Victorian Front Gardens – North London

Understated elegance typifies the best Victorian front gardens whether large or small.  Mosaic tiles on a path or porch can be given a contemporary look using greys and blues.  Rope edging or traditional setts along paths and borders are sympathetic to the period and new railings in Victorian style echo days gone by.

Victorian front gardens: dark grey setts, steps and granite planters against mellow yellow Victorian brickworkk

Elegant contrast : dark grey setts, steps and granite planters against mellow yellow brickwork

Victorian Front Gardens – Whetstone

Here the mellow yellow bricks of the large Victorian house are contrasted with greys. The geometry of the bay window is echoed in the border shapes which are edged in basalt setts.  Smart new basalt steps lead to the Victorian tiled porch.  The tile pattern is a twist on a traditional style using shades of grey, black and white.

Victorian front gardens: tiled porch with basalt steps and granite planters

Dark grey basalt steps lead to Victorian tiled porch










Victorian Front Gardens – Stroud Green

Victorian front gardens: rope edging and dove grey pebbles

Victorian rope edging and dove grey pebbles with bespoke grey bin store

In this tiny garden, a lovely blue and grey tiled path leads to the front door.  I designed a neat bin store to fit the space. It blends in perfectly with its grey painted finish. The new Victorian- style railings have contemporary ball finials to add a touch of fun.  The old wall was re-shaped, rendered and painted and finished with stone copings.




All Victorian Front Gardens should have interesting plants as the Victorians were avid plant collectors.  A lollipop stem of flowering privet in a large planter with a small rope-edged border including penstemon and hebe gives evergreen interest in the small garden.  In the larger garden, grander borders include the architectural Aralia elata, winter flowering viburnums, holly and creamy roses. Holly balls on stems in granite planters frame the entrance. Tulipa ‘Claudia’ is a colourful addition in spring with narcissi.

Victorian Tiling, Setts and Pebbles

Victorian front gardens: tiled path in blues, grey and white

Victorian tiled path in blues, grey and white

Reproduction Victorian tiles in a variety of geometric shapes are available from specialist suppliers in a range of colours.  I designed the patterns for expert tilers to lay on prepared bases.  The basalt setts were laid and cut beautifully to curved shapes by experienced landscapers.  The gravel driveway has Scottish Atlantic pebbles over a honeycomb grid for strength. The dove grey pebbles in the small garden tone with the other greys in the garden.

Victorian front gardens: Basalt sett edging and Scottish Atlantic pebbles

Basalt sett edging detail and Scottish Atlantic pebbles

Contemporary Raised Planter and Bench Seat

The crisp lines of this contemporary raised planter with built-in bench seat are set-off by the stylish porcelain plank paving.  The subtle grey colours of the tiles are echoed in the seat and the privacy screen behind the planter.

Contemporary raised planter with built-in seat

Contemporary raised planter with built-in seat

Contemporary Raised Planter – Muswell Hill

The planter is constructed from blockwork which is rendered and painted.  It has a matching wall section behind it with painted slatted screens above the wall. The top and top inside edges of the planter are finished with porcelain planks to match the paving. These faces are easily cleaned to keep the contemporary raised planter looking good.


Built-in Bench Seat

Contemporary built-in bench seat

Buiilt-in bench seat profiled for comfort

The bench is constructed the same way as the planter and attached to it.  The wooden slats of the seat are gently angled for comfort and painted in the same colour as the screen.   The contemporary raised planter and bench feature adds height and interest to the garden. It is used often as a place to sit in the sun in this garden in Muswell Hill.




Sun-loving sage, other culinary herbs, lavender, Verbena ‘Lollipop’, and Achillea fill the planter with scent and colour.  Rosa ‘Compassion’ and a white passion flower will climb-up the wall and screen.  Opposite the planter, is a pebble bed with box balls and pink and violet-flowered penstemons, scabious, salvia, geraniums and gaura.

Pebble-bed in contemporary porcelain patio

Planted pebble bed complements porcelain plank paving

Paving and Pebbles

Porcelain wood-effect plank paving enhanced with sunlight and shadows

Porcelain wood-effect plank paving, enhanced with sunlight and shadows

Planks of grey wood-effect exterior porcelain tiles match the interior kitchen tiles.  The shadows and light on the tiles give a beautiful effect.  They are easily cleaned and are complemented with pink, grey and white flamingo pebbles around the edges of the paved areas and in the pebble bed.

