Following a wide-ranging career in the Home Office, I decided to fulfil a longstanding ambition and retrain as a garden designer. As part of this I worked for two years at Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants, one of the UK’s leading independent nurseries for herbaceous perennials, helping to build up my plant knowledge and experience. I am currently a student on the Garden Design Diploma course and am due to graduate in July.
The design is inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ – a story about the restorative power of nature and gardens.
It is predominantly rectilinear, taking its lines off the house, but softened with generous planting, broken and staggered hedging, the seeping in of the woodland and a meandering path mirroring that found in natural woodlands.
The garden is divided into a series of different areas to explore, each with its own clearly defined character and seasonal peak but with a softness of transition that makes the experience playful and intriguing. At the end of the curving pathway is a secret garden, hidden from the house and devoted to children’s play and wildlife.
This is a garden to be enjoyed by the whole family – a place of tranquillity in which to relax or enjoy with friends but also a garden that inspires a sense of wonder and joy in the natural world.
The brief was to develop a design solution for this 7.5 acre private garden in Wiltshire, bringing together its two distinct parts to form a coherent whole.
My starting point was to build on the sense of peace and calm I felt during my visits to the site. There is a quality of separateness about the setting, creating the impression that you are somewhere quite apart from the rest of the world. My proposed design embraces this separateness, creating a garden that is about seeking refuge in the English countryside, celebrating its beauty and timeless ability to offer calm and protection.
The strong geometry of the house is the focus for the design, with its rectilinear form mirrored across the garden to bring unity to the space and a connection between architecture and landscape. The sense of order is then broken through asymmetry and juxtaposition. Curving pathways soften the rectilinear and lead you gently through the garden; hedges divide areas but are broken to allow glimpses through, softening the boundary between spaces; and the wild and more formal sit alongside each other.
Throughout are echoes of the surrounding countryside, which is allowed to seep into the space, connecting the garden to the landscape beyond.
This is a garden with a purpose, where the land is not only to be enjoyed but used for production. It is also a garden for the benefit of wildlife as much as for man, with the two co-existing harmoniously and in a way that is mutually beneficial. The natural swimming pond and lake sit at the heart of this endeavour, providing a haven for a hugely diverse range of wildlife, as well as a lovely spot to retreat to and enjoy on a warm summer’s day.
The design is inspired the woodland view and seeks to break down the boundary between the garden and the landscape beyond.
It incorporates layers through which to transition, loosely mirroring the layers of planting that make up a woodland but with a sense of ebb and flow rather than rigidity. The naturalistic flows into more manmade spaces for entertaining and relaxation, as well as production; spaces from which to look back and enjoy nature.
My aim was to create a garden that was stylish and inspiring for entertaining and relaxing. But I also wanted to engender the feeling of calm and protection that is felt on entering a woodland. In essence to create a haven – a place to escape and relax or enjoy with friends.