Family garden in Greystones

Enticing, family

garden in Greystones, Co. Wicklow

Garden designer’s brief

Create a traditional garden for use by a young family that includes space for active and passive recreation with some interesting, yet manageable planting. The design is to retain the best elements of the existing garden structure, whilst adding a new twist!


Design issues noted by the design survey

The existing garden is divided in two by vegetation: there are a lot of overgrown plants so the visibility is limited across the garden; the central and lower parts of the garden have a shady, woodland character. The overgrown planting along the boundaries of the garden reduces both the light available and the overall recreational space for garden users. Sunlight will be greatly increased by the selective removal of “weed” trees, such as Leyland conifers, thus enabling the planting of a greater variety of plants within the garden. There are plenty of specimen trees that can be retained to add instant structure to the new garden design.

The existing patio area is too small and the shrub beds near the house are overgrown. This area needs enlarging to provide more space for outdoor eating and family recreation. The existing boundary materials are inconsistent and need to be unified.

The main path through the garden is badly positioned and is uneven. The existing steps from the patio are in disrepair and do not fully contend with the level difference between the patio and the garden. There are two pergolas hidden in the overgrown planting that currently serve little function.

A previously designed area, at the bottom of the garden, needs to be integrated with the rest of the garden. The paving circles are potentially a good place for locating a summer- house: this area needs to be cleared of overgrown planting to reduce shade.

Garden design solution

The design solution for this garden creates a modern, functional garden for use by all the family.

Drawing from the design concept, the garden is opened up by removing overgrown vegetation, thereby, allowing the main spaces to be redefined within the garden; the result is the creation of an upper and lower garden that are linked by a main pathway that winds through the garden. As required by the brief, the views across the garden are improved, whilst retaining enough vegetation in the central part of the garden to provide visual interest and to give definition to its various parts. The design retains the best elements of the existing garden structure, whilst adding legibility and coherence to the space.

The garden boundary is composed of existing tree and shrub planting, augmented by a new hedge on the southern side of the site and informal woodland planting on the northern side. Other existing large trees and shrubs along the boundaries are selectively removed or pruned to create space for the new planting. The specific boundary lines are formed from wooden fencing, with trellising to provide support for climbers. This creates immediate privacy from adjoining properties.

The children’s play house is re-positioned in a central play-area and is surrounded by perennial planting including an extensive herb garden providing year round colour, texture and scent to stimulate all the senses, as well produce for cooking. This part of the garden also include spherical oak trees for added interest and to provide contrast with the horizontal form of the ground-cover planting. The existing paving retained at the lower end of the garden not only provides a destination for a walk through the garden but also provides a potential position to site a future summer-house.

The extended patio to the rear of the house increases the outdoor living space and provides an individual style to the garden. It combines blue limestone paving and wooden decking to complement the architecture of the house. Subtle lighting is designed to create a soft ambience for evening entertainment. The lower part of the garden contains utilitarian space for a shed, logpile and composting area that is screened by a newly planted beech hedge.

The overall planting design stimulates the senses with an array of colour, texture, form and scent, whilst also being beneficial to a variety of wildlife including butterflies and bees. The garden is designed to provide space for personal reflection, play and also to entertain others.

Notes on garden maintenance

The maintenance for this garden is of medium input, as there will be ongoing weeding of planting beds, grass cutting and some pruning and cutting work to be carried out to the establishing plants.

An application of bark-mulch immediately after planting minimises the amount of weed re-generation from amongst the establishing plants. After approximately three years, the shrubs and perennials will have closed-in, thereby reducing the amount of weed establishment. A second application of bark-mulch could be applied at this time also. Once established some of the perennial grasses and flowers should be tidied in early spring by hard-cutting of top growth to allow for regeneration in the following growing season.

The patio should be swept regularly and may also require some weed removal. The paving should be scrubbed every two to three years to remove any build-up of moss or apply a proprietary moss killer. The timber deck will require treatment at least once per year with oil to preserve the timber and its colour. It should be cleaned in advance of this treatment. The gravel path may require some periodic weed removal and may also require an occasional application of additional gravel to fill-in any indentations that may arise.


“We engaged Tim Austen to redesign our garden. In the course of a few consultations on site Tim established our requirements for the redesigned garden and the constraints of the site. The final plan was agreed and Tim assisted us to engage a landscape contractor to implement it. We have enormously enjoyed the redesigned garden. Tim’s design has been a resounding success. In the course of the project we formed a close and productive partnership with Tim, had fun in the design and planning stages and now have beautiful, practical garden to show for it.”

G Elliott, Greystones November 22, 2009

Family friendly garden, Garden experiences, Garden views, Medium sized garden, Planting design, Raised deck, Seasonal interest