Country Homes & Interiors - - CON­TENTS -

A hill­side gar­den in Rut­land with a de­sign that rises and falls in har­mony with the sur­round­ing landscape


was while cy­cling through the lanes of ru­ral Rut­land that Sue Mof­fitt would of­ten pause by one site out­side the vil­lage of Bar­row­den. ‘The po­si­tion high on a hill­side is won­der­ful, with great views over the Wel­land Val­ley,’ she says. ‘I thought, “What a mar­vel­lous spot to build a house and cre­ate a gar­den”.’

Then in 2004 the prop­erty came up for sale, so Sue and her hus­band, Richard, bought it. ‘It was a fab­u­lous site with so much po­ten­tial, de­spite be­ing cov­ered by ley­landii,’ she says. Their sons built dens in the wood­land, while Sue and Richard cut down the ley­landii. ‘The boys ac­cused us of ru­in­ing their play area!’

The house was in­spired by a nearby prop­erty in a sim­ple

Arts and Crafts style by the English ar­chi­tect Charles Voy­sey. ‘I wanted a house built of lovely, lo­cal ma­te­ri­als that blend with the rolling hills around us.’ They sourced Northamp­ton­shire iron­stone and Stam­ford stone for the house, ter­races and steps.

While plan­ning the house, gar­den de­signer Sue was also vi­su­al­is­ing the out­side space. The hill­side slopes by eight me­tres, so earth was moved to cre­ate level ar­eas for the house, and the for­mal ter­races. ‘We ended up with lots of spare soil, some of which was used to build the view­ing mound,’ she says. A new drive­way snakes through wood­land on the east­ern side.

The prairie-style plant­ing is in­spired by Piet Ou­dolf, with grasses – Mis­cant­hus sinen­sis ‘Gracil­limus’, ‘Malepar­tus’ and ‘Morn­ing Light’, Cala­m­a­grostis x acu­ti­flora ‘Karl Fo­er­ster’

– and herba­ceous peren­ni­als. There are clumps of Perovskia

atrip­li­ci­fo­lia ‘Blue Spire’, wav­ing Ver­bena bonar­ien­sis, He­le­nium

‘Mo­er­heim Beauty’, Per­si­caria am­plex­i­caulis ‘Fire­tail’, and »

Echi­nacea pur­purea with brown cones that last well into win­ter. Be­low the house, in the most shel­tered area, is a swim­ming pond. ‘When I sug­gested a nat­u­ral pool, Richard said he didn’t want to swim with frogs,’ says Sue. How­ever, hav­ing seen pools by spe­cial­ists Garte­nart, he be­came a con­vert, and a 22-me­tre-long hole was ex­ca­vated. The shal­low­est part is planted with wa­ter lilies, and the mar­gins with wa­ter mint, lythrum and cype­rus.

At one end, a Ja­panese gar­den is evolv­ing, and there’s a deck at the other. ‘It’s a lovely spot to watch drag­on­flies, and swal­lows swoop­ing down to drink, or even the oc­ca­sional kingfisher.’ Sue was for­tu­nate to have help from David Mof­fitt, her brother-in-law and landscape de­signer, who mas­ter­minded the bog gar­den, fern­ery and a stumpery.

A tall wall with a moon gate separates the pool from a fruit and veg­etable parterre, which has a prob­lem. ‘We im­ported horse­tail with new top soil and we’ve not man­aged to erad­i­cate it,’ says Sue. She has cre­ated new beds, turf­ing over the orig­i­nal ones to form paths, and now the horse­tail grows up through grass. Sue hopes that con­tin­ual mow­ing will even­tu­ally kill it off.

A few steps up from the parterre is an av­enue of Tilia cor­data

‘Win­ter Orange’, a small-leaved lime tree which, as its name im­plies, pro­duces orange new growth. ‘Spac­ing them evenly, in a straight line, was a night­mare,’ she says, ‘and three have since died be­cause of wa­ter­log­ging at one end.’ The limes are un­der­planted with blue ca­mas­sias, a lovely sight in au­tumn, when the leaves turn bur­nished gold and cop­per.

Cop­per-coloured plants are among Sue’s favourites, and in­clude the beech hedges that de­fine dif­fer­ent spa­ces, golden hazel,

Ver­bas­cum ‘Pe­tra’ and Heuchera ‘Ob­sid­ian’, which crops up through­out the bor­ders. In the dry shade of the wood­land bor­der, epimedi­ums and creep­ing dog­wood, Cor­nus canaden­sis, cre­ate dense, at­trac­tive ground cover. Other per­sonal favourites in­clude Gun­nera man­i­cata – its huge leaves dom­i­nate the bog gar­den – and salvias such as Salvia nemorosa or late-flow­er­ing

Salvia ulig­i­nosa in the bor­ders link­ing the lawn with the ter­race. Sue de­signed this along­side the ar­chi­tect’s plan for the house. ‘I wanted it to be sym­met­ri­cal, in line with the build­ing,’ she says. The rill links the up­per and lower ter­races by pour­ing wa­ter from one to the other, splash­ing into a trough be­fore be­ing pumped up again. Be­yond this are long grass ter­races in­spired by landscape de­sign­ers Kim Wilkie and Charles Jencks who cre­ated the Gar­den of Cos­mic Spec­u­la­tion. At the far side the ground rises steeply and, sil­hou­et­ted against the sky­line, runs a colos­sal un­du­lat­ing beech hedge, its broad curves echo­ing the rise and fall of the landscape. ‘This hedge was here when we came, but we in­tro­duced the curves,’ says Sue. ‘It was tricky, and in­volved spray­ing with paint, cut­ting, and then study­ing from a dis­tance.’ They added the cop­per beech hedge in front, which in time Sue plans to curve in the op­po­site di­rec­tion.

The gar­den is still young, but it is al­ready a much-loved family area. ‘The pool is a joy all year round – we live around it when the weather is warm enough, but it at­tracts wildlife in all sea­sons. Even in win­ter, it’s a joy to look out on,’ says Sue.


Back­ing the wa­ter fea­ture are grass ter­races in­spired by the de­signs of Charles Jencks.

An av­enue ofTilia cor­data ‘Win­ter Orange’, a de­cid­u­ous small-leaved lime tree, turns golden in au­tumn, be­fore glow­ing orange in win­ter.

Au­tumn fo­liage and a slate cone by sculp­tor James Parker are beau­ti­fully re­flected in the swim­ming pond.

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