Smart Landscape Design – An Urban Retreat

Smart Landscape Design – An Urban Retreat

This award-winning garden is the perfect urban retreat. It was designed and built by our Bristol-based customers, Smart Landscape Design.

As specialists in creating gardens that are detailed, personal, imaginative and rewarding, they certainly deserved their two BALI Awards; Principal award for best in category (Domestic Garden Construction £60-100k) along with the award for Best Newcomer to BALI.

This award-winning back garden was the first part of a large project that also encompassed two further spaces. These include the front driveway and entrance porch area, along with an intimate courtyard with reflective pool water feature and hot tub.

Before picture of the garden.
Before picture of the garden

The garden was previously a large lawn area surrounded by trees and an old patio overgrown with weeds. The whole area has now been transformed. From the driveway and entrance porch, through to the log store and back garden then into the final completed area, the bamboo courtyard. This tranquil space works in isolation, but it is also part of the overall scheme.

The Design

The brief for the 300sqm back garden was to create an interesting contemporary garden. Their client wanted lots of trees along with trickling water and the feeling of being immersed within a woodland glade.

In contrast the courtyard is a more minimal, contemporary and tranquil space for relaxation and reflection. This urban retreat area features our products most prevalently.

Courtyard garden design
Courtyard garden design

For both the back garden and the courtyard the use of water is integral to how the spaces work. In the back garden, there is movement and sound as falling droplets land in a large dish. In contrast the courtyard has a 4m long trough, full to brim with water, providing silent refection.

The Products

Features throughout the back garden include a series of weathered steel retained borders and a timber and aluminium pergola. Stunning porcelain paving covers the ground and also creates the steps.

courtyard urban retreat
Courtyard Urban Retreat

The garden also features a 2 metre dish water feature along with a new lawn. A copse of birch trees and various smaller trees are planted in borders and pots throughout the garden. Our Duck Egg Pebbles 30-50mm fill two large Urbis planters to great effect.

The courtyard garden features a second timber and aluminium pergola to frame the space and provide intimacy. The space features more minimal planting than the back. Bamboo was chosen to frame and fill the borders and provides screening, height and soft privacy. Further plants include Hakonechloa for beautiful contrasting grasses, Pachysandra for ground cover and Hellebore for winter colour and interest.

Water feature pool surrounded by our Duck Egg Pebbles

Porcelain tile was also used within the urban retreat courtyard garden. Chosen for its neutral colour and slightly textured surface, it also blends seamlessly with our Duck Egg Pebbles. As 50% of the horizontal space features our pebbles, they are crucial to this area of the garden. Chosen for their colour tones and smooth rounded shape, they complement other elements within the space.

Corten weathered steel is used to retain the raised borders. It provides beautiful weathered warm colouring to contrast the neutral colour tones of the porcelain and Duck Egg Pebbles.

The pool is designed as a visual buffer between the front door entrance and the private courtyard space. With both areas benefitting from the reflection and movement. It was an entirely bespoke feature, designed, fabricated and installed with the help of a local fabrication company.

The Challenges

For the back garden, initial groundworks required some delicate manoeuvring of a small excavator through the client’s house. Once the digger’s work was completed, all subsequent materials in and out of the garden had to be squeezed between a 67cm wide path between the house and the neighbours’ wall.

Back garden area
Back garden area

Smart Landscape Design also suffered some appalling weather throughout the construction period which caused some delays.

The courtyard provided fewer logistical challenges and proved much more straight forward to complete. Probably the biggest challenge was fitting the hot tub due to access and limited height. It meant it was a very tight squeeze.


Covering an area of just under 450sqm, the whole project took just over 1 year to complete. In their summary of the award winning back garden BALI said, “The attention to detail throughout this scheme has clearly delighted the clients. The timber and aluminium zig zag pergola, water feature and extensive hard landscaping are finished to an exceptionally high standard”.

Back courtyard garden with our duck egg pebbles
Duck Egg Pebbles in courtyard garden
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