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
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.