Award winning Wicklow garden

Fashionable front

garden in Wicklow

‘Relax, enjoy and soak up the sun’ was the caption that Austen Associates applied to the design for a small front garden in Wicklow town in the summer of 2007. That was around the same time that pop-star Rihanna had her hit-song “Umbrella” and ushered in the first of a series of wet summers that have all but killed-off the idea that a garden can be used for those traditional summer-time recreational activities of eating, sitting- out and sun-bathing.

Still, our somewhat optimistic design, weather-wise, has gone on to not only be a highly successful installation for our clients (even when it is raining), but also, in November 2009, it received an Award of Merit from the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland (ALCI) for gardens in the under €13,000 category (the contractor was Plants and Planters): the curved stone wall being a hit with the ALCI judges.

The design brief

What we found challenging about the brief for this design was the level of detail required and also that it all had to be packed in to such a small space (8m x 12m), 43m2 of which was given over to car parking. We also had to contend with quite a steep slope from front door to street level. The house itself is an understated beige-brick house at the end of a row of detached houses in the Church Hill estate in Wicklow town and was constructed in the early “noughties”. The existing garden had a car-parking space and a lawn with some groups of shrubs, but, otherwise, little else to commend it. The garden is NE facing, but, located in relatively mild Wicklow town.

The design brief included, amongst other things:
  • More space for pedestrians alongside the car parking area in order to improve access to the  front door.  Removal of concrete pathway and substitute with a more natural material.
  • Creation of a visual divide between the garden and the street, without making too severe a boundary.  The garden was open to the street but felt private as through traffic was absent.
  • Retention of an existing Rowan tree.
  • Creation of a relatively private sitting-out area to the front to catch the evening sun.
  • Retention of some lawn to allow for a kick-a-bout area for the kids.

The planting design was left to ourselves with the level of maintenance on the low to medium side.

Design response:

The design that we came up with deals head-on with the functional requirements of the brief. The clients were particularly pleased with the serpentine stone wall which only had a maximum height of 600mm, but could act as a kick-wall, provide a psychological divide from the street and separated the seating area from the rectilinear car park. Furthermore, it gives a sense of mystery and intrigue to the garden user, even in such a small space. The wall is built from Donegal quartz, a colour that matches beautifully with that of the existing beige bricks of the house. We also completed the patio area in a light natural-stone finish. There are curved gravel paths through the garden for the wet months and the lawn can be used in the summer.

The planting, along with a Laurus nobilis hedge around the boundary, includes shrubs like Deutzia x elegantissima ‘Rosealind’ and perennials suited to open sunny conditions and partial shade, such as Heuchera micrantha ‘Green Ivory’ and Bergenia ‘Morgenröte’, stalwarts, such as Libertia formosa and Helleborus foetidus and specimens, such as Hemerocallis ‘Golden Chimes’ and we even managed to retain the Rowan tree.

The design, we hope, plays havoc with the concept that not much can be achieved in a small space or indeed in the bland front-garden spaces provided by many developers in our estate houses up and down the country. And I am pleased to say that the garden can also be used in the wet weather.


“It is through Tim’s creativity, expertise and professionalism that we are now enjoying a beautifully designed front garden. We had very specific requirements. Tim took them all on board in his highly original and creative design for the garden. On approval of the design he delivered very professional guidelines for implementation. I would recommend Tim and his team to anyone who appreciates creativity combined with professionalism, be it for a (small) private garden or bigger developments.”

M de Boer, Wicklow town, September 7, 2010

boundary planting, car parking and garden, front garden chic, garden features, paving and walling