Sam McGowan, Scottish garden designer
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Broughty Ferry


Description of site:

The site is the garden ground surrounding a detached house in a quiet area of Broughty Ferry to the East of Dundee. The house is largely Victorian though some parts may predate this. The site slopes up away from the house at the back and drops at the front. The garden slopes steeply up at the side of the house to the West and was retained by a rough wall which appeared to be constructed from old broken paving slabs. The kitchen windows looked out at this and the height of soil retained caused light problems within the room. To the East of the kitchen was a small dark courtyard area with a high wall to the North retaining the upper level. The outlook into this area gave the feeling of a neglected, unused and unattractive space. A garage was to be constructed on the site of an old wash-house at the East end of the house and a new drive was be constructed to this with a level area in front of the garage to permit wheelchair access. It was assumed at that time that the drive would be designed by the architect dealing with the garage although some input might be required from myself (consequently the drive became part of the landscape brief). The clients were considering building a conservatory at the upper level at some point in the future. This would be constructed as a separate building with a connection via a glass bridge to the upper level of the house. Some consideration should be given to this possibility in the overall design. The total area of the site under consideration was approximately 2200m2.

Much of the area was overgrown with a tangle of bramble and other weeds in many areas. There were a large number of trees some of which were fairly mature although there were also many self-sown young trees. Several of these trees might need to be removed or pruned for various reasons. There was a portion of Cypress hedge to the East of the house which had totally outgrown its situation and should be removed. Many of the originally planted shrubs and hedging plants had grown to a size where heavy pruning was advisable and in some cases plants should be removed altogether. In the overgrown area below the house there were the remnants of a circular feature with a number of ferns which may or may not have been planted intentionally. There were areas of grass in front of the house and behind it with a grass strip running up the slope to the West of the house. According to information from the client, the soil is basically an acid sand.

There were a number of stone walls and stone steps on the site most of which probably dated back some considerable time. Many of these were difficult to inspect  because of the overgrown nature of the site but it was apparent that many are in need of repair. Of particular concern was the boundary wall to the West of the house where a section has crumbled away. Since this wall partially retains the neighbouring garden, some action would be required in the near future. The client was to check his title deeds to see who owns this wall.

The site faces South giving a sunny aspect to the area immediately in front of the house for a large part of the day although the height of the trees casts a great deal of shade particularly in winter months. The area to the rear and above the house has good views out across the Tay to the South and South-west. The clients are both busy professionals and feel that they will not be able to put any serious effort into the garden for at least 5 years.

Client's brief:

The clients wanted to create a useable garden which maintains the feeling of privacy that it already had as well as its 'wild' feel. They wanted to increase the paved area close to the front door and to have a place to sit at the top of the garden which makes use of the views. They wanted to create a level area of lawn, probably in the upper area. They wanted to open out the overgrown area below the house to create a woodland garden which can be looked into from the house although they were quite happy to have some of the larger trees removed or pruned to allow more filtered light to penetrate the area. They wanted to have herbs in an easily accessible area and an area designated for future development as a vegetable garden. They wanted the trees in general to be rationalised with those trees which might cause problems (close to neighbouring buildings or cutting out light) removed or suitably pruned. They were looking for a garden which is relatively easy to maintain, albeit with possible help from a local gardener with a low degree of skill (still to be confirmed that this help would be available). The design was to pay particular attention to the needs of a wheelchair user (where possible given the sloping nature of the site) and to safety as grandchildren may arrive in the next few years.

They were looking for a vision of the garden which takes account of the impact of the new garage and drive and which could be developed over a period of time. This should be in keeping with the style of the house and the nature of the site and should ensure its secluded private feel. They were looking for ideas.


Current situation:

The hard landscape contract is complete and the first phase of planting has been carried out.



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Last modified: 3 April 2008

Copyright Sam McGowan