Paradise – A Garden Design Case Study

Deriving from the Persian, pairi-daeza, (or paradise) literally means “around walls”. Since the very origins of civilisation, the gardens created in these enclosed spaces have been regarded as places of refuge, beauty & meditation. Today, the desire to escape the demands of modern life and to renew our energy is stronger than ever and the need for gardens to be inward-looking, blocking out hectic and unsightly surroundings, is particularly relevant as outdoor urban and sub-urban spaces become smaller and in closer proximity to neighbouring properties & buildings.

A Sophisticated Retreat

Desire for enclosure

Here at Nicholsons, we have noticed within the Design Team that clients coming to us are just as likely to have issues with screening of surroundings, as to have lovely views of rolling fields to enjoy.  This was certainly the case in a recently completed project.

Client brief

Having styled the interior of her home to suit her own unique contemporary taste, our client found herself less than satisfied with the outdated garden that she looked out on every day. It was both overlooked by a new-build development and situated next to a not very attractive old BT telephone exchange building. In her own words, it made her rather depressed!

The brief was to create a gorgeous contemporary exterior garden that could be enjoyed throughout the year both from within the house and outside either on the terrace or sitting under the shade of statuesque umbrella trees. Surroundings were to be blocked out so that a sense of privacy and escape could be created.

A Sophisticated Retreat

Design solution

The answer was to use static geometry that keeps the eye with the space. A perfectly square lawn is the central focus that then lets the eye gently explore the surrounding elements. Hard landscaping provides a range of interesting textural contrasts, from the squares of shiny smooth black pebbles beneath the umbrella trees, through courser “black & white” margins, to the smooth cream finish of the stone terrace  The planting palette is deliberately limited to predominately greens, with the occasional extra seasonal highlight of blue Iris sibirica in the late Spring, voluptuous white Hydrangeas in Summer and the orangey/red colouration of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Yakushima Dwarf’ in the Autumn.

At night, the garden comes alive with lighting designed to accentuate the form of tall pots, standing like sentries on the flanks of the terrace, uplights catching the goblet-shaped canopies of Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ trees, and the energetic movement of a bubble fountain in a large Urbis bowl, throwing ever-changing dancing patterns across the extruded mosaic surface of the central feature wall.

Paradise - A Garden Design Case Study

Holistic view

The garden shows that to effectively screen neighbours and surroundings needs an holistic approach where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. There is no point just planting a conifer hedge along a boundary line, if it only serves to take the eye towards the boundaries even faster. All the features and elements need to work together to create their own synergy.  That is the power of an inward-looking garden. When you enter you are transported to a special place that defies written description. The atmosphere, or as Alexander Pope described it, the Genius loci, envelopes you to the point where external factors fade away both visually and emotionally.

Reaching out to our ancestors

Enclosed gardens are special places that reach back through time and let us connect with and feel some of the emotions experienced by our ancestors, ranging from the Palaces of Persia, to the Zen gardens of Japan, to the Cloistered Courtyards of monastic Medieval England.  These emotional responses provide continuity through the ages even though we may add a contemporary twist to the elements for our own times and needs. That is the real power of Garden Design and the reason why we never tire of creating beauty from and connecting with nature.


A Sophisticated Retreat

From an early age David has loved both gardening and graphic design. After leaving school it, therefore, seemed logical to combine these two passions and since graduating with a degree in Garden Design over 20 years ago David has both designed gardens and taught at private colleges. Working now for Nicholsons full time as a garden designer, David loves meeting a wide range of clients and designing beautiful gardens for them, tailored to their own tastes and specific needs.