The Awkward Shaped Plot

Cottage Garden

Innovation from necessity

Many plots, especially those of new builds, can be an unusual shape which doesn't seem to flow and this also can create a series of 'dead' spaces. This corner plot is no exception. It was originally a gate keeper's lodge and was later sold off from the main dwelling and the lodge extended. Whilst the views from the building were of lush fields and rolling hills, the dimensions of the garden were uncomfortable and didn't lend themselves to a natural layout.

The brief was for a Cottage style garden with an area to sit and enjoy the views and a small plot to grow some vegetables. In addition to this, the soil was extremely sandy and the neighbouring horses were prone to a nibble over the fence. The client also had a problem with rabbits. The hard landscaping was already in place.

Due to the different areas which were naturally created by dividing the land, the design also looked at the garden zonally also. You will notice there there is an element of the layout being ‘on the diagonal’ around the house. By this, we mean that the features and structure sits at a 45 or 135 degree angle from to the house. The effect of this is that the eye is constantly encouraged to take in the views but also it negates the dead space issue and makes the most of the available space. It also adds interest to what could otherwise be an overly simplified garden. 

On the left, the garden narrowed to a depth of 5 metres (15’). Previously a Betula (Birch) grew near the boundary. We usually resist demands for trees to be removed, not least because they add a maturity to a new garden and, much more importantly, because of their ecological significance. However, this specimen had been planted too deep and was weak; death sooner or later was inevitable. Furthermore, standing at approximately 5 metres from the left boundary, it massively reduced the usability of this area of the garden. Out it came.

The flow of this section of garden morphs from diagonal bias to a series of circles. Again, this style of layout aims to maximise the space and overcomes odd shapes and awkward angles. It also lent itself perfectly to to the Cottage garden design brief. A low informal hedge divides the space for additional interest. 

The small area of the garden immediately in front of the house was only 4 metres (12’) deep. The room of the house which immediately overlooks this area is a conservatory, i.e. the main purpose being to sit and look out, so any features or planting here risked having a runway effect where the client's view was blocked and they constantly looked left and right to engage in the garden visually. We didn’t want to fight with nature so left this section as lawn with post and rail fencing to minimise obtrusion. 

At the front of the house (the lowest point on the page) ran a private road; it had little use other than by the owners of the neighbouring property, but used it was. There was no privacy when we first arrived and so erecting a fence here was a logical solution. We positioned the rear gate so as to be in blind spot from the house. 

Finally, to the front on the other side of the house (bottom right), the existing hedge created a lovely boundary to the public road, although views from here were uninspiring. We installed a raised border so the plants could easily be appreciated from the window. Planting had an evergreen bias and also this was a small opportunity to use shade loving plants which would have struggled in all other areas of this south facing garden. 

In terms of the rabbits, there are a number of ways to reduce their impact. The most invasive means is to install rabbit wire around the perimeter and dig this below ground level by at least 600mm and even fold the lowest wire up and ‘out’ (i.e. away from the property). The other method is to grow plants which are less inviting, which is generally anything with a tough leaf and, finally, you may also wish to consider planting a small area outside the garden which is sacrificial.

The client was delighted with the final result and commented:

You have created a garden which I would not have thought of and introduced me to new plants

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