Se­cret gar­den

De­signer Arne May­nard gives tra­di­tional ideas on struc­ture a mod­ern twist in this West Sus­sex gar­den

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS JODIE JONES

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

To con­tinue turn to page 44

PHO­TO­GRAPHS RICHARD BLOOM

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.

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