Despite the luxury of creating and working in other people’s gardens, London would be an impossible place to live if Dan Pearson didn’t have a garden of his own. His house in South East London, built in1860, has a 120 foot west facing garden, and is wider than usual at 35 feet due to a garage at the side of the property.
When Dan arrived in 1997 the garden had been neglected for the best part of ten years. The existing landscaping was dank and cramped, the fences lost in undergrowth, and the only indication of the former garden a collection of rampant shrubs and neglected roses.
The hard landscaping was rationalised to create a series of generous spaces for entertaining and relaxing. A large deck opens directly off the basement kitchen and is furnished with an integral bench and oversized pot containing a specimen Cercis tree. Cantilevered steps lead up to a dining terrace paved in black limestone, chosen to relate to the surrounding slate roofs and grey London skies. Black stemmed bamboo forms a hedge alongside this terrace, giving privacy from overlooking neighbours and an evergreen outlook in winter.
Ample space was left for both vegetable and ornamental gardening. Either side of the broken slate path are generous ornamental plantings, with a relaxed combination of perennials, grasses and shrubs, which combine colour, texture and scale to magical effect.
Two thirds of the way down the garden another deck provides a secluded private seating area. A group of silver-leaved coyote willow here creates a cool backdrop for a ‘hot’ planting of reds and oranges and screen the productive end of the garden where a fig tree, salad beds, herbs, strawberries and tomatoes provide produce for the kitchen.
For Dan his garden is an antidote to the frenetic pace and commotion of the city, and a place to experiment with plants and colour: an urban oasis that is both stimulating and restful, which works its magic without being challenging or making bold design statements.
Dan’s garden is the subject of his forthcoming book Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City.
Images © Howard Sooley
1997 - 2010
Client: 400 sq.m