This garden design makes the most of its shady location and subtropical microclimate to create an outdoor conservatory

View of a small shaded garden which features backyard, courtyard, furniture, garden, landscaping, outdoor structure, patio, table, yard, brown
View of a small shaded garden which features antique outdoor furniture, paving and landscaping.

Sometimes the familiar and the exotic can make attractive design companions. Within the prim and proper confines of an English Victorian home, for example, an entire glassed conservatory was often given over to plants relocated from more exotic shores.

This modest yet mysterious garden sees that principle in action outdoors. Created by Brazilian designer Antonio Martins, the shady garden is directly behind a Victorian-era residence. However, the garden achieves a degree of isolation through two mature evergreen trees, Podocarpus gracilior, which are nearly as tall as the house and screen it from view. These were planted by a previous owner in 1969.

"Despite the visual separation, the garden acts as an outdoor room for the home," says Martins. "The use of travertine, a material popular with the Victorians, combined with the eclectic array of furniture and exotic plantings, creates a sense of those times, when far-off lands yielded fascinating pieces and plantings."

Despite the modest size of the garden, Martin took several design approaches to achieve an impression of spaciousness.

View of a custom made water feature which arecales, flowerpot, garden, landscaping, outdoor structure, plant, brown
View of a custom made water feature which was created from a turkish pot.

"The tricky part was combining the hard landscaping with the plantings. In the end, the form of the hard landscaping was inspired by the ideas of the famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who believed that curves and circles hold sway over straight, rigid lines."

While these graceful curves shape the center of attention, the seating areas, they also define the planted areas. Walls beyond the plantings are painted gray, and in other rock-faced areas creepers are gradually asserting their presence. The result is that the eye finds it hard to see where the garden ends and an imaginary jungle begins. This sensation is accentuated by the lush nature of the bromeliads, ferns, platyceriums and other imported plantings that thrive in this completely shaded, yet warm location.

Another element that gives the space a more generous feel is the introduction of more than one seating area. Martins says up to 50 people have been accommodated in this garden. Walls double as seating, a large antique day bed from Indonesia and accompanying cane chairs form a group, and a round occasional table and chairs provide another seating arena.

"We also introduced a large mirror, originally from Brazil, to provide a visual doubling of the space during the day," says the designer. "This also adds to the mystery of the garden at night, when it reflects the myriad candles used to light the outdoor area after dark."

View of two equine sculptures from Bali standing garden, leaf, plant, yard, brown
View of two equine sculptures from Bali standing in the garden's dense ground plantings.

Mystery is evoked in this garden in another way, too. The hard landscaping is unfilled, untreated travertine, giving a sense that the space is slowly devolving back into dense jungle.

"The feeling within the garden is one of privacy and serenity as in a conservatory a century ago," says Martins. "Surrounded by lush plantings, the only sound is the rustle of leaves and the trickle of the custom-designed water feature."

Credit list

Martin Patino
Garden features
Mirror with reclaimed wood frame from Brazil; cushions from Restoration Hardware; fabrics from Sunbrella
Water features
Custom with antique Turkish vase
Outdoor furniture
Sofa, antique from Bali; armchairs from Smith & Hawken; table, made from railroad sleepers, antique from Bali
American Soil Gold travertine

Story by: Charles Moxham

01 May, 2009

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