Design special: A tale of two gardens



From a suburban haven in Fife to a city sanctuary in Edinburgh, experts show what it takes to create lush gardens – no matter where you stay

words Miriam Methuen-Jones photography Coppermango Photography and Carolyn Grohmann 

Gardens in suburbia

BRIEF Redesigning gardens with an emphasis on low maintenance and year-round interest

BUDGET £22,000, including driveway

DESIGN Lempsink Garden Design

LANDSCAPER Dave Dunn of Concept Landscaping

This was an interesting project from the start,” says Lisa Lempsink, who devised the first of our two gardens: a handsome plot in Fife. “The house was designed by the architect Michael Laird and built in the early 1950s.”

The front garden, in contrast, was a complete blank canvas, with lots of open space and an oddly shaped lawn. Despite this, Lisa could see the potential for something special.

Both gardens are beautiful in their own way -we'd say that this one's beauty comes from the varying textured grasses.
In suburbia, Fife: Planting includes Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’, Hydrangea paniculata ‘Great Star’, Fuchsia ‘Alice Hoffman’ and the bright red Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’.

Lisa started by creating a perfect circle as the central feature, with the driveway curving around it. The circle encompasses an impressive 240 square metres – a generous area, which might have seemed daunting to fill in most gardens.

Happily, the unusual house supplied plenty of inspiration and Lisa allowed its style to guide her scheme. A repeated geometric pattern was formed with the planting, keeping things cohesive and pleasing to the eye.

I used a plentiful mix of ornamental grasses and flowering shrubs to ensure there is colour, structure and interest all year.

The planting on both sides of the circle is broken up by sandstone pavers and sections of lawn, which add interest to minimal gardens. Global Stone sandstone paving was chosen, with complementary granite setts used to divide up areas of gravel. Metal edging separates the lawn and the soil borders.

“All gardens change over time – that’s the nature of the beast,” says Lisa. “Some plants will do better than others due to a range of factors, and the odd one or two may be replaced over time. Weather conditions affect what thrives, but things can change organically year to year.”

The resulting front garden is more than worthy of the impressive house it frames. The patchwork of grasses feels relaxed and organic, providing some serious kerb appeal.

City Slicker

BRIEF To give the garden a fresh start, including getting rid of the lawn, while maintaining an access route to the gate at the far end

DESIGN Secret Gardens Design

LANDSCAPER Faodail Landscapes

The second of the gardens is this back garden in central Edinburgh. It has had a delightful transformation, going from a space with a poorly draining lawn to a varied and lush haven.

You don't see a lot of gardens like this in the city! A small pond is framed by flowers of white, red and purple. Beautiful!
City slicker, Edinburgh: Wildlife-friendly and colourful blooms make this garden sing, and no lawn means weekly maintenance isn’t necessary. Planting includes geraniums (‘Rozanne’ and ‘Dreamland’), Hakonechloa macra ‘Nicolas’, and Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosi’.

“At so many properties in the New Town, the rear gardens were never intended to be ornamental or beautiful; they were meant to be simple drying greens,” explains Carolyn Grohmann of Secret Gardens Design. “However, the handsome stone walls frame the gardens, creating sheltered, often warm, outdoor spaces that lend themselves to interesting designs.”

Handsome stone walls frame the gardens, creating sheltered, often warm, outdoor spaces that lend themselves to interesting designs.

This rear garden spans the width of the townhouse, but gets narrower the further you go from the back door. There’s a gate there at the far end that the owners needed access to, as this is the route they use to take their dog out for walks.

“The clients also wanted to be able to use the garden in the evening after work, and have a fire pit to extend their enjoyment once the sun has disappeared.”

The prettiest of back gardens! Featuring interesting winding decking and beautiful weeping willows.
City slicker, Edinburgh: The curved sculptural wall/bench surrounds the Kadai fire bowl. “The garden is a very restful place to be. You can hear the hum of the city, but are not disturbed by it.”

Carolyn ditched the lawn but kept the weeping willow; it’s a moisture-grabber but it’s beautiful and provides essential privacy, which a lot of gardens can sadly lack. A colourful border was planted near the house; this area gets plenty of light and the soil is good. A display of tulips pops up beneath the kitchen window in spring.

A conversation area was created beneath the willow using a curved bench made from the same stone as the house and walls. “The bench seat was created by Michaela Huber, a master furniture-maker in Midlothian,” says Carolyn.

Sections of heart oak are formed with a convex top, so rainwater is shed easily.

A boardwalk made of Millboard decking ambles through herbaceous planting (appearing to float above it in places), following the path of sunlight. It’s a practical touch that adds another layer of richness to the garden.

Read the full interview in the May & June edition of Homes & Interiors Scotland! Buy your copy here.

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