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Planning a Low-allergen City Garden

This plan is for the third and final garden of the trilogy of low-allergen gardens designed for the National Asthma Campaign and built at the Chelsea Flower Show of 1996. The idea was to create an oasis in the centre of a city for a young couple without children, one or both of whom suffers from allergies.

A wall was built around the garden to give a feeling of complete enclosure and protection from the world outside. The wall was rendered and sponge-painted to resemble a yew hedge and to provide an attractive, dark background to the planting. Many city gardens are already enclosed by walls, some of which are very ugly and could well be transformed by rendering and/or painting.

Gardens: low-allergen gardens The design was based on a series of curving lines and spirals, which were repeated in the design of the gates, stools and water feature. A simple mosaic with a bubble fountain acted as a focal point, drawing the eye down into the garden and along the one straight line in the garden to the raised platform at the far end. The fountain was made from fourteen stainless-steel tubes of different heights, welded together in a spiral formation. Water was pumped up and out of the top two tubes, to fall gently, filling each of the tubes in turn and creating a feeling of the gentlest of movements and the slightest of sounds. The paving material consisted of a range of cream-coloured concrete paviors, with brick ‘slips’ for detail which picked up the main flower colours of orange and cream. The steps’ risers were rendered and painted dark green to match the walls.

The basic colour scheme was green, orange and cream, which was followed in the walls, paving and mosaic, and in the majority of the planting. Other colours were used, in specific beds, to illustrate colours that can be used with orange. Blue is the complementary colour for orange, and blue flowers were included in one of the borders against the high wall. In another border purple flowers and foliage were used to illustrate the triad of colours -green, orange and purple.

Rosa ‘Free As Air’ was included as a feature plant as it had been offered to, and named by, the National Asthma Campaign. Several of these roses were planted in the shell-like pots lining the main paths. This variety has a very distinctive colour, with an orange bud which opens to a brown flower and fades to a dusky pink.

Adapting the Plan for your Garden
1. The garden measures 7.5m (24ft) by 9m (30ft) and can readily be adapted to a variety of different-sized spaces by enlarging the beds and borders. The borders below the high wall and around the platform are rather narrow and would be improved by having more space. It would also be possible to reduce the size of the garden for a smaller plot by decreasing the widths of the paths and the size of the beds.

2. Either of the two gates could be omitted and the side path terminated with a pot or seat. Depending on the position of your house relative to the garden, you could provide access into the garden around the mosaic. Alternatively, the mosaic itself could be replaced by a circle of paving.

3. Although the water spiral is a major feature of the garden, it could be replaced by a statue. Alternatively, if you need room for a table and chairs, you could eliminate the water spiral completely and pave over this area.

4. The paving is quite complicated and a simpler alternative would be to use cream paving slabs for the sitting area and gravel for the paths. Round or square slabs could be incorporated into the gravel, as in the smaller paths.

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