Love What You've Got; John Dunthorne's Winning, North-East-Facing Garden Puts Others in the Shade

The Evening Standard (London, England), June 21, 2006 | Go to article overview

Love What You've Got; John Dunthorne's Winning, North-East-Facing Garden Puts Others in the Shade


Byline: PATTIE BARRON

GARDENING in London is all about making the most of what you've got, not yearning for what you do not have. These are the wise words of architect John Dunthorne, who, when he moved to his home in Wandsworth 20 years ago with wife Maggie, and two children, saw its long, thin north-eastfacing garden as an interesting challenge.

He rose to that challenge to produce a handsome family garden landscaped with reclaimed materials and packed with a wide mix of predominantly foliage plants, which last year won the couple the Homes & Property/John Lewis Finest London Garden competition.

"It's a myth that a south-facing garden is the bees' knees," says Dunthorne.

"What we get here is dappled shade, which is so pretty. And through the years we've discovered that a lot of plants don't need much sun.

"There is always an interesting view from the house because the sun highlights different sections of the garden as it travels down its length through the day. You never get bored."

What helps chase away any sense of ennui, too, is the way he has divided up the space, breaking the usual relentless sweep down the garden with a circular terrace at the near end, and echoing the shape by broadening the lawn at the far end, so not everything is slap-bang on show from the house.

As an architect, it is second nature to him to relate the garden's proportions to that of the house.

"The house is Victorian, and conventionally tall and quite narrow, so it was important not to have a garden that went the same way.

Instead, I've made different shapes and levels through the garden to provide a contrast and divert the eye," he says. Another diversion is a spectacular fruiting cordyline near the house that started as a small plant bought from a Norfolk garden centre and is now a seven metre-high evergreen tree, and growing.

"Because it has several branches that grow from the base, the huge clumps of foliage at different levels also help to break up the height of the house," explains Dunthorne.

The old garden - basically a dumping ground with parking cones and scrubby lawn, plus a trio of pear trees - sloped gently towards the house. Three steps from the terrace up to the lawn made all the difference, and, as well as some soil-shifting, gave them completely flat planes in the garden.

The Dunthornes built the circular terrace themselves - John laid it out, Maggie did the pointing - from London stock brick left over from internal alterations to the house. …

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