Redesigning a garden for entertaining

Garden designer Mike Hodges has used his landscaping skills to create a courtyard garden with a stylish water feature and lighting effects that is perfect for outdoor dining and entertaining.

TODO alt text

Garden designer Mike Hodges has used his landscaping skills to redesign the garden of his Victorian terraced house. Adding a stylish water feature and lighting has created a courtyard garden that is perfect for outdoor dining and entertaining.

Mike HodgesFact file

The owner: Mike Hodges, who is the head garden designer at a landscaping company, lives here
The property: A four-bedroom late Victorian terraced house
The location: Portsmouth, Hampshire
What he spent: The garden project cost £11,300

‘When I moved here eight years ago the garden was very neglected, but before I tackled it I concentrated on extending and modernising the house,’ says Mike. ‘By the time the build work was complete, the 7m² courtyard garden had been reduced to a building site, so I cleared it and decided to start again from scratch.’

Mike planned to turn it into an outdoor space for entertaining, with wow-factor features to enjoy day and night.

He started by building walls from white-rendered breeze blocks, which he capped with sandstone, then he created additional seating and raised beds around the boundary of the courtyard.

‘I’d had new french windows fitted in the sitting room so I could look out to the garden,’ says Mike. ‘I also wanted a feature wall outside that I could enjoy from indoors through the windows.’

Mike decided to install a water feature on the rear garden wall adjoining the garage, which he framed with two pillars supporting a concrete pediment. The water feature is made up of a Neptune mask that pours water into a clam shell, which in turn spills over into a raised pond below.

‘It is floodlit at night, with a mist-maker, which vibrates water to create a cloud of water vapour,’ Mike explains.

Flanking the pond are large pots of arum lilies that make a stunning feature in early summer. In the backing wall of the garage there are french windows fitted with opaque glass which disguise the garage’s utilitarian purpose.

The garden had been paved originally. Mike decided to update it by laying blue Indian sandstone paving in three different sizes in a central diamond pattern to mimic an interior carpet.

‘The new look includes a large six-seater table and chairs – the centrepiece of my outdoor dining space,’ says Mike.

Lighting is also a key feature. While the build work was under way, Mike asked an electrician to lay cables for spotlights in the garden. The lights are positioned to illuminate key features and architectural plants such as cordylines – a great favourite of Mike’s because they cast magical shadows at night.

‘I like exotic bottlebrushes, proteas and agaves, which are planted in raised beds by the side walls, along with olive and loquat trees,’ says Mike. ‘The trees screen my garden from the surrounding houses but the plants still get plenty of sun there.’

Although he has tended to concentrate on evergreen foliage, there are white flowers in the planting such as lavender, bacopa, hydrangeas and fuchsias. The combination of green and white works especially well because it looks so fresh.

‘I love entertaining here – it’s perfect on summer evenings when the garden comes alive after dark, thanks to the clever lighting and water feature,’ says Mike.

The costs

Preparation work£1,300
Raised beds and pond£3,800