Designer Arne Maynard gives traditional ideas on structure a modern twist in this West Sussex garden
On the hardest days of winter you will find Ben Pope in the walled garden he cares for, snug in the tea shed with a mug next to him on the pitted wooden table, scouring seed catalogues by the light of a low-hanging lamp.
“I love this quieter time of year, when I am planning for the months ahead and picturing what the garden will look like then,” says Ben. It is good that he cherishes the moment. As head gardener of a 30-acre estate that includes more than nine acres of ornamental borders, topiary, water features, woodland and a lake, neither he nor the two other full-time gardeners who work with him get much time for quiet contemplation.
The grounds wrap around an impressive Queen Anne house approached down a winding drive lined with rhododendrons and, in the depth of winter, with a faint layer of mist clinging to the frosty meadows and low sun slanting through the skeletal trees, there is a palpable air of orderly anticipation.
It was all rather different 11 years ago, when designer Arne Maynard was invited to visit the property and advise its new owners on what to do with the gardens. He found a sleeping beauty, faded and overgrown, but ready to be reawakened. “My initial impression was of something romantic and very lovely,” says Arne. “The house sat in a beautiful environment with a view of river and meadows and I felt strongly that anything too dominant in the way of flower beds around the house would distract from this. The walled garden, however, was a different matter – beautiful, even in its chaos – and it was clear that this was where the ornamental focus should lie.”
This walled garden is sited unusually close to the main house, and at some time in the 1930s the old entrance was replaced with a moon gate that introduces a note of story-book whimsy. When
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Clockwise from top left In the summer, every inch of soil is hidden by vegetables, fruit and flowers for cutting; only in winter can the true layout and skilled husbandry be fully appreciated. Outside the walled garden, a stone-edged pool provides a quiet counterpoint to the intense planting inside the walls. One quadrant of the garden is given over to an ornamental grass spiral that offers a gentle contrast to the more formal box hedge. In summer it conceals a picnic spot, and in winter is a beautiful contemporary tapestry.