A family garden with an unusual client brief: to design a garden for a tortoise (actually, three tortoises!). The main priorities for the design brief were to:

  • Make the most of the limited sun (it’s a north facing garden)
  • Provide some interesting views from the various windows
  • Create an enclosure for the tortoises

The plot itself it is an awkward L-shape, quite narrow on both sides, as the house has recently been extended and the depth of the garden reduced. It is surrounded on both long boundaries by tall hedging and trees, with very limited sun. Several design challenges in one garden alone.

As the garden is slightly disjointed, being split into two distinct areas, we used timber slatted screening to create cohesion, using it to hide some ugly hedging as well as the backdrop to two main focal points in the garden. Where the two lengths of the garden meet we created the main dining area, which is also the sunniest spot. Sitting here you can enjoy view both legs of the garden. A raised brick built planting bed with integrated timber seating wraps around two sides of the raised deck.

A number of design features provide points of interest from the various windows. Three tall pots stand in a row, planted with box balls, with a backdrop of timber slatted screening. From another window the water feature can be seen; a steel rill that extends from the raised planting bed. The water tumbles into a splash pool, creating a soothing sound as well as visual interest. The view from the dining room is of a beautiful Acer palmatum atropurpureum, growing from a decked area, again with a slatted screen back drop.

Keeping the tortoises happy

The requirements for the tortoises were to provide both shade and sun, and to keep them contained. Between the raised planter and timber screen, we left a large gap to create space for the tortoise enclosure. The bed provides the shade needed by the tortoises and their enclosure extends out from the side of the planter so that they can also enjoy a sunny spot. To make sure they are totally happy tortoises, we built another raised bed, especially to grow their favourite food, lettuce.

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