We were commissioned to redo the landscape design of the communal areas of this residential development in Barnes, creating a high-end look for the apartments and harmonising the design to the larger environment, which includes adjacent Barnes Common. The client felt the existing landscape design executed by the main contractor looked unfinished and spare. Potential buyers thought the area looked more suited to serviced offices than an upmarket residential development they want to live in. The client brief was to soften the design and better integrate it with surrounding greenery of Barnes Common, which is a high selling point for the development.
After several site visits with both the owner and sales consultants, The Garden Builders awarded the task of uniting the apartment blocks with the common land via a cohesive Landscape design. We started by looked at planting that worked both locally and naturally to form the perimeters, this was critical in tying the perimeters in with the Common but also to make the site perimeters secure AND make the development stand out albeit discreetly. We chose an industry staple Prunus laurocerasus 'Rotundifolia' as the main perimeter hedge. Simply, it just worked with the surrounds and discreetly de-marked the boundaries of the development. We sourced these direct from Europe at a height taller than required so we could complete a light trim onsite to retain a reasonably natural but neat form to an approx finished height of between 1.8-1.9m above surrounding ground levels. So externally the Laurel could be allowed to grow naturally, internally it can be lightly pruned to look neat and un-invasive.
Internally we needed to provide a natural solution that formed boundaries to each ground floor apartment, this being part of the planning consent for the development, no walls, no fencing. We wrestled with different hedges for each apartment, a combination of deciduous and evergreen, but ultimately chose one evergreen variety namely Prunus lusitanica 'Angustifolia' for all the apartments. This we felt ticked every box, yes it's been done before but from an owners perspective they meant effective, immediate screening and privacy. Medium growing speed and good to establish, as well as being evergreen, attractive and a good contrast to the Laurel perimeter hedging. This we sourced from Europe to a height of approx 1.75m and were neatly clipped onsite to a finished height of 1.45m above ground. This resulted in privacy but the lower height meant the hedge didn't affect light levels into the apartments later on, individual owners could allow the hedge to grow or not!
As well as integration with the surrounds a certain amount of sound proofing was required. A natural tree-lined bank formed a barrier between the busy Gypsy Lane and the development, but the clients personal bug-bear was to try and screen/sound proof the road. As well as a line of Laurels, we planted the bank with mature 50-100L specimens of: Mahonia japonica, Hedera helix, Rhododendron 'Roseum elegans' and larger shrub forms of Prunus laurocerasus 'rotundifolia' 200L containers. The above was planted under and around the existing mature tree-line so as to look naturalistic and work with the trees to form a natural screen and sound barrier, we were very careful to plant with tree roots and canopies in mind so that the new and old did not compete too much.
Within the boundary we needed to position accent, focal trees that both provided screens and a focus to communal areas. After much deliberation and 3D mock ups we chose Ilex 'Nellie Stevens' these helped to screen the nearby railway signage and provided a central focal point for the seating area. These being large 6m, 30-40cm girth trees needed suitable securing. So we discussed our requirements with Platypus tree anchoring systems and used the appropriate under-ground kit system. Tree pits were designed to be deep enough but not too deep, 600mm wider than the root-ball, lined where required with suitable root barriers. As back fill we re-used as much as possible the existing site top soil, mixed with horticultural grits and additional top-soil mixed with 20% organic matter. Tree were then watered daily and soil levels topped up until settlement, (this would be an on-going maintenance requirement).
The communal seating area was proposed by us as a permanent solution to re-develop a redundant bark-chipped area, between apartment blocks. We came up with a simple twist on a knot garden by re-using the best of the box hedging, (previously used by the main contractor as the 'wrong' hedging for the apartments) and planting these into blocks and then clipping tightly to form textured blocks. In between we constructed pathways and potential seating spaces using an Imported Sandstone to match the apartment terraces previously installed. We suggested as a final finishing touch to supply seating cubes of seasoned Oak or Cedar. We under-planted the tree with seasonal bedding (currently Winter Cyclamens) and then used the laurels to form a wall to make more private and soften the communal bin-store building. As we were brought in at a late stage, irrigation was impossible to be integrated into the planting, hence some of our choices of planting as well. We have submitted a maintenance, after- care proposal that we hope we will be awarded in the future, (currently the owner is