Shaded Retreat

Portfolio / Shaded Retreat

Situated in Central Cambridge, this garden was adjacent to a small triangle of woodland and fringed by mature trees and buildings so receiving dappled shade with changing areas of sunlight throughout the day. Although the soil was rich loam, the overhanging trees and walls blocked rainfall leaving the soil very dry from mid-spring onwards. A dripline irrigation system with tap timer was suggested to remedy this situation being a simple and water efficient form of irrigation.

In addition to irrigation, the client needed a patio for entertaining and a path to the existing garden studio that could be used at night. A cream porcelain tile was chosen to lighten the space and make maintenance easy and this was continued around to the front of the house. The small area of lawn was provided for the sunbathing and a section of the self-binding gravel path was broadened to accommodate a BBQ and small L-shaped sofa.

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The paving by the house was not large enough to dine on and planting was confined to the edges of the garden. Access to the garden studio was via a narrow path which was less than ideal at night.  The raised bed alongside the wall was removed to visually widen the space and allow a more generous planting area.


A generous patio for dining connects to new paving by the house where the morning sun can be enjoyed. Planting surrounds the seating area making the garden feel more inviting and a variety of wall shrubs and climbers add interest and will eventually help the garden appear bigger.

Contemporary bollards illuminate the path and can be switched independently from the spike spot lights in the plant borders.


The new patio ends with a more pronounced step up with the porcelain planks being used to clad the block retaining wall which extends into the plant borders either side.


The grass was struggling to grow near the yew tree and the garden was in need of a more defined structure and winter interest.


The self-binding gravel path provides a more interesting route from the house to the studio.  The generous borders are filled with shade tolerant plants.  Four Taxus baccata Litfass will provide very compact evergreen height in time and an Acer palmatum Bloodgood an attractive focal point. The large Christmas box on the right was relocated from by the house where it had outgrown its space but here it provides a valuable end point. The photo demonstrates the contrasting light experienced in the garden. The small area of grass is edged with porcelain planks also used for the access points to the main dining patio. 


Planting includes foxgloves, Japanese grasses, cranesbills, ferns and shade tolerant ground cover such as epimediums and pachysandra. Climbing hydrangeas are included on the walls for their reliable, low maintenance habit. For the sunnier area near the house lavender, potentilla, heucheras, herbs and roses feature along with a deciduous jasmine for the wall.


The traditional paving was quite damaged and there was a problem with water pooling outside the back door.


The porcelain paving creates a bright, welcoming entrance with the manhole cover now more presentable. Cross lighters provide practical yet stylish visibility at night. The path was given the correct falls to carry rainwater away assisted by the gravel trenches.

The old side gate was replaced with a substantial iroko one.


The garden plan


An alternative design

Erika was a pleasure to work with from start to finish. We’d been meaning to re-do the paving in our garden for years, but had never got further than contacting a landscaping company. Erika came up with several great designs and was very flexible about incorporating the elements we liked best into the final design. She provided us with paving samples and guided us through all of the design decisions. She liaised with the landscapers and electricians and followed up with every query and issue that we had. She was always prompt and responsive. We’re so pleased with our new garden. It never would have happened without Erika.

Rob and Katriona