An Urban Jungle in a Norwich Garden
- By Richard Walters
- 27 Nov 2019
Meeting the Clients
In 2017 I was approached by Clients in Norwich to produce an urban jungle garden design for their uninspiring city garden. Tsubi and Rich had just relocated to Norfolk and were keen on having an exciting and plant packed back garden. As you can see from the photos, the garden was little more than a dog run when they got there!
However, we all believed that the garden could be transformed into a wonderful area. The Clients were keen to offer me the design project and I was very pleased to accept the commission. This was to be a design only project, something I am quite happy with. About half of my projects are design only, while half usually include the garden build and installation. Tsubi was keen on doing the planting, whilst Rich was a keen hobby landscaper. I did supply the plants though (perennials from the wonderful Howard Nurseries), after Rich put in the basic structure of the garden. This was great as it gave me an excuse to see how things were going.
When designing a new garden I always advise keeping existing features and mature trees where possible. This gives the garden a sense of structure and permanence. In this case we were lucky to have an existing Cherry tree to work around. Had there not been one there, we would have certainly planted a couple of new small trees.
Planning the Garden
The garden was a challenging shape, measuring 16m long by under 4m wide. It had a gentle slope up towards the back of the garden. To start the plan I drew up the garden outline including the tree, existing house and outside path. After this I added in a generous decking area at the top of the garden. This included raised beds for the planting at the back. I also included a sunken bed for the formal water feature.
I then needed to add in a path from the house to the decking area. We felt that a straight path would be too dull for this garden, so designed it to dog leg around the tree. The path would be edged with railway sleepers and filled with compacted hoggin. The formal lines of the sturdy sleepers were designed to contrast with the overall informality of the jungle planting.
A space for a bike shed and pizza oven were included at the front end of the garden. There would be a trellis on either side of the compost bin for growing annual climbers. The bed for the salad vegetables was conveniently placed nearest to the house.
The proposed garden layout had to include a bike shed, compost bin, a pizza and space for wheelie bins!
Plants for an Urban Jungle
When we were happy with the basic structure of the new garden I started the detailed planting plan. The brief was clear – lots of large foliage plants with year round interest.
Trees and Shrubs
When I start even the smallest back garden design I usually start with a trees or two, where possible. However as we already had one sizeable tree we decided we didn’t need any more. Therefore I went straight into planning for the palms and shrubs. In order to maintain interest throughout the year I proposed evergreen shrubs including Sarcococca hookeriana, Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’, Fatsia ‘Spiders Web’ and Phormium ‘Evening Glow’. These have contrasting foliage which ensures drama and increased depth of vision. The large spiky leaves of the Mahonia, the smaller dark green Sarcococca foliage, the large rounded Fatsia leaves and the strappy fronds of the Phormium contrast wonderfully well together.
I proposed a Melianthus major (the Giant Honey Flower) on the sunnier side of the garden. This is a strikingly beautiful architectural foliage plant with deep lime green leaves. It can get knocked back in the hardest winters, although it will recover. In Tsubi and Rich’s sheltered Norwich garden it would do very well and, with luck, hopefully even flower.
Perennials, Ferns and Grasses
After the shrubs I started thinking about the plan for the perennials. As it was quite a shady garden, most of the plants were chosen for full to part shade. Again, I chose plants with large leaves and contrasting foliage colour and shape. Nearest to the fence I positioned tall foxgloves, Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum) and tall evergreen ferns (Dryopteris). In the sun and partial shade I proposed tall perennials such as Aquilegia and Campanula. I also included grasses such as Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and a Euphorbia characias wulfenii.
For lower underplanting I included smaller ferns such as Athyrium and Apleniums. A mix of different hostas give fantastic summer and autumn interest. Hellebores, liriopes and heuchera maintain interest right through the winter. I repeated different coloured grasses (Carex and Hakonechloa) to overflow the raised beds along the paths. Geraniums underplanted throughout ensured that there would be no soil showing. If you don’t like weeding, make sure you fill up your beds with plants!
Finally, the addition of climbers along the fences would ensure that the garden would be an immersive experience. An urban jungle in a small terrace garden, a really relaxing environment.
3D Garden Design
When I was confident that the planting plan was right I transposed this onto 3D software to check that it would work well. At this point I met up with Tsubi again to show here the plan. Luckily she was very enthusiastic and so, with a few tweaks, I could finalise the plan.
Play the clip below to see a flythrough of the garden design.
The Finished Garden, so far…
This summer I followed up with Tsubi and Rich to see how their garden was going and I was very impressed by how lovely it looked. They had followed my plans and worked really hard to make it look so wonderful. As you can see from the photos below, it looked really amazing. And, as Tsubi said, ‘so many bees and butterflies!’. They hadn’t quite finished it, but it wasn’t far off. I’ll certainly look forward to seeing what it looks like when it is.
I enjoyed working with Tsubi and Rich on this lovely back garden design to create an Urban Jungle in the middle of Norwich and they gave some lovely feedback on my Google.
“We employed Richards services as a garden designer in 2017. We have a challenging, long but narrow garden and we wanted many different things from it. After an initial consultation Richard presented us with drawings and a 3d walkthrough video. We were very happy with the results and after we had completed the hardscaping he was kind enough to have helped us to source the plants. 1 year in from starting the landscaping and we are delighted with the results and will post a picture once we’ve finished the pond and various other bits. Thanks Richard!“
Recommended Places to Visit
For ideas for your own wild garden you should visit the Urban Jungle garden centre where they have a great selection of tropical plants and more. Or for a completely immersive experience, the East Ruston Old Vicarage garden (on the Norfolk coast) is one of the top gardens in the UK.
Other Recent Projects
If you’re interested in considering having your own garden done, why not check out a few of my other projects below? I’m in the process of writing up a few of my favourite small garden designs, so keep an eye for more blogs coming up.
It’s great to see any comments you may have on these designs. Please do share with anyone who might be interested, that’s always much appreciated.
Contact me for your own Garden Design and Build
Would you like your own garden transformed into a Mediterranean style garden, or maybe you prefer a Classic English garden. Perhaps you prefer a contemporary Arts and Crafts garden, or maybe you have a shady garden or unsightly front garden.
Please contact me today for a consultation and quote whatever your garden requirements. Other inhouse skills include laying patios, steps, erecting pergolas, building raised beds and installing ponds and water features.
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