top of page



This north-facing front garden began as just a flat, 5m by 4m gravelled space without appeal or purpose. The owner wanted a garden that was inviting and of interest both from the road and from the living room that looked out onto it. The client's deep aversion to net curtains meant that the front room was exposed to scrutiny from passers by.

The brief was to create a deep woodland feel, preferably from a warmer climate, with a water feature and a multi-textural planting scheme. Some form of screening was desirable to give more privacy without blocking out light.


Design & Planting


I decided with this garden to juxtapose big and bold with small and detailed. Due to its north facing aspect I decided to use a number of large Dicksonia Antarctica to frame the window and provide indirect screening with their big leaves. Further out in the garden I used a Worcester black pear to continue the illusion of canopy. The use of two tall, delicately arching bamboos (Phyllostachys bissetti) added to the canopy effect and provided screening for the front room, ensuring more privacy. 

A number of pieces of a large felled silver birch provided ground interest, and banking soil around them gave the impression of contours in the land as well as winter interest.  Two acers were included for both their colour changes throughout the year and winter structure. In the centre of the garden a shallow pond with a water spout trickling over and through volcanic rock provided sound and movement. This was in full view of the front room window but partially hidden by the abundance of foliage from passers by on the road, who often were seen peering into the garden to find the source of the sound.


Several ferns were used - a mixture of British natives and imported varieties: 

  • Dicksonia Antarctica: an evergreen tree fern native to eastern Australia, featuring slow-growing fibrous trunks made up of the old leaf stems tightly packed with Ariel roots. The huge fronds around 2m in length are born in flushes reminiscent of a shuttlecock fern in mid spring. A very dramatic and lush addition to any garden.

  • Asplenium scolopendrium ‘crisatum’: an evergreen British native cultivar with a magnificent compact forming habit. The leaves are divided and curled/crumpled, giving this an exotic feel.

  • Dryopteris affinis ‘crispa gracilis’: this evergreen woodland plant grows throughout Europe and can even be found in northern Africa. A magnificent small congested hard leafed fern with the added interest of golden scales on new growth which forms in rings throughout spring.

  • Dryopteris erythrosora: native to East Asia (Japan, China and the Philippines), this plant is semi evergreen in this country with large, broad bi-pinnate fronds up to 70cm long and 35cm wide. The bright copper tint on new leaves gives the garden an colourful boost at the beginning of the season and new leaves continue to appear into early summer before settling into a deeper green.

  • Cyrtomium fortumei ‘clivicola’: native to China and Japan, and slightly more compact than its parent plant. It was chosen in this instance to give a lighter, almost yellow-green colour contrast to surrounding plants.

  • Polistichum setiferum-divisilobum-group ‘herrenhauser’: this evergreen British native of large proportions was used in this garden to give a softer ground contrast to the Dicksonia Antartica canopy. The filigree-fine leaves have a pale, silky, tight curl at the end of each frond.

These, along with Hellebores, miniature hostas, and a host of small-scale bulbs, completed the feel of a small section of deep woodland inserted into a suburban front garden.

bottom of page