ISSUE 98  |  Hardscape The Easy Way

Design Sleuth: Town Garden in Stoke Newington, London

November 20, 2013 8:00 PM

BY Kendra Wilson

When we spotted this garden in London’s Stoke Newington, there was something reassuringly workable about it. As a design brief, it could be a template for the way we live now: small town garden with low-maintenance planting and year-round interest.

“This has become my trademark garden,” says Anna Wardrop of the eponymous garden design company. “It’s been very popular as it fits into the kind of space that many people have, plus it’s not expensive and uses good materials.” Let’s linger a minute:

Photographs via Anna Wardrop Garden Design except where noted.

Above: Anna is based in Dorset but many of her clients are town-dwellers. To address the requirement for “low-maintenance,” Anna uses paving instead of a handkerchief lawn and puts in oak sleepers which serve a dual purpose, as bench and raised bed. Untreated, they quickly age to the kind of gray that mingles very well with the other hard materials. 

Above: As a cheaper and less slippery alternative to Yorkstone paving, Anna uses Indian Raj Green Sandstone, available in the UK from Rock Unique for about £15 per square meter. For more information about untreated oak sleepers, see UK Oak.

Above: For a similar effect, Crab Orchard Sandstone in the US is hard-wearing and durable. Quarried from the Cumberland Plateau.

Above: People who do not want to spend loads of time gardening still need something to look at. Anna likes to use perennials which retain good leaf color after the flowers have faded. She also favors glossy evergreen foliage. Shown here: Hart’s tongue fern with Heuchera and Sarcococca, the latter having the double advantage of winter scent. Hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) from Fibrex Nurseries in the UK, £3.75 each. For US readers, Asplenium is available for $13 from Plant Delights, in season.

Plum slate is used as a shingly mulch. It comes in two other colors which are best avoided: “Green and blue are awful,” Anna assures us. “Plum is good.” Plum Slate Chippings from any good garden center in the UK or £2.30 per bag from Decorative Aggregates.

Above: In the raised beds, Anna relies on Agapanthus to provide more verticals and good foliage. She likes to use the self-seeding perennial Verbena bonariensis as it provides a tall wavy screen without taking up much ground space. Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ flowers around the same time (late summer) and is another favorite: both go on for months.

Unevenly shaped stones look more robust in exposed areas. Scottish Pebbles from Decorative Aggregates as before.

Above: Agapanthus ‘Lily-of-the-Nile’ is available from White Flower Farm, in season. For UK readers: White Agapanthus ‘Snowball’ is £12 from Burncoose.

Above: You can make your own diamond grid for training vines like the one in this north London garden by using inexpensive hardware. Try 3.75-inch-long stainless steel Lag Eye Bolts (Top) for $1.99 apiece; Stainless Steel Cable for $62 for a 125-foot roll, and Stainless Steel Turnbuckles for $24.05 for a package of ten; all available from Sears.

For more verticals in small backyards, see Design Sleuth: Vines as Espalier.