“I’ve planted for a succession of colour”
This beautiful garden on the outskirts of London is full of bright ideas for late-season colour. Owner Alison Green shares her clever planting and design ideas
This beautiful jewelthemed garden shines in autumn
Autumn colour can be so vibrant and exciting – not least in this special garden just north of London. The two-acre plot has been specially designed for a succession of year-round flowers, in colour-themed areas divided by yew hedges. “The grade II listed farmhouse was built in 1650,” says owner Alison Green. “We bought it in 1999 from a property developer and spent a few years restoring it using traditional materials. I started work on the garden straight away, and within the first few weeks a leylandii hedge and several self-sown trees had been cleared.” Initially the house sat in the top northwest corner of a huge field. “The developer had cleared the site, removing lots of old fruit trees and laid it all to grass,” says Alison. “I loved the fact the garden was so big and such a huge blank canvas. I had qualified in the mid-1990s with a City & Guilds in Garden Design from Capel Manor so I was keen to get started. I wanted to use the concept of ‘garden rooms’ to divide the space into different
planting areas. Each room would have a completely separate character with plants for a succession of colour all year.” Alison and her landscaper, Marc Rapacioli of CMC, soon got to work, removing grass, marking out new borders and planting yew hedges. “We started by creating four small gardens around the house, making them symmetrical for a sense of balance and proportion. There’s a small shady courtyard on the north side; a gravel garden with lots of white roses and perennials to the west; a knot garden to the south, in-keeping with the age of the house; and a small circular lawn and seating area to the east.”
“I wanted to use the concept of ‘garden rooms’ to divide the space into different areas”
In 2004 Alison began planting a Jewel Garden complete with ornate central fountain, inspired by Monty Don at Longmeadow. “The borders are planted with flowers and foliage in saturated jewel-like colours,” explains Alison. “It was the first time I’d got away from the cool end of the colour spectrum and I began planting in orange, purple, red and bright yellow. In spring there are tulips ‘Red Shine’, orange ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Black Parrot’, which give way in summer to orange hemerocallis and alstroemeria ‘Inca Exotica’. “In autumn, until the frosts, there are tall canna lilies such as orange ‘Pretoria’, orange and yellow ‘Tropicanna Gold’ and stripy ‘Durban’, with rich blue Aconitum carmichaelii, yellow rudbeckia and crocosmias, late-flowering red penstemons ‘King George V’ and dahlias including single red ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and maroon-and-white ‘Tartan’. I’ve planted Verbena bonariensis at the front of the borders here, so you can see through them to the dahlias and cannas behind.” Nearby, Alison’s pebble mosaic garden is full of tall grasses such as Miscanthus sinensis ‘Zebrinus’ and Phormium tenax Purpureum Group, which help to screen the swimming pond just beyond. In landscaping terms, Alison’s piece de resistance is her Spiral Garden, with a raised spiral landform based on the golden section. “It’s planted with nine ‘Grayswood Ghost’ silver birches,” explains Alison. “We measured out all the squares and rectangles on the bare soil, marked out the curve in spraypaint, then created the spiral bank using soil we’d excavated from other garden projects. The idea is that the elevated bank and tree trunks create a series of picture windows to frame the views.” Alison has incorporated several stunning herbaceous borders that reveal her eye for colour and form. “By the spiral is an exotic border that’s hidden by a yew hedge until you turn a corner,” she says. “Here I’ve planted the yellow daisies of Silphium perfoliatum, Achillea filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’, dark orange Harkness rose ‘Fellowship’, purple and red lobelia, orange tithonia, black-leaved canna ‘Tropicanna Black’, hemerocallis ‘Stafford’, red rose ‘Dusky Maiden’, purple salvia ‘Amistad’ and brooding black Eucomis comosa ‘Sparkling Burgundy’.
“I’ve also planted a blue border with flowers in blue, white and pale lemon,” she says. “You have to have some lighter hues to complement the blue, or the blue just disappears. The display starts in early February with Iris reticulata ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ and early narcissus, then darkish-blue forget-me-nots and white tulips. In summer we have Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’ and Cephalaria gigantea with its pale lemon scabious-type flowers. Drifts of tall white alliums ‘Mount Everest’ and aconitums in purple-blue, creamy white and silvery blue ‘Stainless Steel’, help the border hang together. You have to be careful not to be too bitty.” There’s a large woodland garden along the south boundary. “We kept the native oak, hawthorn and blackthorn, adding more specimen trees so it’s now a lovely woodland walk,” says Alison. “In autumn the acers turn a dazzling shade of red.”
“The borders are planted with flowers and foliage in saturated jewel-like colours”
DESIGNATED ROOMS (clockwise from above left) A mature fig tree dominates the gravel garden; the farmhouse dates from 1650; the knot garden comprises undulating hedges of buxus; stripy cannas, dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and orange chrysanthemums grace...
CREATING A SPECTACLE Layers of colour-rich planting and dramatic foliage enliven the borders at Theobald’s Farmhouse all year round. In the border here are the striped leaves of canna lilies, blue aconites and dahlias ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ and ‘Tartan’
Hidden Delights (clockwise from above left) Cotinus ‘Grace’ with yew archway; fountain in the Jewel Garden; the circular lawn, with storks; Verbena bonariensis; Alison’s pebble mosaic; ‘Grayswood Ghost’ birches around the spiral; Aconitum carmichaelii