Q. My partner and I have very different tastes – how can we create a garden we both love?

Keep everyone happy with cohesive design, says Louisa Gilhooly

Two different styles are brought together in this cohesive design

by Liz Potter |

WHAT DO YOU DO if you and your partner have very different ideas about what you’d like from your outdoor space? One of you likes minimalist design with clean lines, entertaining and basking in the sun while the other prefers tranquillity, shade and lots of plants. By employing some design tricks and the clever use of plants it’s possible to come up with a garden that keeps both partners happy while creating a coherent, unified design.

It’s tempting to just split the garden right down the middle, but for something more interesting, here I’ve designed a layout that uses two interlocking ‘L’ shapes. This helps to merge the two distinct sections in a more subtle way, rather than there being an obvious dividing line that cuts the garden in two.

Two different styles are brought together in this cohesive design, with annotations
Two different styles are brought together in this cohesive design, with annotations ©DESIGN: LOUISA GILHOOLY ILLUSTRATION: GILL LOCKHART/BAUER

The L-shape that extends out from the house is the focus for the entertaining space and is defined by sleek and geometric hard landscaping. Planting here is kept to a minimum so there’s plenty of room for entertaining around the outdoor kitchen and dining area. This means the far end is open to the sky to keep our sun-worshipper happy.

The L-shape furthest from the house meanwhile has a woodland feel, with naturalistic planting, a winding path and an abundance of planting to create a sense of lushness. A hammock strung between two trees promotes rest and wellbeing.

Dividing these ‘yin and yang’ sections are two large trough planters filled with tall grasses. These add height and provide a subtle, see-through screen, rather than using a dense evergreen hedge, which might overwhelm a small space.

To unify the overall design I’ve used the same materials throughout – adding a twist so they’re not the same each side. Here, for instance, I’ve gone for limestone paving on one side and a crushed limestone path on the other, and Corten planters on one side and Corten edging to paths on the other. I’ve also taken inspiration from the decking on the side by the house to create wooden benches on the other side of the design.

By creating distinct zones and using plants and materials to set the different tones in each half, you can create a dual-design garden that can be enjoyed equally, but in very different ways.

Planting plan for garden of opposite tastes
Planting plan for garden of opposite tastes ©PLANTING PLAN: LOUISA GILHOOLY
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