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Garden Visit: A Verdant Courtyard in Lithuania

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Garden Visit: A Verdant Courtyard in Lithuania

April 11, 2023

We are big fans of the elegant designs of London-based Ula Maria Studio that combine sensitive and pitch-perfect planting schemes with precise and stylish landscaping. One of her recently hatched projects took her back home to Lithuania, where she has devised a courtyard garden for a school friend’s newly converted event space, Vynvytis Studio.

The former paper factory’s structure created a protected courtyard space and the brief, says Ula, was to create something quite naturalistic, slightly wild and with a nostalgic feel: “It’s also a play of contrasts between the contemporary but also something quite old and characterful and bridging the gap between those two worlds. Something that looks quite effortless, but also has a lot of character.”

Photography by Dovalde Butenaite, unless otherwise noted.

Above: Young Amelanchier canadensis trees frame a place to sit.

The industrial building has been softened with verdant borders that are full of movement, thanks to big-leafed plants and statement multi-stem trees. The soothing scheme features lots of lush foliage plants: “We’ve used some of the more traditional and—some may say—more old-fashioned garden plants such as big leaf hostas and then mixed them up with ornamental grasses such as Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldschleier’ to play on that contrast between old and new.”

Above: Areas of gravel in between pavers allow plants to seed over time.

Foliage plants create interesting vignettes in all directions; big leaved Petasites hybridus, hostas, and textural ferns are contrasted with delicate Astrantia maxima and Digitalis grandiflora. Elsewhere glossy, evergreen sarcococca, with its delicious winter-scent, is clipped along with a Taxus baccata hedge.

Lower down, the sublime palmate leaves and zingy flowers of Alchemilla mollis—a key plant in the garden—blurring the edges of the hardscaping. During the building, work paths were made with poured concrete but these were later softened by Ula with self-binding gravel, which would allow some self-seeding to happen, further softening the strong lines of the garden.

“The architecture is really imposing so we were trying to make the space seem as soft and green as possible,” says Ula of the former factory’s strong vertical lines. Virginia creeper (the studio was named after the vigorous climber) is rapidly clambering up the walls, providing a verdant backdrop in summer and a fiery autumn display.

Above: Airy Gaura lindheimeri will flower prolifically through summer and right up until the first frosts.
Above: Multi-stem birch trees bring structure and plenty of visual interest.

Similarly a Betula nigra multi-stem tree—with its beautiful peeling bark—plays to the building’s origin as a paper factory. The tree also creates dappled shade over the planting below. Elsewhere multi-stem Amelanchier canadensis are underplanted with Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Alchemilla mollis. The tree’s stunning white blossom in spring, is followed by green foliage in summer and finally a gorgeous autumn color with rich copper, yellows, and pinks in autumn.

Above: Two years in and the Virginia creeper scrambles up the tall walls. Photograph by Lukas Mykolaitis.
Above: Delicate Deschampsia softens the planting scheme and catches the light beautifully. Photograph by Sarune Zurba.

The biggest challenges in the space was sourcing plants, many of which were not as widely available or as common as they are in England, but also creating the plant combinations that could thrive in shade. But with clients who are also good friends, they’ve found an easy compromise. “They just said, ‘Just do what you do, we trust your vision,’ ” says Ula.

Above: Shady corners are lit with the lime flowers of Alchemilla mollis and Astrantia maxima. Photograph by Sarune Zurba.

See more of Ula Maria’s work @ulamariastudio.

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