Dorking Town Garden

A small but perfectly formed town centre garden in Dorking, for an exacting client – me!

Having moved house form the outskirts of Dorking to the town centre, I had a small plot to make the most of, with an emphasis on having the garden that really works for my interests and lifestyle. For me, that means space for entertaining and outdoor dining, shade, and as many plants as I can fit into a small space – and no lawn. This is a strategy that might not work for families, but I would strongly advise anyone who has no children, or grown-up children, with a small garden, to ditch the lawn and enjoy a space full of plants.

The Brief

Having moved to a house that meets all my needs but has something of a compromise for a garden (you don’t get a big garden in Dorking town centre), I wanted to squeeze enjoyment out of every inch of this space, which measures 14.5m x 5.4m. With the rear of the house facing north, an outdoor lounge area at the end of the garden, facing south, is a must. Since I love plants, every space that isn’t being used for seating, storage etc., will be given over to plants – as will all the fences. Space is needed for bike and tool storage, and the lounge area needs to double for outdoor dining and time around a firepit. Once the extension is built, bi-fold doors will open out onto an upper patio, which needs to be large enough to function for summer evening seating, opening out from the planned open-plan lounge/diner.

The Design

The proposed extension creates a large square room which, when the new bi-folds are open, will fully address the entire rear garden. With a spill-out area flush with house floor level, the 15’6” square room will lengthen to nearly 25’ at the longest point. I first tried the rear garden on a straight 90 degree basis, but it wasn’t exciting me at all – it was predictable and boring. Once I started playing with angled themes, I found that a 22.5 degree angle gave a sense of dynamism and movement to the garden.

This creates a path that zig-zags to the rear patio area, a square pad that allows enough room for two ‘L’ shaped sofas. Since I like shade in a garden, I designed an oak gazebo over which a large rambling rose will be grown (an alternative would be a grape vine, Wisteria, or some other vigorous climber). With a pitched ‘roof’, this creates a lofty space beneath which is an oasis of dappled shade. The plan here is to source a fire/flue combination that can be attached via supports to the structure above, with a detachable fireplace that hangs from the gazebo.

At the rear of the garden, a gate leads to a rear access alley, and beside this a large 8×4 foot shed provides enough storage for two bikes and all the tools the garden requires. The planting includes three trees to block the views from windows of overlooking houses, with Taxus domes for structure, alternating climbing roses and Trachelospermum climbers to the fences, and light, airy, colourful herbaceous planting flowing between everything else, using ferns and ornamental grasses. Hard landscape materials are kept clean and simple, with large porcelain slabs creating a low-maintenance surface that allows for barefoot movement around the whole garden – something I really like in the summer months.




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If you have questions or project ideas to discuss. I am happy to help.