I was introduced to this contract by a local builder I had worked with on and off for the last 20 years. The house was situated within The ‘Druids Glen Estate & Golf Course’ complex in Co. Wicklow.
On the first visit, I walked the site with the owner. The back of the house faced South. The back garden sloped upwards away from the house, was made up of three tiers, with slopes between. Leading into the garden was a large square Indian sandstone patio and lawn area on the first tier. Tanallised railway sleepers were used to make steps up the first slope with a path leading across the second tier, then more sleeper steps up the final slope, leading to a final tier housing an 10×8’ Sunhouse on stilts. The sunhouse was located in the top West corner of the site. The whole property was surrounded by post and rail fencing. The site was very exposed with a constant Westerly blowing.
The client wanted a ‘Wow’ factor, as he was considering selling the house. He also wanted to hedge around the entire property. That was it, that was my brief, simply come up with something under 40k. At the time I had no idea how I would progress with a design, nothing was coming to me. To draw inspiration, I walked the site again, took photos and tried to visualise a plan.
After brainstorming concepts for a few weeks I returned with the idea of creating 2 level planting areas within the first slope. I surveyed the site and drew up a simple design. The design included 3 retaining walls. The walls would start from a point at the edge of the parking area and splay upwards spreading away from each other. The last run of 4” solids would be laid on the edge and plastered top and sides. This is my mind’s eye would give a real sense of movement and definition to the area. The beds would stop at the existing sleeper steps, and then continue on to the boundary, leaving room for hedging. The two runs of sleeper steps would simply be faced with hardwood decking, leading up to an ample deck area surrounding the Sunhouse, with raised bed surround. This was PDF’d to the client with a rough estimation of costs. To my surprise, the client came back immediately with the go-ahead.
The contract was started in early February and took 6 weeks to complete. Straight away it was clear this was going to be an uphill battle. Breaking ground, within 75mm you were into compacted Marl. It was like all topsoil had been removed from the site apart from that 75mm. With the planting of the surrounding hedge, it was the same, very little topsoil and then compacted Marl. To make matters worse the weather was terrible with incessant rain and constant cold Westerlies. When it rained everywhere was soft as water had nowhere to go.
First, we put in foundations for the first retaining wall. The wall went in handy enough. We put in a pillar every 1.8M for added strength, weep holes every 2M and backfilled with pea gravel to a depth of 300mm. The pea gravel was then covered with geotextile and then soil. Within a couple of days, the weep holes were displacing water from the higher ground.
Once the first retainer was in we used a .8 tonne digger to level the soil and backfill against the retainer, at the same time we dug the foundation for the second wall. This went in handy enough but conditions were horrible, just heavy clay, muck, cold wet hands and rain.
The same for the second tier and 3rd retaining wall.
We then installed the raised bed surround for the deck using 4” solids.
All the while we were left to our own devices. I guess it was a compliment we were trusted this much.
Next, we faced the existing steps with ‘Masaranduba’ hardwood decking, then installed raised deck around the sun house.
We contracted out the plastering as this was a very important stage and had to be bang on.
The plastering was left to go off for 3 weeks during which time the weather broke and we got good fine days for drying. The walls were painted in a light grey picking up the colour of the windows of the house. Even up to this point no one had been on site to inspect.
The raised beds were then levelled with a final 150mm of screened topsoil and the bed by the deck was also filled.
The work to complete this project can be summarised by the following:
- Supply and plant Laurel hedge around perimeter (180 3ft plants)
- Watering of hedge
- Supply and install 2 tier raised bed using 4” solids plastered in waterproofed cement render
- Paint walls with two coats of masonary paint
- Fill beds with screened topsoil (30 Tonne)
- Remove lower bed/plants, bring up levels in lawn area for hedge, seed all areas with No.2 grass seed (10 Tonne)
- Face steps and sloped edge using Bangkiri hardwood decking
- Lift existing path and raise to reach level of decking
- Lower soil levels, supply and install Bangkiri hardwood deck with two steps (36Msq)
- Supply and install raised bed surround to deck using 4” solids plastered in waterproofed cement render, paint and fill with topsoil (2 Tonne)
- Repair driveway (2 Tonne Dust, 1.5 Tonne gravel)
- Choose & deliver and suitable plants
- Plant plants
- Remove all rubbish and cart to dump
The backbone of the planting consisted of specimen Thuja ‘Smargards’ and Buxus cones which complimented each other the rest of the planting consisted of hardy shrubs & perennials.
The client was very happy with the final result, even though we came in 5K above the original estimation. This was due mostly to the compacted conditions on-site and the underestimation of extra topsoil required. The client kindly posted the following on Google review:
“Kevin transformed my back garden into a stylish and tasteful living space. With thoughtful shaped raised beds and everything else, we received many positive feedback from our neighbours and visitors.”
If you require a multi award-winning professional landscape designer/contractor.
Contact Kevin Baumann on 086 8198444