Monday, 2 October 2017

Mottisfont - Hampshire

On a gloriously sunny day that had the crisp onset of autumn in the air I visited an intriguing garden nestled on the River Test in the Hampshire countryside.
People have been gardening at this idyllic slice of Hampshire since the 13th Century but the layout we see today is more recognisably Georgian with its parkland and walled garden.

One of the most interesting and special parts of this garden is the unusually large walled garden. There is something rather grand and yet intimate about a walled garden. The walls themselves are filled with history and have stood steadfast and protective for hundreds of years while successive inhabitants have tended and reshaped the transient planting contained within them; if only these walls could talk what a tale they would tell.

Mottisfont may be a large country garden but there are still ideas and inspiration that can be adapted to any size garden. I particularly liked the timber poles lent against the old walls to provide informal climbing support for Roses and Clematis.

Trees play a major role in this garden and this was particularly prevalent on a sunny autumnal day. With the blowsey flowers beginning to fade and take a back seat the autumn colour of the turning leaves and the interesting bark of the specimen trees took their position as the star attraction.

Although not a feature that most of us have the benefit of, I had to mention the natural spring or 'font' that gives Mottisfont its name. I have never seen such crystal clear water in my life, the deep pool that feeds the River Test looked as if it may have been made from a thin sheet of perfect glass.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Penshurst Place and Gardens - Kent

Wow, what an amazing garden. If you enjoy gardens, grandeur and history then this is a must see. It is a living, breathing English country estate that has been in one family since 1552 and is currently owned by Philip Sidney, 2nd Viscount De L'Isle MBE, Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of Kent.

The house and landscape here is steeped in history, you feel as though you are walking round a living, breathing museum but without the crowds or stuffy atmosphere. There are people picnicking on the manicured lawns next to an Elizabethan parterre and others enjoying afternoon tea in the café overlooking a 14th Century tower.

The garden is particularly thrilling due to its use of garden rooms and surprise vistas. Walking through a relatively small 'garden room' containing a pond or some fabulous sculpture that takes your interest on a detailed level you then duck through an arch in a dark green yew hedge and are met with a massive walkway and views on a completely different scale.

This play with scale excites the mind as you move around the space, constantly being drawn between small detail and larger, grander views.

Although this garden is set at a huge scale it is so inspirational that we can take many of the design ideas and use them in our own projects. The  phrase 'garden room' may have been coined by modern designers but as we see here it has worked in practice for hundreds of years, breaking up even a medium sized garden can result in it being far more interactive and making it feel bigger.

One of the most inspirational areas in the garden is the 'Grey and White Garden'. This is a popular colour palette with my clients who want a cool and relaxing place to escape from the city life. Here it has been created with great skill and plantsmanship, mixing silver foliage with soft white flowers entices you to feel calm and relaxed.

Despite the garden's air of aristocracy there is humour and a human scale to the space. A garden devoted to Jacqueline Viscountess De L'Isle, late mother of the present Viscount De L'Isle by her loving family and quirky sculptures around the space bring a sense of family to the garden.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Chelsea Physic Garden - Chelsea, London, UK

I have been busy designing gardens, sending out quotes and booking landscape projects in so that people have a beautiful new space ready for them to use this summer. After a busy few weeks and lots of time either at my desk or zipping around London's busy streets I was completely enriched by a visit to this enchanting walled garden.

This garden feels friendly and beguiling at the same time; it's intimate size and old established plants feel traditional and welcoming but you soon realise that the every part of this space is filled with history and the ghosts of some of the most important and powerful people of the past. The both grand and bountiful red brick mansion house of Chelsea encircle the garden and created a unique backdrop to the space.

There is an almost ridiculous entanglement of epic history in every part of the garden. The pond and rockery being the perfect example of this. The rockery in itself is pleasant enough but not dissimilar to many you might come across in various stately homes or historical parks but when you learn that this is the oldest rockery in the whole of the Western World it seems to appear differently. Its rocks are not just dug up from around the garden but are made up old pieces of The Tower of London; the giant shells adorning the pond are not just shells from the beach but came from Captain Cook's expeditions; the plants are not just grown from seeds collected from a garden but were bought back from expeditions of unknown lands by Sir Hans Sloane (whom Sloane Square is named after) over 300 years ago.

The garden was first created in 1673 and formed part of what we know as The Enlightenment when we started looking at the wold through a more scientific lens. During the past 344 years plants have continued to grow uninterrupted at this site. Unlike visiting a stuffy museum and viewing items from behind a rope or through glass you can actually see, touch and smell the past here.
An old pomegranate tree has been happily growing against a sunny wall in the garden for hundreds of years. It has steadily and surely flowered, fruited and dropped it's seed without any fuss while the city around it has seen Kings, Queens and wars come and go with so much trouble and strife.

After walking around the garden and absorbing the subtle magnificence of the space it would have been wrong to leave without lingering and contemplating the landscape. After the long winter we have had, being able sit out and feel the warm rays of the sun on your face felt like the return of a wise old friend that you hadn't seen for a long time.