Park Town Oxford

Back garden in Victorian Oxford brought back to life with asymmetric layout, mixed borders, entertainment and storage areas.

parktown old lawn

Long rectangular plot is a worn lawn surrounded by overgrown plants

This garden behind a listed Victorian townhouse was a long strip of worn lawn, flanked by overgrown shrubs. Difficult to access, with no focal points and seating areas, the garden was undefined and uniniviting. The owners, an academic couple with a young child, wanted a garden they could entertain in, which would still be child-friendly, provide cooking herbs and some gardening opportunities.

Parktown sketch plan

The diagonal plan gives movement to the garden.

There is equilibrium between full and empty spaces

A diagonal design, reaching out from the house, gives breadth to the space, and makes it more dynamic. The design incorporates a seating area, a well-defined lawn, a border for culinary and scented herbs, and mixed borders. There is equilibrium between full and empty spaces, balancing busier planted sections with more restful paving and lawn surfaces. 

Subdividing a garden makes it appear bigger

Parktown view from balcony

The new layout with clearly defined areas of lawn, borders, and shady seating

The overall pattern is beautiful seen from the house windows, as well as functional. Paving defines each separate area and provides a path, eliminating wear on the lawn. Small, well-defined areas are easier to mantain, and are framed by the paving. Subdividing a garden makes it appear bigger, and giving a specific function to each section gives a logical purpose to each 'room ouside'.

seating and pergola

Wisteria covered pergola and deep herbaceous enclose the seating area

The seating area is well furnished and covered by a pergola which provides shade and privacy in summer. Bycicles and tools are kept in a pretty shed near the back gate. In the context of a listed Victorian building, the materials used have to be in keeping: wood, York stone, red brick, have been used consistently, to blend in with the surroundings. Good-quality trellis have been placed on the walls, suitably reinforced and buttressed, to provide some privacy from adjoining houses.

parktown back of house

The garden and house lacked any connection to the first floor

One major problem had been accessibility. The garden and house lacked any connection to the first floor, and the edge of the garden came too close to the lower ground floor, cutting out light from its windows. Access was though steep and narrow steps, the exisiting soil was useless because it was builders' rubble, covered with gravel. Nothing would grow there, and it was the most uninviting entrance to the garden.

parktown balcony

The new balcony

Providing the garden with proportionate access points has made it more inviting

Several skip-fuls of waste were dug out. A new stepped planter lets more light into the lower ground floor. Broader shallower steps now lead from the garden to the lower level, which has also been equiped with bins for recycling. The first floor finally has access to the garden, thanks to a new balcony which has been rapidly covered with scented climbers. Providing the garden with proportionate access points has made it more inviting.

parktown herb border

Lavander lines the path leading to the sheltered seating area

an interesting path, full of surprises

Paving leads past scented borders which reveal new views as we go along, making an interesting path, full of surprises, even in a small town garden. There are different views from several vantage points.

Copyright © 2022 Anna Piussi. All Rights Reserved. Text and images belong to Anna Piussi unless otherwise stated.