A sense of calm

At this time of year, soft plant­ing brings A sooth­ing feel to this con­tem­po­rary gar­den punc­tu­ated with state­ment fea­tures And quirky touches

Country Homes & Interiors - - SUFFOLK GARDEN -

WhenLiz Goodrich and Peter Mavroghe­nis and their two chil­dren moved to Suf­folk in 2010, they swapped a tiny Lon­don gar­den for a blank can­vas. ‘The pre­vi­ous own­ers kept horses and this was a bar­ren space,’ re­calls Liz. ‘It was full of po­ten­tial, but scary as we had al­most no ex­pe­ri­ence of gar­den­ing.’

To­day, it is an el­e­gant con­tem­po­rary coun­try gar­den, with an air of calm cre­ated by a re­stricted pal­ette of plants and the gen­tle sound and sway of or­na­men­tal grasses. Bold fea­tures, in­clud­ing hard land­scap­ing of oak sleep­ers and rusty metal, min­gle with care­fully con­sid­ered fo­cal points and whim­si­cal notes, such as the table and chairs clothed with se­dums. The Union Jack and Amer­i­can flag painted on the old barn cel­e­brate the transat­lantic in­flu­ences of this imag­i­na­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Liz from New Eng­land and Lon­don-born Peter.

The house is built in the style of a typ­i­cal Suf­folk cot­tage.

‘It’s on a steep slope, which we first saw as a mas­sive prob­lem, but came to con­sider a great as­set,’ says Liz. ‘The hill lent it­self to ter­rac­ing, which adds so much in­ter­est to the gar­den. And the house is right in the mid­dle, which meant we could cre­ate sep­a­rate ar­eas and make fo­cal points at dif­fer­ent lev­els.’

Liz and Peter had other chal­lenges to tackle, in­clud­ing the lo­cal wildlife. ‘Ini­tially, we found the rab­bits adorable then dis­cov­ered how de­struc­tive they can be. Af­ter fenc­ing ev­ery­where to pro­tect the plants, we re­alised that wa­ter was the next prob­lem. Our free-drain­ing soil needs reg­u­lar rain­fall to keep most plants happy, and we’re in one of the dri­est re­gions in the coun­try.’

The so­lu­tion was to choose plants that can cope with dry con­di­tions, such as suc­cu­lents, nepeta, Al­chemilla mol­lis and

or­na­men­tal grasses, which are the gar­den’s sig­na­ture plant.

‘I’ve al­ways been drawn to grasses,’ says Liz. ‘They have a sim­ple qual­ity but when planted in abun­dance be­come some­thing more. I’d seen beau­ti­ful grasses at RHS Hyde Hall and wanted to do the whole darn gar­den in them!’ With ad­mirable re­straint, Liz has in­tro­duced other plants, such as hy­drangeas, echi­nacea, gauras and salvias, all en­hanced by grasses as a foil.

Be­fore the plant­ing be­gan, how­ever, Liz and Peter took many mea­sure­ments and did nu­mer­ous draw­ings to un­der­stand the space. ‘We had to get the scale right. The lay­out is for­mal, finely mea­sured on a grid with ev­ery point flow­ing from the house,’ says Liz. The main axis, seen from the kitchen, fea­tures broad, shal­low steps made of oak sleep­ers in­ter­planted with suc­cu­lents. Be­yond is an av­enue of hawthorn draw­ing the eye to a large pot hold­ing a mag­nif­i­cent phormium. The top lawn was di­vided into eight beds of three by four me­tres each, with two me­tres be­tween.

The bound­ary fence is lined with Malus ‘Ru­dolph’ un­der­planted with Eu­phor­bia wulfenii. ‘The eu­phor­bia is such a crazy green; it has so much per­son­al­ity,’ says Liz. Fur­ther along is a glade of three multi-stemmed sil­ver birch (Be­tula jacque­mon­tii) en­clos­ing a sphere of horse­shoes made by Si­mone Aresu of Art Steel

Work. As­sorted old gar­den tools hang along the fence, to­gether with a dozen quirky bird­houses from the US.

The cou­ple in­her­ited a re­tain­ing wall of sleep­ers sup­port­ing the steep gra­di­ent, but this has been ex­tended with a wo­ven rusted metal wall by Do­minic Watts of Me­tal­lurgi. His crafts­man­ship is ev­i­dent through­out the gar­den, in the form of planters, a tree

seat and a six-foot three-loop sculp­ture based on a Rus­sian wed­ding ring. ‘I love the met­al­work,’ says Liz. ‘Its rusty colour goes so well with flow­ers and plants.’

The stepped wall of sleep­ers cre­ates a strong pres­ence, with nepeta giv­ing way to block plant­ings of Mis­cant­hus ‘Starlight’ on the top row. The gar­den flows from one room to the next, past a small box parterre with a back­drop of pur­ple sage into a se­cluded cor­ner by the house. Here, a tiny but dra­matic area fea­tures a gi­ant rhubarb (Gun­nera man­i­cata) flanked by tow­er­ing black bam­boo (Phyl­lostachys ni­gra).

The axis on the north ter­race looks onto a flat rec­tan­gu­lar bed of sleep­ers in­spired by the High Line, a pub­lic park built along a re­dun­dant rail­way line in New York City. The se­dums change colour through­out the year ‘like a magic car­pet’ says Liz, who trims them with a strim­mer – or some­times a bread knife!

A green­house pro­vides another an­chor point over­look­ing a mini kitchen gar­den with raised beds and en­closed by a wooden fence adorned with es­paliered ap­ples and pears. Through the arch is a straight view across the gar­den to an Ame­lanchier ‘Robin Hill’.

Liz and Peter have trans­formed a bare pad­dock into a splen­did gar­den for all sea­sons. In win­ter, 83 care­fully placed trees give strong struc­ture. In spring, bulbs vie with blos­som for at­ten­tion, then the or­na­men­tal grasses cre­ate a back­drop to sum­mer plant­ing be­fore tak­ing cen­tre stage from Septem­ber to New Year. ☎ BROOKSIDE, MOUL­TON, NEW­MAR­KET, SUF­FOLK CB8 8SG (07973 622136) IS OPEN FOR THE NA­TIONAL GAR­DEN SCHEME (NGS.ORG.UK) ON SUN­DAY 9 SEPTEM­BER FROM 2-5PM.

The beech tree at the front of the house turns to golden au­tumn tones.

Steps made from metal and oak are planted with suc­cu­lents to blend into the land­scape.

Bold pink cos­mos and dahlias ex­tend the flow­er­ing sea­son.

A gravel path lined with pa­pery-barked Ti­betan cherry leads the eye to a Tus­can oil jar.

Rusted metal tulips are a quirky counterpoint to slen­der white stems of sil­ver birch.

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