“Diagonals Disguise The Awkward Angles”
Garden Answers|May 2017

This dramatic small garden in south London has a dynamic layout framed by colourful herbaceous planting. Owner Jonathan McKee gives us a tour.

What this beautiful bijou garden in Balham lacks in size it more than compensates for in style. “The design really makes the most of the space,” says owner Jonathan McKee. “I’ve been to the Chelsea Flower Show and though I was very impressed with the smaller show gardens there, I couldn’t help but think that mine is just as good and for a fraction of the price.”

Jonathan’s garden was redesigned in 2012 by his good friend, garden historian Stephen Smith. “Stephen’s been working in horticulture for ages,” Jonathan says. “He’s a specialist in gardens of the Italian Renaissance and really knows his stuff. He’s a fantastic designer too, but it took me a while to persuade him to do mine!”

Stephen’s design centres on a diagonal layout, with paving and paths creating dynamic triangles of planting. “By laying out key elements on the diagonal it prevents the garden looking too boxy,” explains Jonathan. “In any urban setting a garden is surrounded by walls and other buildings that can make it feel really hemmed in. The diagonal lines help to break that up and take the eye off to the left and right to look at the planting instead.

“As you look at the garden from the house there’s an extra metre of garden along the left-hand side, so we wanted to tackle that area, without emphasising it,” says Jonathan. “Thanks to the new diagonal path and the way the back wall is hidden by shrubs and climbers, your eye is distracted from the awkward shape."

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