A garden for Coco

The brief

When I first visited this garden, it was an overgrown jungle with a majestic but dying Eucalyptus tree. The rest of the garden was a collection of random shrubs gone out of shape, a lot of them at the wrong place and struggling to thrive. Not much was worth keeping but equally the place had a lovely feel and the owners were nervous about starting from scratch and finding themselves in a bare, soul-less patch. The owner is a talented interior designer with an eye for detail and flair and we share a taste for understated design. She wanted a garden that had atmosphere, a sense of drama, but look effortlessly cool (very much like her house).

We discussed and agreed all the practicalities and her wishlist, and then before I headed back to the office, the owner mentioned Coco… her adorable spaniel.  Adorable, yes, but…prone to destroy any plant on her way, especially if she’s chasing squirrels and… the fox that is regularly visiting the garden!  So all of a sudden the garden had to be designed with Coco in mind, making sure that some sturdy plants and pots were placed in strategic places to force her onto the path and not have her trampling onto everything coming across her desire line.

What I did

I divided the garden in successive rooms: a very generous and comfortable lounge area, a dining room, a snug and a secret and hidden teenager hangout at the end of the garden behind an existing wall which we re-modelled and heightened.  Near the house, the lines are kept straight and clean, they then become more organic and blurry with increasingly dense and encroaching planting as we move deeper into the garden. The planting is bold and lush with a lot of evergreen architectural plants but it also includes many surprises and discoveries including some unusual and some more delicate plants. The foliage various tones and colours compliment the hard landscaping materials in the most subtle way if I may say so myself.  When you’re walking through the garden, it feels like everything is melting together. Ha, yummy!

I used some antique mirrors in strategic places, to create depth, bounce the light and introduce a sense of fun. Some antique pots were sourced as well and formed an integral part of the design (and part of our strategy to keep Coco off the planting). The garden furniture was also part of the design and both the owner and I were delighted when I came across a very unusual porcelain tile for the main patio. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for this project and I knew that my client would love it.  It complements perfectly the indoor polished concrete floor as well as adding character to a large patio that could have otherwise felt a bit stark.

The new garden looks and feels wonderful, and Coco has kept on the main path!  Photography: Alexandra Davies.