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TheVillage Gardening

Eco house fruition

Posted on November 20 2012 at 2:48:11 0 comments

Bridge to front door

Hannah Genders completes her work on a major garden design project in Lyme Regis.

I can’t believe it is the end of another year, and for me it is also the end of a large eco house project I’ve been involved with over the last two years.

The new eco house and garden have been built in Lyme Regis, a lovely seaside town on the Dorset coast, and, fortunately for me, right by the Devon border near where my dad lives. So I have managed to combine visiting the site, designing and planting with visiting family.

I have done a number of these projects now, working with Baufritz, a German company who build high tech bespoke eco houses in the UK that are very low carbon, sustainable and built with only natural materials.

I was first commissioned to do the design work on this project in the summer of 2010. The start of the project, working with the architect and clients, always involves doing a detailed evaluation of the site.

As you can see from the photos and sketches there was a massive slope to work with – in fact the whole site on this project drops five metres from the top gate on the road to the lower garden. Although this is a challenge it also provides a very exciting opportunity to make the most of the wonderful views across the bay and out to sea.

The house position is actually very sheltered, which is great because strong salty winds can be a real problem when planting a garden on the coast.

The orientation of the house is south and west at the back, which is a very important factor for an eco property, providing maximum solar gain to warm the back of the house, and roof space for solar thermal to heat hot water and photovoltaics to produce electricity.

The grey water runoff from any roof space is also used in the house to flush toilets and in the garden to irrigate plants.

When coming up with the initial design, all these factors need to be considered along with a complimentary scheme to echo the look of the house and provide a seamless inside-outside space. The garden and house design are then submitted for planning permission, and we waited several months before we knew ours had passed.

The style of the house at Lyme is very modern, with clean lines and flat roof spaces. We tend to be nervous of flat roofs in the UK but if they are done well they can, as in this case, provide balcony spaces and a green roof with views right out to sea.

My garden design echoes these factors – I drew up a plan with very clean lines and strong features, softened by planting. The clients wanted one continuous path down the side of the property without steps for pushing wheelbarrows etc, which we managed but it was quite a feat on such a slope.

The open terrace at the back of the house is finished in cut Portland stone, a local product from a Dorset quarry which provides the clean, modern feel to echo the house interior.

Double doors open back into the walls and provide inside-outside space in the summer for the ground floor. A glass walkway to the front door allows for a secret courtyard area to the lower ground floor.

The border above this space needed planting and I wanted to give some screening from the garden without completely blocking the view. This was provided by a border of ornamental grasses and perennials like Stipa gigantica and Vebena bonariensis which allow a view through but give texture and a softness to the path and walls.

On my last visit I also planted two hundred mixed allium bulbs in this border so it should look fabulous next year.

The sloping path runs down the right hand side of the garden, through an area of “jungle” planting, with tree ferns and tropical foliage for a dramatic effect. The back garden below the stone terrace has a formal, sloping lawn with a pond and paths around the edge constructed in resin-bonded gravel with a granite sett edging.

The bonded gravel is ideal in this situation; it works very well on a slope as the gravel is literally bonded in and doesn’t move, and it provides a clean, modern look without being harsh. The planted borders also help to soften the edges.

To screen the new build we planted an instant holly and hornbeam hedge. Putting it in during the winter, we were able to put plants in at 1.5m (5 feet) high, with some wild roses for flower colour during the summer.

For the bottom boundary above the fence line we planted pleached hornbeams – this is like a hedge on stilts, with a six foot clear stem on the plants. It provides instant cover and when grown as a continuous line of foliage it will look fabulous and very classic.

The sunny bank is planted with a mixture of Phormiums, rosemary and Fescue grasses, all plants that love this environment and ideal in a seaside location.

I possibly have one more visit to do just to fill in the last few gaps, and then I will return in the spring with a photographer to see it at its peak.


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