Smooth Curves for Garden Interest

Long, smooth curves sweep along the lawn to a curved patio to provide garden interest with the creation of different spaces. The elegant curves allow some deeper borders in a narrow garden and make it feel wider.

Stepping stones emphasise long smooth lawn curve

Long smooth curves make an elegant lawn shape

Smooth Curves – Tottenham

The lawn shape is assymetric and striking.  It includes a circular area to give a feeling of width. Stepping stones along one side of the lawn emphasise its shape and provide a convenient path to the patio. The shape of the curved patio is a  compressed version of the lawn shape.   Overall, the smooth curves give interest to the fairly narrow, rectangular shape of the garden.



Patio shape echoes the smooth curves of the lawn

Asymmetric patio shape echoes the smooth curves of the lawn


Different border shapes have different plants to suit the amount of sunshine in each.  The sunniest areas include French lavender, alliums, sea hollies and black lace elder with palest pink flowers .  Tall white foxgloves, dark delphiniums and roses flower in early summer.  Later, coneflowers, yellow Helianthemum ‘The Bishop’ and purple sedums bring more colour.

Curved Patio with Tumbled Sandstone Setts

Foxgloves, roses and French lavender by curved patio

In a shady area, near the painted shed, a lovely Japanese maple – Acer palmatum ‘Beni-hagoromo ‘ brings garden interest from spring to autumn.  Around it hellebores, ferns and a sedge grass give winter interest.

Tumbled sandstone setts in different shades complement the colourful planting

Tumbled sandstone setts in different shades complement the colourful planting


Tumbled sandstone setts with soft grey, pink and green tones bring a relaxed feel to this town garden in Tottenham, North London.   The tumbled finish gives a smoother, aged look to the paving. The setts are in mixed sizes and the largest size was used for the stepping stones.  The soft curves of the patio are easily achieved with the mixed sizes and smaller setts frame the shapes. The paving colours work well with the colourful planting.

Porcelain Terrace and Sunken Steps

Pale grey exterior tiles make a stunning porcelain terrace and sunken steps.  They work beautifully to set –off this lovely Victorian house. The elegant steps lead down to the lower patio which benefits from late afternoon sun.

Sunken porcelain steps

Sunken steps, tiled in pale grey porcelain.

Porcelain Terrace and Sunken Steps – Whetstone

Replacing a sheer rockery edge with steep steps down to a flat terraced area, this design uses gentle slopes and banked borders instead.  The new terrace is spacious with a barbecue and dining area. The steps are sunken into the lawn and are almost concealed by it.  The low step heights make them an easy path to the lower patio.  The rolling lawn also provides a place to play.

Large terrace with pale grey porcelain tiles

Porcelain tiled terrace with dining and barbecue area


Sunny free-draining banks are perfect for long stemmed Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’ and purple salvias.  In late spring, the star of the show is a pale yellow daisy – Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandaise’.  Sun-loving evergreen hebes provide year-round structure.  Grasses, herbs and pale yellow roses complement the scheme.

Porcelain sunken steps with pale yellow daisies

Pale yellow daises in bloom either side of the sunken steps


Porcelain tiles match those in the kitchen area to give a seamless experience between inside and out.  Exterior tiles have an embossed surface to provide a good grip for walking.  Careful preparation of the base for the tiles is essential as are the right falls to avoid water collection.  Porcelain is impermeable and stainproof.  Maintenance is simple, needing only a wash with soapy water or a hose.  The sunken steps are paved in the same tiles to complete the elegant design.

Elegant, porcelain tiled steps, sunken into lawn

Elegant, porcelain tiled steps, sunken into lawn

Low Maintenance Patio Garden

Beautiful light beige sandstone and an area of artificial grass make this low maintenance patio garden feel more spacious. The small borders have plants that will climb up the boundaries to make it feel as green as possible. The square grey planters complete the neutral colour scheme.

Low maintenance patio garden

Patio garden with beige sandstone and artificial grass







Patio Garden – Stroud Green

Patio garden with small wisteria and painted sheds

Small wisteria and beige pebbles in border set off the soft greys and purple planting

This little family garden in Stroud Green was cluttered and overgrown. The simple new design uses soft grey and light beige  as a backdrop to purple and white planting. The fences and two little sheds are painted in grey and provide much needed storage.  A toy box doubles as a seat in the garden.  There is now room in this patio garden for dining and for play.




