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Room to Roam

This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our April issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Jason Ingram and Harriet Challis. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.


Anglophiles know that a British garden is bound to be verdant and green, given the locale’s trademark drizzly weather. But how do you maximize your green space in a plot that’s not exactly as colossal as the sweeping grounds of Buckingham Palace? Whether you have a town house in Toronto or a cozy cottage in Southern California, you can learn from the botanical wisdom applied in this alfresco space designed by Cameron, a London-based garden design, build, and maintenance firm.

Tucked in London’s storybook neighborhood of Kensington Gardens, the rear garden of this residence needed a new scheme that would allow the young family living there different zones for family time, relaxation, and entertainment, says Tor Cameron, communications director for Cameron. The firm is among the Top 100 architecture, interior, and landscape design firms as selected by Country Life magazine (beloved in the nation since 1897). “This garden was very shady, so we needed to develop a palette that suited the space,” says Cameron. “The Dicksonia antarctica (tree fern) works really well in the space in the lower light area, providing a dramatic shape and linking the two levels of the garden.”

Drawing you into the garden while retaining the levels was also a challenge. “We built up boundaries with layers of planting to create an illusion of depth,” says Cameron, noting that the Trachelospermum jasminoides (star jasmine) that now flourishes up the lattice walls creates a dense, lush backdrop and supplies seasonal fragrance and blooms. “This garden uses an evergreen backbone which is then under planted with seasonal plants which provide color, scent, and atmosphere,” says Cameron.

The firm utilized texture to whip up a transportive feel, including quick-growing, low-maintenance Soleirolia soleirolii (baby tears) that they planted between hulking stone step risers that lends the impression that the garden has existed here for generations. “The herringbone bricks work so well in this garden with the color palette of greens, grays, and browns,” notes Cameron. “It looks very natural and earthy.” The herringbone placement also echoes the flooring within the home itself, providing visual continuity; allowing it to weather with the seasons also adds to the storied effect.

Also key: adding multiple seating areas throughout, which can make one garden feel more like three, whether you’re curling up alone with the paper and a cuppa or playing a quick round of euchre cards with a friend. Privacy, too, is a must in any urban setting. To that end, the team was careful to preserve an existing Acer (maple) tree. “It was very established, and provided a lovely canopy to the garden as well as screening,” says Cameron. After nightfall, John Cullen spike lights supply a glow that illuminates the garden like a fairy tale.

When it comes to selecting outdoor furniture, do as the pros do: invest in cushy, yet hard-wearing, quality.

Wood That Wows. “We like to use iroko [wood] or teak as it is long-lasting,” Cameron says of the firm’s preferred outdoor wood furniture choice. They selected the armchairs in this featured design from socially responsible brand Cane-line.

Cool to the Touch. It’s important to Cameron to “use lovely external fabrics which can be washed and brushed down.” For example, Sunbrella makes top-notch, solution-dyed acrylic outdoor fabrics that are UV protected and so easy to clean they can even be bleached.

Live a Little. When you’re arranging an outdoor living space, don’t forget the perks you enjoy indoors, such as a throw blanket, lighting options (including candles), and even heating—whether you want to splurge on an outdoor heating lamp or just invest in a few outdoor heated blankets.