“A thoughtfully designed space, offering an individual solution to an unusual location.” This was the verdict of Society of Garden Designers' judges on Rosemary Coldstream's River Garden which won first prize in The Pocket Garden category (for spaces 100m2 or less) in the SGD's awards last January. Here at London Stone we're also feeling rather chuffed because Rosemary chose our Blue Grey Granite for the hard landscaping.
The River Garden was an awkward site: sloping down to the river and not very wide. Rosemary's clients wanted to make the most of both the space and the views of the water meadows on the opposite side of the water.
With the view as a focal point, Rosemary created gentle changes in level descending to the bank. This helped frame the view, especially with the geometric elements of her design, the strong horizontals of which maximised the width of the space.
“Very pleasing lines,” said the judges. Rosemary, who set up her practice in St Alban's in 2006, is influenced both by her upbringing in New Zealand, a country she describes as all about modern architecture and very forward thinking, and also by the sense of space encompassed by Oehme van Sweden's designs, the planting of Piet Oudolf and the designs of Tom Stuart Smith, Arne Maynard and Andy Sturgeon.
The ipe wood decking of the River Garden's lowest level, which creates a warm contrast with the granite, is cantilevered over the water to give the impression of a jetty and takes the large tree that already existed on the bank firmly within the design, by wrapping around the trunk. Here a curved seat makes the most of a late afternoon sunny spot for watching water and wildlife.
It wasn't altogether an easy job. Nature had her own ideas of what should happen in the months after the project got under way. “The weather was the biggest problem,” says Rosemary. “It was the winter of all the rain; water levels rose and delayed completion by about three or four months until the water level went down.” With an eye to the future, she took the precaution of raising the level of the decking by 150mm.
Blue Grey Granite paves the higher levels and clads the sides of raised beds, smoothing the distinction between horizontals and verticals and enhancing the feeling of space. Why Blue Grey Granite? “For its consistent colour and contemporary look,” says Rosemary. The owners of the property were keen to have a clean look to the exterior, to match the renovation to the inside of their house and its opening onto the garden through bi-fold doors. Granite also has the advantage of being extremely durable, maintaining its original colour, as well as being an economical choice. For the slab sizes she chose 600 x 900 mm. “The garden is five metres wide. I didn't want it to feel small and the rectangular slabs achieve the optical illusion of space.”
One final comment from the judges: “Interesting ideas, seamlessly executed.” Rosemary has already seen increased interest in her practice as a result of the award and we're thrilled that our natural stone paving contributed to such a stunning setting.