover over a bed of Dryopteris wallichiana, Eurybia divaricata and Astrantia major subsp. involucrata ‘Shaggy’.
At the heart of the garden is a triptych of three mini meadows, inspired by prairie planting and natural plant communities. Jack likes the Sanguisorba ‘Red Busby’, which creates a cloud of maroon buttons above the Echinacea pallida, Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Diane’ and Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firetail’.
The garden is divided into irregular geometric shapes, which are particularly effective when viewed from the upper floors of the house.
Top tips for maximising space in a small garden from designer Jack Wallington
- In very small gardens it can sometimes be better to concentrate on a single view in order to have maximum impact from the house but in many cases, dividing a space into zones can help it seem larger, and helps ensure the space is used to its fullest, too.
- Zoning can be achieved by dividing areas with trellis, flowerbeds, hedges or a small shrub, or by different surface treatments, for example lawn, gravel, hard landscaping, and so on. In urban gardens, I prefer to use the same landscaping materials throughout for consistency – I find it’s better to let the plants do the talking.
- Try to place your different areas – for seating, dining or for raised beds or pots, for example – in different corners of the garden and don’t forget about the edges.
- A bench tucked away in a side bed and perhaps backed by a mass of Clematis ‘Apple Blossom’ or Trachelospermum jasminoides makes a lovely place to sit and invites people to stop and linger.
- Introducing angles or curves to your garden design often means that you can’t see the whole space in one go, which I think makes the experience better and more fulfilling. Diagonal lines can be useful as they make the view feel longer.
- Zones can be vertical as well as horizontal. In this garden, the wooden screen behind the sofa in the barbecue area acts like a frame or an anchor, effectively delineating the space. It also meant we could easily incorporate lighting and a log store, too.
Claire Takacs is an Australian garden and landscape photographer who seeks to be surrounded by beauty always.
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