Garden Design – Esher Surrey KT10
Designer: Julian Sandell
P & A Ashbourne
Esher, Surrey, KT10
“Searching for a contemporary garden designer, we found Abstract Landscapes on the Internet and were immediately impressed with what we saw on their excellent website. Having met with Julian and established that he would be able to accept our project despite the inordinate daily commuting time he and his team would have to endure, we easily agreed on his design which incorporated all our preferences – natural stone flooring, no grass, water features, lighting, automatic irrigation… In short: An easy-care, secluded outdoor extension of our indoor living space which we could step into barefoot in summer and enjoy looking at from inside in winter. With meticulous preparation, unrelenting precision and sheer hard work day after day in all weathers, Julian with his team translated his beguiling vision into sublime reality. The quality of his limestone tiling alone is quite breathtaking. An industry expert who walked into the garden after it was completed and said simply it was the best he’d ever seen. We couldn’t agree more! In fact, we’re so happy with Julian’s quality of workmanship that he and his team are currently reworking our front garden and drive, too – and, yes, there’ll be some more great (but different) natural stone tiling, new hedges, new planter beds … Progress is so exciting, we’re really looking forward to seeing this second project completed soon, too. Summer can’t come soon enough for us now. Thank you, Julian!”
- 135m2 of Cream Limestone Paving
- Two Reflection Ponds With Stainless Steel Water Blades
- Planting Beds & Planting
- Low Voltage Stainless Steel Lighting System
- Irrigation System
The Esher Garden Design
“Without doubt this amazing garden is the largest and most technically demanding project we have undertaken, but it has been the meeting of these challenges, which has ultimately reaped enormous rewards for both the clients and ourselves.” – Designer: Julian Sandell, Abstract Landscapes Ltd
The brief from this charming couple was to create a contemporary outside space that flowed from and extended their newly refurbished interior. They requested that the whole area should be paved, with the exception of planting beds and the garden design should include ponds with moving water and lights to illuminate the various features and plants. They also expressed a love of clean modern design, where form and structure were as of equal importance as practical considerations.
The existing garden comprised a perfectly flat lawn, surrounded on three sides with a mix of tall beech and laurel hedging and a few shrubs and small trees set in beds against the hedges, making a very private and seemingly blank canvass to work with. But in reality, the garden could not have been more awkwardly shaped; an asymmetrical trapezium, which was pinched through the middle, at nearly 200m2. A huge area, compared to a typical London garden with a square or rectangular footprint of about 25-40m2.
With the clients wishing to pave the majority of the area, it was quite clear that only a creative design and the employment of high quality materials would adequately cope with the demands of the geometry, so after measuring up it was off to the drawing board to find the solutions.
Once the basic dimensions had been sketched, it soon occurred to me that whilst unusually shaped, the garden was in fact far from awkward. It positively lent itself towards a more abstract, geometric design, which I hoped would both capture the imagination of the clients visually and fulfil their requests for an area close to the kitchen where they could have breakfast, a central area which would function as an outdoor lounge and a third raised area for entertaining and dining.
You can see from the floor plan detailed below, how the asymmetry of both the back of the building and the garden itself has been used to help define the individual views and spaces required by the clients. Whilst there are two pools and two planting beds that cut into the lower terrace providing a degree of traditional symmetry, they have all been offset by the same degree as the rear walls of the building, creating different spaces, alternating from the left and right as you move from the house across the garden and up towards the back of the upper terrace. The dimensions of all of the features, including the pools and central planting beds, have been defined by ratios of the paving units, making things particularly pleasing to the eye. Yet a clinical feel has been avoided due to the inherent diagonal nature of the left and right hand boundaries, which has been accentuated by the chosen laying pattern.
Click on the floor plan below.
However, this “slavish” adherence to the geometry comes at a price. All of the structures, most notably the upper terrace and cascade pools have to be perfectly square and parallel to the back of the building, with distances calculated in units of the paving stones, including pointing gaps, to the exact millimetre. Without this accuracy, paving slabs would have to be cut to fit the structure, at best destroying the beauty in the perfection of whole pieces of limestone and at worst looking glaringly wrong, and with the surface of the water being right up against the tiled faces there would be absolutely no hiding from any inaccuracy in the levels.
This meant a very meticulous and time consuming process was required, laying out the geometry of the garden prior to construction with string lines and pins, with constant readjustments being made throughout the process, particularly after the nightly raids and destruction of our string lines by the local fox population.
I explained to the clients that it was therefore essential to choose a precisely sawn stone, with an exact calibrated thickness, so that we could cover the risers of the steps and the vertical faces around the upper terrace from which the water flowed into the two pools. After some detailed research they chose a beautiful white/cream limestone with a lightly sandblasted surface, which provided a perfect extension and tonal match for their interior ceramic flooring. Whilst white or light coloured paving can be a bit of a nightmare to keep clean, particularly when children and pets have access to wet lawns, once the paving is correctly sealed it will just need a good hose down every couple of weeks to keep pristine.
To provide contrasts to the white paving and define the borders and shapes within the garden, black/purple slate chippings were used to cover the planting beds, which surround the paving. Black pebbles were also placed in the bottom of the pools to complete the effect. The pools are to remain completely free from aquatic plants, because their purpose is to function as both reflection pools mirroring the planting in the beds of the upper terrace and to provide a reservoir for the stainless steel water blades which cascade into them, giving aural texture to this delightful space.
In terms of planting, a fairly monochromatic approach has been employed to complement the hard landscaping. Apart from the evergreen architectural plants, which include tree ferns, Phormiums, fan palms and olive trees, only white flowering plants have been employed. The two planting beds in the upper terrace, which over look the reflection pools and frame the dining area, contain my favourite Zantedeschia lily “Crowborough”. The two beds that come into the side of the pools from the left and right hand boundaries of the garden are cram full with ‘Snow Queen” Iris’s. There are tall winter flowering Camellias in the beds at the rear of the upper terrace and these are mixed with summer-long flowering Magnolia Grandifloras. With evergreen jasmines climbing around the corner of the main building from the side return, essentially there are white flowers present more or less all year round. However, this is not a garden devoid of colour, with many different hues present in the foliage of the architecturals, particularly within the leaves of the Phormiums, containing as they do pinks, reds, blues, yellows and oranges, as well as a myriad of greens shared with the afore mentioned ferns, olives and palms. With the addition of a concealed irrigation system, a lush, low maintenance oasis has been created.
A low voltage lighting system, utilizing stainless steel units, beautifully illuminates the planting and geometry of the garden, which coupled with the clients black rattan dinning furniture, stainless steel breakfast furniture, bespoke benches and sculptural pieces, adds a sense of timeless style to perfectly complement this clean contemporary garden design.