Designer Chris Moss has used his own garden in Stockwell, south London, as a mood board. A dark and bright combination works so well here that he shows clients round to persuade them of the logic of black.
Photography by Marcus Harpur.
Above: Steps of painted concrete with brick lead from the area by the back door up to the garden proper. The stairs are a focal point in themselves and support tubs of salad leaves and tumbling tomatoes in summer. The tree fern also adds to the sense that this lower part of the garden is not just a preamble for the rest.
Shaded by the back of the house and neighboring walls, these areas can be dark and problematic. Chris has turned this around by applying a fairly strict design aesthetic. “I knew that I wanted to add the dark tones of black and gray early on,” he says. “This complemented the changes I was making in the house, which is mainly gray and white.”
Above: The layout from upstairs reveals a typical long and narrow London terrace garden. The view from ground level tells a different story.
Accepted wisdom says that one should wait a year when acquiring a new garden, to see what is actually in there, while avoiding rash decisions. “I played around adding some flower and vegetable beds in the first year,” says Chris, who was never going to just sit and watch. “But I knew straight away that I wanted a curving path that swept through the garden to make it feel wider.”
Above: The restrained palette is matched by a hierarchy of materials, offset by geometric structure. And yet there is vitality, taking it beyond the design laboratory. Salad leaves grow in galvanized pails, and the gray pots for box balls are widely available, made from fiberglass.
Above: Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Alba’ dominates this area, with white nicotiana, purple salvia, and Verbena bonariensis and yellow Patrinia scabiosifolia.
Above: a deep tub made of reclaimed rubber raises a colony of sempervivums off the ground; the gravel at ground level is repeated in the pot.
Above: Chris reacted to the space he found, which was essentially a lawned rectangle surrounded by walls. One length of the garden is more shady than the other and has been planted with an exuberant wavy hedge of box, against a further hedge of beech. Vegetables and densely packed perennials thrive in the sun on the other side of the path.
Above: Neither black nor gray, but complementing the London brick. An aged bench and collection of terra cotta give a relaxed feel further back in the garden.
Above: Outside the kitchen door, a place to eat. Typically these subterranean spaces are dark and hemmed in, with a feeling that something more interesting is going on above eye level. Chris has integrated this area into the bigger garden by widening the steps and considering the view from the table.
Above: No unraveled hoses or sacks of rubbish here, thank you. The below stairs entrance from the side gate creates a black and green vignette. “Up until now it has been difficult persuading clients to go along with these dark colors,” says Chris. “But once they’ve seen pictures or visited the garden, they can understand how the greens look so vivid against a dark background.”
For more black inspiration for the garden, In the Garden with Philippa: Brit Style with a Black Backdrop.