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The Secret Garden


My client bought this house as a renovation project and keeping the special feel of the garden was uppermost in his mind – particularly how we could preserve the privacy, secrecy and mystery of the garden whilst the building works were being carried out.  This was a sweet building full of character and history, on the back end of a manor house. The split levels of the garden make it very enclosed with the gorgeous, original boundary brick wall and surrounding trees adding to the seclusion of the sunken lawn area.  Fabulous existing clipped shapes from Laurel and Holly had an anchoring effect and the slightly run down and dishevelled appearance only added to its charm.

Design Brief

This was clearly a completely unique project to work on and remaining sensitive to the surroundings was key to ensuring any new build blended in and looked aged.  I was to keep the mystery and magic of the garden along with the original features, yet develop the garden to best reflect the new owner.  I was given complete free reign for creativity and was to work as part of a team including architect, interior designer and lighting designer to bring out the best of the entire site. 

Garden Design

After much discussion between the local council and English Heritage, agreement for the scheme was finally granted.  Meanwhile, a small village had been built opposite the house on a previous army barrack site with houses very close and overlooking to my client’s house, so privacy was now a major concern.

Furthermore, there had been many plant deaths of large shrubs and some trees such as Mahonia, Cherry and Cotoneaster. With investigation we concluded that honey fungus was prevalent in the soil which reduced the plant choices considerably.

Immediate screening was needed from the houses and some semi mature Quercus ilex were sourced, however gate access into the site was too tight for these specimens so they were craned over the boundary wall.

My design included as much of the original garden as possible, and I used curves to enhance secrecy and allow for hidden features.  Seating areas are enveloped and softened by planting which gives a relaxed atmosphere throughout.

Plant selection was a little tricky with half the garden in shade and the other in sun, clay soil and honey fungus.  I replaced the lost trees with Parrotia persica and Gleditsia triacanthus Sunburst as semi mature specimens, again craned over the wall.  Once the structure was in place, I filled in with beautiful perennials, grasses, bulbs, ferns and climbers to ensure a feast for the eyes in every season.

Increasing biodiversity was a big part of this scheme and many plants were selected for pollinators and birds.  However, much as though we wished to encourage and support wildlife into the garden, we had to draw the line at the deer who ate everything.

I have been working on this garden for 5 years and continue to oversee it’s development alongside a skilled gardener.  It is rare to find a client who puts as much emphasis and importance to a garden, and I have truly enjoyed watching this design develop into a tranquil and established garden – and he is truly delighted and in love with the outcome.

I derive endless joy from the garden.  It really is my own private Chelsea.
Thank you.”
Quote from client