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Diary of a small north facing garden

Clematis Montana
Clem Mme Julia

Since launching my garden design business with good friend Christine Swain over six years ago, I’ve enjoyed transforming gardens of all shapes, sizes and aspects. As we’re based in Sale, just 10 miles to the south of Manchester city centre, our projects have ranged from small suburban gardens in trendy Didsbury to the more generous outdoor spaces of leafy Cheshire.

Our aim has always been to create beautiful outdoor spaces, whatever the size of the garden and whatever the challenges they present, and perhaps one of greatest perceived challenges for home owners is a north facing garden; particularly if space is limited. Estate agents will always extol the virtues of a south facing plot and on the face of it a sun drenched terrace as an extension of the house can sound idyllic. But what if a north-facing garden could be an advantage? A bit radical you might think, but after the long hot summer of 2018, a little shade can seem most welcome and a good design can help realise the full potential of any site.

For those of you that follow me on Twitter @renaissancegd you may have noticed that I do a weekly post using the hashtag #mylittlegarden. This aims to show what can be grown in a small north facing plot in the middle of suburbia. Over the years my garden has evolved through various stages according to the needs of family life. Originally catering for the demands of small children, it became a place of relaxation for two busy working adults who wanted lots of colour but needed low maintenance. Now it’s back to a space where grandchildren have room to play and can also learn about plants and wildlife. It also has three seating areas despite its modest size (I firmly believe that every garden needs at least three!) The main patio makes the best of the morning sun but being north facing also provides some shade at midday in the height of summer. The arbour in the bottom corner is great for morning coffee from spring through to late autumn and provides a different view across the garden to a small water feature. The paved circle faces west and is perfect for catching the evening rays (with a glass of wine of course). 

I should mention that I have a ‘thing’ about seating areas  and it is hard to think of a design I’ve done in the last few years that doesn’t involve an arbour, summerhouse or attractive garden bench of some description. Often there’s a piece of much loved furniture that works perfectly, but if not I always tell clients that if funds permit it is worth investing in a quality piece of garden furniture in the same way as you would for the home. That way you get years of enjoyment with very little maintenance and something that is perfect for you. My dream is to own a Sitting Spiritually Garden Swing Seat and as I’ve got a big birthday coming up I’ve been dropping hints to Mr M!

The great thing about having different seating areas is that they can have multiple uses. In small gardens privacy can be a real issue and when I ask new clients what they like and don’t like about their current gardens, one of the main concerns raised is always privacy. Everyone wants to enjoy their outdoor room with the same sense of comfort that they feel inside their house.  Feeling overlooked can put people off sitting outside and making the most of the garden. The benefit of an arbour or pergola, particularly when it is used as a vehicle for climbing (and ideally scented plants), is that it creates privacy beautifully, whist being a focal point for the garden in its own right. My own arbour is home to a rampant Jasminium officinale and also the beautiful Clematis viticella ‘Madame Julia Correvon’; whilst my west facing seating area is backed by trellis supports a Hydrangea petiolaris and Clematis that flower in spring and summer.     

And as to one of the biggest advantages of a north facing plot ……..  an old tree was removed from the bottom of my garden earlier this year and it has created a wonderful space for a new perennial border. As this border is south facing (unlike the view from the house) it gets sun throughout the day and is ideal for all those sun loving plants I’ve always wanted to grow. Happy days!

Verbena Bonariensis Lollipop
Aster Veilchenkonigen
Lavender Hidcote
Clem Mme Julia C

With many thanks to Alison Moore

Renaissance Garden Design

0161 973 1224 or 07412 288929

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Posted by Siobhan on November 22nd 2018

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