Plants for Patio Garden

Grey planters with lavenders and alliums

Lavender, alliums and climbing roses in planters

Even though the space is small, the square grey planters are large enough for white climbing roses, lavender and purple alliums.  On the shadier side, the planters contain hydrangeas with large white flower balls and purple clematis.  A small wisteria, will be trained like a tree to keep it neat. A climbing hydrangea and a white passion flower will also clothe the fences.





Paving for Patio Garden

Patio garden with beige sandstone paving

Beige sandstone patio and step

The beige sandstone for the paving and step is very smooth. It is sealed and laid to a gentle fall to avoid water collecting.  The paving size is large to increase the feeling of space. Beige pebbles in the plant borders complete this low maintenance patio garden.

Cedar Fence with Horizontal Boards

Cedar fence with smooth horizontal boards

Horizontal smooth cedar boards make a beautiful contemporary fence.

Long lasting, low maintenance and rather beautiful, a cedar fence can be a great solution for an attractive boundary.  The material is available in different sizes and finishes.  It can be installed using horizontal boards or upright boards to suit the garden style.





Planed Cedar Fence – East Finchley

Smooth cedar fence

Cedar boards are planed all round and the fence looks great on both sides

This cedar fence in East Finchley has horizontal boards of Western Red Cedar  ( species: Thuja plicata). The boards are planed all round so the fence looks smooth and really good on both sides.  In a small garden the horizontal boards give a feeling of length and width.




Cedar Fence Detail

cedar fence horizontal boards

Each cedar board has a different character

The posts are all planed for a smooth finish and planed trim boards cover the joints.  Each of the fence boards has a different character with a unique grain pattern and colour.  These ones are clear grade without knots and range in colour from a pale pinkish colour to a richer cedar colour. The wide boards have very small gaps between them for expansion and contraction.  The edges are profiled to close the gaps for privacy so it looks pretty much like a solid fence.




Cedar Fence Maintenance

Very little maintenance is required for Western Red Cedar.  It is a softwood native to the Pacific coast of British Columbia and has been used for thousands of years by the First Nations of Western Canada and North West America.  The picture shows a reconstruction of traditional homes at the UBC Museum of Anthropology.

Western red cedar used for centuries by First Nations

Western Red Cedar used for centuries by First Nations

The cedar is durable and naturally resistant to decay.   It is generally recommended that new wood is protected with a clear breathable sealant.  Thereafter, the wood can be allowed to weather slowly to a silvery grey without any further treatment.  Alternatively, to preserve the cedar colour, an oil would need to be applied annually.

Millstone Water Feature

Millstone Water Feature – East Finchley

Millstone Water Feature

Water cascade over antique millstone

A millstone water feature provides a focal point in a courtyard garden or entrance area. Water flows through the centre and cascades gently bringing a sense of calm.  Once used for crushing grain into flour, the antique millstone links history to this garden in East Finchley. With garden lighting, the water feature looks great at night too.



The Millstone

Millstone Water Feature 19th century millstone

Lichen on weathered red sandstone, the millstone for the water feature

This red sandstone millstone spent its working life in the 19th century in a mill in Cumbria. Since being discarded in the countryside, it became very weathered with lichen.  In its new life as a millstone water feature, the lichen pattern will change as the water flow creates a new micro-climate and local ecology. It all adds to the charm and changing interest of the water feature.




Waterworks and Lighting

Millstone Water Feature - Lighting

Beams from uplighters illuminate the millstone water feature

Water is pumped from a reservoir below the millstone. It flows through the hole in the top and then cascades gently over the sides. Stainless steel uplighters direct their beams on to the water.  The small fountain look likes a flame!  Grey slate paddlestones cover the waterworks and electric cables. My design makes it easy to remove the pump if needed.



Clay Paver Path and Seasonal Plants

Millstone Water Feature in island bed

Millstone water feature in island bed with paddlestones and plants

My garden design sits the millstone water feature in a larger island bed.  The clay paver path provides a route around the garden.  We completed the planting in November and it will fill out in 2016.  There is already some winter interest with evergreen tiarella, carex and ferns. The larger pheasants tail grass will give wonderful autumn colour into winter.  Spring and summer will bring soft seasonal colour with pink and white columbine, lilac day lilies, palest blue veronica and pink astrantia.

Living Wall

In the smallest of spaces, a green living wall creates instant impact.  It connects us to nature and gives us an ever-changing ‘plant painting’.  Just having a show of plants at close range provides a feeling of well-being and interest. 

