Blending clean lines and contemporary planting with a splendid natural backdrop, this modern country garden enjoys the best of both worlds
A splendid natural backdrop plays host to contemporary planting.
CAN YOU GIVE US SOME BACKGROUND DETAILS?
A young couple with two children own this large 23-acre garden in the Cotswolds and they asked me to create a series of outdoor spaces that morph from formality close to the house to wilder areas where the garden meets the surrounding countryside. They also wanted the design to resonate with the architecture of their period home and with the Cotswold landscape, while also feeling playful and fun.
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR DESIGN SOLUTION?
The layout is a response to the landscape and views, but we also wanted to impose a sense of order and cohesion on the existing fragmented design. To open up the views, which were obscured by overgrown shrubs and trees, we cleared most of the area by the house. The rill is designed to carry the eye from the house to the hills and woods beyond and, when looking back at it from the bottom of the slope, to draw your vision to an orangery that looks out over the garden. To the left of the rill is a dining area shaded by a timber pergola, while a meadow and large lawn on either side of this softly bleed the garden into the countryside.
TELL US ABOUT THE PLANTING.
The box balls that punctuate the space seen here add a playful note, while the other plants and trees are also echoed throughout the garden, helping to subtly link the different areas. The existing mature walnut tree gives the garden height and creates dramatic reflections in the water, and we put in yew hedges on either side of this section, to enclose and shield it from the wind. Pleached plane trees offer shade and draw the eye to the water feature, and the terrace is softened with beds of herbaceous perennials and bulbs, including alliums, astrantias, salvias, ornamental grasses and Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), which provide colour, structure and interest all year round.
WHAT FEATURES CREATE A BALANCED PLANTING DESIGN?
Planting schemes tend to look more cohesive if you use a limited palette of different varieties and repeat them in groups throughout. Choose a selection that suits your site and soil, and which will flower at different times; try to combine contrasting shapes, matching flowers with round heads, such as alliums, with spiky plants like salvias, for instance. Colour also affects our sense of perspective; cool hues, such as blues and greens, make the landscape seem recessive, while hot tones, including reds and oranges, tend to stand out.
HOW HAVE YOU INTEGRATED CONTAINERS INTO YOUR SCHEME?
The large containers work rather like hedging, acting like bookends on either side of the timber pergola (above left). Their rough clay texture resonates with the Cotswold stone house and they look fantastic when lit at night. The pots are planted with yew domes that complement the box balls and are easy to maintain with an irrigation system.
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR DESIGNING RILLS?
This feature follows the contours of the garden and subtly cascades down the slope from the terrace. The water is only around 60cm deep, but the black-painted lining makes it look deeper and more reflective. Rills look beautifully sophisticated, but are in fact surprisingly easy to install and maintain. A pump and a filter ensure that the water remains crystal clear, although you may have to remove leaves and other debris from time to time.
The box balls add a playful note, while other plants and trees are echoed throughout the garden to subtly link the different areas.”
DESIGNER PROFILE Following a successful career in the army, Marcus Barnett switched professions to pursue his love of landscape design and started his own practice in 2004. He is now recognised as one of Britain’s leading landscape designers and has won three Gold medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.