When Chris and Clare Green bought their home they realised that its north-facing garden would present them with something of a horticultural challenge. The couple enlisted professional assistance to design their new garden, so we caught up with them to find out what they learned.
“One of the most exciting things about moving into our present home was the opportunity it gave us to design and make a garden from nothing” explains Chris. “The previous owners had neglected the outside space completely, so we wanted to get stuck in straight away. We knew a north-facing garden might be tricky to cultivate so we got some advice from a local landscaping business and found that there are plenty of ways to brighten up a north-facing space!”
By nature north-facing gardens are dark and damp, catching little if any sunlight at any time of year. “The old garden looked really depressing” says Clare, “the first thing we did was get to know the garden, establishing where light fell and which areas were darkest and wettest.” Chris and Clare are lucky – the end of their garden does catch some sunlight for a short time during summer months, so the couple designated this the seating area. “Adding decking just at the end of the garden means we can relax and enjoy the sunshine for as long as we have it! We love the way we can escape the sun for cooler areas when it gets too hot” says Chris.
Many types of grass won’t thrive in a shady garden, but as Chris and Clare found, there are some types that are ideal for a north-facing lawn. “We were advised to opt for fine-leaved grass, leaving it to get longer than usual before mowing” Chris explains, “this has given us a great-looking lawn which we’ve combined with shingle pathways for a rustic, cottagey feel.” With the lawn established, the couple’s garden looks so much more alive.
“We hadn’t much idea about good plants for a north-facing garden, but our landscapers found us some fantastic options” says Clare, “we’ve got beautiful ornamental grasses, colourful fuchsias, a gorgeous hydrangea, to name but a few. Don’t think that nothing will grow in a north-facing garden – it’s not true!” Other great options for a dark, damp space are ferns and hellebores, and try sweet violets for a stunning spring scent.
Garden of Plenty
Keen on growing their own, Chris and Clare were keen to cultivate fruit and vegetables in their new garden. “Although we weren’t sure if we’d be successful, we now grow blackberries up the garden wall and we’ve grown enough greens to keep us eating salads for months” Chris says, “we’ve got lettuce and strawberries growing in containers at the lighter end of the garden, and it’s working really well.”
Chris and Clare were wise to seek advice with their north-facing garden and they are now literally reaping the benefits. “Yes, it’s more of a challenge than a southerly or westerly aspect, but we’re happy that we’ve created a lush, green garden with plenty of colour, and we love it.” This green-fingered couple certainly aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty!