April 2014: Small Mindedness

The post code that covers the most central part of Cirencester town is GL7 2NX. If you type that post code into a search engine or enquire about it at the Post Office you will find yourself directed to the Church of St John The Baptist, Market Place, Cirencester. And if you put that same post code into a map search engine and turn the view to ‘bird’s eye’ you will be amazed at just how green the centre of Cirencester is and I’m not referring to the Abbey Grounds. Move the cursor to show the area bounded by Castle Street, Park Lane, Black Jack Street and Silver Street. Surely this is one of the most congested and higgledy pigledy built up areas of town? And yet some of the gardens attached to these town centre buildings are huge.

The latest housing developments built around the outskirts of town are too new to show up on satellite photographs or maps. However, if you take a walk around one of them it becomes clear that as dwellings have progressed out from the cramped and squeezed centre of town into once open and wide farmland, the gardens have become smaller not bigger as you might expect.

My experience of designing gardens whether town centre, new build or country estate has taught me that in one respect it doesn’t matter to the owner if their garden is tiny or huge. The common denominator is how much they expect and really want to enjoy their outdoor space regardless of its size. Is it reasonable to expect the same level of enjoyment from a tiny plot as one might from a huge garden? Yes. Is it possible to achieve this aspiration? Yes, it is possible but in both cases you need to know what you are doing if you are going to really make the most of the space.

I enjoy applying tried and tested garden design principles to the new challenge of today’s tiny gardens, there is no room for lazy ideas or for plants and features that don’t have something positive to contribute.

If you are looking for ideas for your garden, whether tiny or huge, there can be no better way than to visit other people’s private gardens and this year’s Cirencester Open Gardens provides that opportunity. At least two examples of tiny gardens will be on show, one town centre and one on an out-of-town estate. One is a garden over 100 years old and one is a brand new development and I used exactly the same design principles for both gardens as I do when I’m working on a much larger project.