Transforming a tired, overgrown plot into a modern oasis has given Amanda and Cliff Pullen a versatile space they can enjoy all year round

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Having grown up near Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire, and keen to stay close to friends and family, Amanda Pullen and her husband Cliff found their dream home there back in 2014. A detached property with plenty of room, it was actually the garden that sold it to them. ‘The outdoor space was a good size,’ Amanda explains, ‘and although it looked a bit tired, with an overgrown orchard and lots of uneven crazy paving, we could see the potential.’

The couple set about modernising and extending their home over the coming years, but when it came to the garden, it was Cliff who took over the design. After spending his childhood in Australia and with a degree in landscape architecture, he had plenty of inspiration as to what they could achieve. ‘Years of travelling and my training helped with the basics,’ he recalls. ‘I wanted a modern outdoor space that would reflect the way in which we’ve modernised the interior of the house. Plus, I wanted to bring in a touch of my Australian homeland, with natural contrasting colours and different spaces, while also incorporating luscious plants.’

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Work began in 2015. Amanda recalls Cliff driving an excavator through the house to dig up the existing garden. ‘He worked hard,’ she says. ‘It was basically a start-again project. After levelling off the lawn he then constructed the retaining walls and ponds. Next, he moved on to the barbecue area, where he built a roof with heaters to allow us to use the space all year round. It was important to us to have an outdoor room where we could enjoy being outside, whatever the weather, as a family.’

Although Cliff undertook most of the work himself, he brought in builders for the retaining walls and floor tiles: ‘They finished them in half the time it would have taken me,’ he remarks. ‘I also had the electrics completed by a trained contractor.’

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The end result certainly has the wow factor: the vast plot is now divided up into zones that include a modern seating area next to a calming pond and waterfall, a tranquil orchard and a large undercover barbecue and dining space. ‘It’s a great place to entertain,’ says Amanda. ‘I had bespoke cushions made for the seats in a vibrant lime – they really stand out. It’s also a lovely space to sit on cooler evenings, with the fire pit to keep us warm and cosy.’

Satisfied with the results of all his hard work, Cliff still has some plans to keep the garden scheme evolving. ‘If I could get the excavator back through the house I would make a natural swimming pond,’ he explains. ‘I’m currently thinking of changing the large water feature into a splash pool that is deep enough and warm enough to swim in. I’ve also seeded the orchard with wildflowers and we are hoping to see this area grow into a haven for bees and other nature over time.’

‘The orchard has a fantastic grass patch where you can lay a rug and laze about,’ Amanda adds. ‘You feel as if you could be in the middle of fruit trees in any part of the countryside. It’s absolutely idyllic.’

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Words: Laurie Davidson, Photographer: Oliver Gordon

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