The plot is located in UK hardiness zone 8.
The house and grounds sit on a detached plot hidden behind high fences in what is predominantly a high density housing area. The house is late Edwardian in style and is maintained in pristine period condition by the owner. Both the front and rear garden areas were originally dominated by large lawns and a number of well established conifers. The front garden contained a terraced area to the bottom of a set of existing steps from the drive.A large part of the rear garden area, which forms the enchanted forest, was hidden from view behind dense conifers and shrubbery. The area which forms the bog garden was being used as a dumping ground for green waste. The greenhouse had fallen into a state of disrepair and was only partially used. The area which forms the Mediterranean garden was little more than an overgrown dumping ground and was again a poor state of neglect. The caged fruit garden was already in situ but it was only partially used to grow a small amount of vegetables.
The client was bored with his gardens and was looking for a designer who would approach the project without fear. He interviewed a number of designers prior to making his decision to commissions me to carry out the project. He got the impression that the other candidates were too restrained in their approach, being somewhat intimidated by the space and with one designer suggesting that little needed changing.
The thing that stood out from my first visit to the property was the unexpected size of the gardens hidden behind the site´s high walls and fences. The ensuing picture this brought to my mind was a potential sense of oasis or secret gardens. As a consequence, my inspiration was very much to embellish and enhance that sense of excitement and wonder. From the beginning it was also quite apparent that any set of designs would need to be created in sympathy and harmony with the house. In that respect I drew upon the historical influences of Gertrude Jekyll for inspiration. Equally the house dated from a period of time when there would have been great excitement at discoveries being made by plant hunters in far flung corners of the globe with new and exotic plants being introduced to English gardens. Therefore, when drawing up my plant list my client and I visited Crug farm in Wales. It is a specialist nursery run by two of the few remaining licensed plant hunters in the UK. A large part of the plants for the garden are drawn from this source. This lends the gardens a sense of flair and exoticism that again reinforces the concept of a hidden and exciting oasis. As a result, the finished gardens contain an abundance of rare and commonly unknown plants.
An unexpected series of oasis gardens that lie hidden behind a high boundary. The visitor’s senses are first captured by the pergola which is viewed through a break in the planting as you enter the driveway. The entrance is further marked out and enhanced by the inset granite cobble to the drive. The pergolas were designed to create areas of light and shade and so are divided in two across the new dining terrace. Two Acer Griseum frame the entrance piers creating year round interest and drama. The pergolas side path beds are planted with exotic vines, scented roses and evergreen clematis. Further small beds to the sides of the pergola paving are planted with shade-loving Strobilanthes adding further drama whilst drawing the eye down the length of the pergola. The raised terrace and drive beds are a hazy mix of grasses, perennials and shrubs which create a sense of movement and drama whilst also framing the lower lawn areas. The garden to the rear of the property has been transformed into an enchanted forest by the introduction of mounded beds formed by reclaimed limestone rocks which have been densely planted with a mixture of evergreen ferns, tree ferns and stag horns. The bog garden in the upper area of the forest provides a serene retreat with the introduction of the Alison Crowther sculpture seat. Sitting at the base of the forest canopy, an organically polished limestone shaped table and stools add further to the enchanted forest theme. New steps and path link this area to the restored hothouse which is now frequently used by the client in the evenings for relaxing. The area immediately adjacent to the hothouse has been transformed into a Mediterranean style dining area. It is worth noting that the oak refectory style table and long benches were hand made by the client. These have been left untreated to allow them to age, discolour and move naturally over time.Steps down from the Mediterranean area take you to the transformed caged fruit and herb garden which sees raised sleeper beds planted with herbs and bush fruits and new ground level perimeter beds planted with trained fruit trees.
The majority of hard landscaping materials such as the paths, terraces and the front pergola were constructed from reclaimed materials. A bank of timber recycling bins was constructed so that green waste could be composted and reused on site. Water butts had previously been fitted to one side of the house and these were retained and remain in use.A new log store was constructed allowing timber and tree waste to be recycled on site with ash waste also being used to the base of fruit trees.
I was in constant contact with my client throughout the project liaising in the preparation of schemes for the new gardens. The project was constantly monitored by me during the implementation of the landscaping through a project monitoring agreement which included setting out all plants for planting.
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I came across this preface I wrote for a book on garden structure and designs in 2013 and thought it worth reposting...
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In my work as a professional garden designer, I hear the same story time after time when I first meet with prospective...