Carpet of lush planting on living wall

Carpet of lush planting on living wall

Living Wall – Islington

Hanging on a sturdy metal-framed fence, this living wall is the outlook through beautiful new patio doors of a flat in Islington.  It uses rigid planting boxes with special substrate and an automatic irrigation system.  It is very easy to maintain.

Planting in progress, shows troughs of living wall

Planting in progress, shows troughs of living wall







I thought of the planting design as a green textured carpet with a simple flowing pattern of plum heucheras and green Heucherella ‘Tapestry’ which has lovely dark markings.  The strappy leaves of liriope give an extra dimension and flutter in the breeze.  The fern, Polystichum blepharum provides a dark green backdrop of glossy leaves.

Most of the planting is evergreen so that the living wall looks good all year.   The lower levels get very little sunlight, so shade loving plants are used.   Flowering interest is provided by delicate pink and white plumes from the heuchera and heucherella,  blue flowers of ajuga and Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and white flowers of the silver cascading Convulvulus cneorum.    As the plants grow, the living wall will be completely covered with foliage.

Detail of planting in the living wall

Ferns and liriope add texture, pale pink flowers of heucherella add interest.

Rock and Gravel Garden Feature

Sloping seaside gardens provide the opportunity to include a rock and gravel garden feature.   This cottage garden by the sea in Ventry, Kerry, Ireland, includes species plants which are close cousins to those that occur naturally.   The rocks are mainly local sandstone with a few with white quartz.

Slope for Rock and Gravel Garden

The previous garden had an irregular sloping lawn. The garden was re-landscaped to have a gently sloping lawn and a steeper but even slope for the rock and gravel garden feature.   We took care to arrange the rocks in a natural way and use them to retain pea shingle.   Moisture retention is crucial with drying salt winds and sandy soil . The pea shingle is therefore laid over geotextile to provide a mulch and weed barrier for low maintenance.

Rock and Gravel Garden

Local rocks arranged with pea shingle and marine plants

Plants for Seaside Rock and Gravel Garden

We chose Eryngium planum (tall blue sea-holly), silene schafta ( pink sea campion), armeria maritima ( sea thrift), different thymes, lavender and stipa tenuissima as the main plants.   It gives a lively and natural feel to the rock and gravel feature. They are all salt tolerant and low maintenance.

Lavender, grasses and sea holly

Lavender sets off the rock garden below.

Colourful Planting-Front Garden

Using a colourful planting design makes for a welcoming front garden that gives pleasure every time someone walks to the front door! Here in Hampstead Garden Suburb we abandoned the less attractive main area of lawn and what a difference it’s made!

Hampstead Garden Suburb Front Garden

The garden looks much better with less lawn

Colourful planting links the two sides of the front garden

Uninteresting front lawn

The uninteresting front lawn – as was.

The new planted bed is surrounded by a narrow gravel path. This sets off the colourful planting and makes access for maintenance very easy.   The lawn to the other side of the path has been retained and has a small planting bed to echo the larger one.




Surprisingly, there is less maintenance in looking after the plants than a lawn which needs cutting every week as well as feeding and weeding to look good.  The plants just need the spent flower heads removed to prolong the colourful planting. Weeds are suppressed as the planting takes over.



Evergreens for year round presence

Ferns, hebe rakaiensis, Lavandula Dutch Group   (silvery foliage, long very fragrant flowers) and Heuchera ‘Tapestry’  (marbled leaves, pale pink foamy flowers)  provide year round interest in the front garden.

Hebe and lavender with colourful planting

Hebe and lavender provide evergreen structure.












Lilacs, purples and pinks

Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ ( silver leaf and tall lilac spires) ,  Veronicastrum  sibiricum (tall with fingers of lilac spires), Rosa bonica (soft pink clusters all summer), Verbena bonariensis (tiny purple flowers on airy stems) provide softness at different heights.  And its great for honey bees!

Veronicastrum sibericum attracting the bees,

Tall veronicastrum buzzing with bees









Magenta Penstemmon

Penstemmon ‘Garnet’ has beautiful magenta foxglove-like flowers.  The blooms appear over several months so give colourful planting over a long period.

Magenta penstemmons and white hydrangea

Garnet penstemmons give vibrant colour










White Hydrangeas

The mops of white hydrangeas are elegant and stunning in their own right.  White Geranium sanguineum and Gaura lindheimeri add further whiteness to provide contrast in the planting design.

New colourful planting

Why keep a lawn in the front garden when you could have this colourful planting instead?