I am pleased to have been commissioned by Duncan Hamilton and in collaboration with Guy Matheson, Associate Director at SHH Architects to design and build a landscape park to surround their car sales facility in Hampshire. This once brownfield site has become a green oasis with formal lawn, serpentine walks, grass viewing terraces and lavender field.
This sunken garden was designed in the late 1930’s. It was part of an integrated design of garden rooms that surrounded the main house, constructed during the same period. It shows a strong influence in the skilled application and use of natural materials by the Arts and Crafts style. In the late C20th the property was divided into two ownerships and a wall built that severed this garden from its original related garden areas. The current owners, my clients, have reunited the properties in single ownership, which presented an opportunity to restore this little garden and also reunite it with its sibling gardens that are in a closer proximity to the main house.
Most of the original natural stone had been lost and replaced overtime with concrete. The brick and flint pillars at one end had fractured as a result of root penetration by two large hollies that had been removed at some point and the planting had become overgrown and lacked coherence.
We replaced the concrete with natural reclaimed stone, the cut faces of which were hand fettled and the paving with random laid stone the joints between which were left open (without mortar) to allow for creeping thymes to colonise. The brick and flint pillars were restored and the planting replaced to give a more harmonious effect. Original planting, such as a large Thuja and Euonymus, were retained to provide structural elements, shade and a nod to the gardens origins.
It now provides a quiet space for rest, reading and contemplation whilst taking in the colour and fragrance of the planting. An opening in the dividing wall has been made to reunite this garden with its original.
Repton worked on this estate during the early part of the C19th and would have walked the grounds where this Regency farmhouse now stands. The owners commissioned a master concept plan that encompasses the entire landscape and will be undertaken over the coming years.
We have started work on borders nearest to the house with a bold planting of topiary yew balls. These will eventual provide form, as loosely undulating shapes and a deep green texture against the pale yellow brick and flint house walls.
To the west the flintstone walls of an old walled garden that had fallen into disrepair have been consolidated to retain their original character of beautifully coursed flint and lime mortar. The level has been raised to create a lawn, as a play space and a formal garden. This is enclosed by a newly planted crinkle-crankle beech hedge.
The play space will eventually be planted with huggable-sized topiary shapes. The formal garden has been edged with espalier pear trees and this year was sown as a pictorial meadow. Subsequent years will see it planted as a C19th rose garden, much as would have been admired by Repton.
This garden had received a considerable makeover during the late 1920's when the house was extended, which included the addition of a kidney shaped swimming pool. The owners were keen to use the pool area more so we designed a pavilion that is positioned at a confluence of vistas to provide shelter for dining alfresco and an additional feature in the garden. The walls are lathe and plaster and the conical roof from a local slate. Many of the design changes in this garden here were set within an existing structure, such as the internal beech hedges that had been crenelated and we clipped into soft undulations to mirror the surrounding hills. Even in winter, the planting structure continues to provide interest, as do the natural hazel plant supports.
One of the most ambitious garden schemes that we have been commissioned to create. Our clients bought a small cottage with the aim to build a country house with a garden to match. The location of the new house at the base of a steep gradient demanded that the construction of any garden close to the house be cut into the limestone bedrock. Here we created a formal parterre in front of an orangery and recessed arched niches to mirror the architecture of the building. Wood, stone and metal work were all beautifully crafted by local artisans.
The concept for this space is to create a garden without borders. It will be a series of open and intricate spaces with internal views across the garden and wider external views across a more extensive landscape. A highly sculptural landform cut into the existing ground profile will create interest and a viewing point across the neighbouring landscape. Other features include a sunken fire pit, ornamental pond, wildflower walk and games lawn. A peripheral walk will link these areas. It will be a garden that is understated and contemporary and will fit seamlessly into its setting.
Steps to creating a concept plan that will capture a long term vision for the garden
This is one of my most enjoyable parts of the process to create a new garden. Here anything is possible. It is an exercise in playing with movement, space, style, layout and design. A concept plan is a method by which it is possible to express a vision for the garden. To capture the imagination of clients.
It aims to present an overall vision for the garden, as a single project or it can be broken down into a series of small projects that when complete are seamless in feel and flow.
I always produce concept plans by hand. This gives me an opportunity to really explore the space. Initially, I work freehand and use pencil to move around the page creating loose shapes. These shapes I then use as the basis for a more disciplined and accurate representation of the proposed layout drawn this to scale and in pen.
(1) Topographical survey - an essential and basic tool to any new garden scheme. It can be used for all future planning application work. Typically, a topographical survey will include an outline of all built structures, house and ancillary buildings, tennis court, driveway and entrances, ownership boundaries, walls, paths, services, individual trees above a certain girth, shrubbery, hedges and garden borders.
(2) Design brief - a brief is required to ensure that designer and client are working with the same intentions. It will clearly capture what clients are looking to achieve from their new garden, their preferred style, its use and the intended level of maintenance to look after it in future.
(3) Producing an outline plan - using the survey as a base plan, a first draft for the concept plan is presented for discussion.
(4) Mood board - the initial plan phase will include images of the proposed look, feel, planting palette and any proposed architectural additions to the garden
(5) Presentation plan - a final plan that captures any changes made during the design process. It will be fully annotated with notes on the types of materials and planting. It lacks detailed construction specifications or planting detail. This plan can be used to accompany any proposed changes to the house and environs that require planning consent.
CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT and research
I work in collaboration with other disciplines, including archaeologists, ecologists, conservation architects and landscape architects to provide a comprehensive service to clients. I have produced conservation management plans for the National Trust gardens at Melford Hall, Suffolk and a conservation statement for Max Gate, Dorchester. I regularly publish my research, which has recently included work on the conservation of Cedrus libanii, The life and works of Capability Brown and Repton in Sussex.