Spurred on by the loss of boundary trees to a new development, Fran Wakefield built a walled design from scratch, inspired by the one that had stood here in the 13th century
Built from scratch, this classic design now matches its rich heritage.
The circumstances that propel us into creating a garden are many and varied, but one of the stranger ones has to be a planning battle. Fran Wakefield has lived in a small village in Berkshire for more than 30 years and described herself as a fair-weather gardener until a developer came along, around 2006, demolished the ancient building that stood next door to her home and put up a series of luxury apartments in its place. “I don’t really like whingeing about it now, but at the time it was awful. All the boundary trees were pulled down, a huge acacia in my garden collapsed due to the building upheaval, and suddenly I went from having a private garden to one that was completely overlooked.”
Most people would have put their house on the market at this point, but Fran decided to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and completely redesign her outdoor space. Research into the origins of the land had shown that in the 13th century, there had in fact been a house with a walled garden on this site. Inspired, Fran persuaded the builders to save all the bricks from the demolition of the medieval barn next door and to use them to build her a boundary wall, which ranges between six and 12 feet in height, a job which “they did absolutely beautifully, complete with buttresses”.
The sense of enclosure that Fran gained from this solution reminded her of the visits she had made as a child into the tranquil walled garden that lay within the grounds of her school. “I went back to find the old garden and, although the school had gone, the garden was still there, rather overgrown but still recognisable, and I realised how important it had been to me.”
Fran wanted to reflect the essence of that garden within her own, to create a cloistered space for herself, and began by planting 800 box shrubs to form the backbone of a parterre which was interplanted with lavender, roses and foliage plants, such as hostas and
Alchemilla mollis. Occasionally, borrowing a technique she has observed in the paintings of landscape artist JMW Turner, who often used a pertinent dash of colour to catch the eye, she too has used a splash of red among the blue, purple and silver to enliven things.
Other elements have been selected with equal thought. “Everything is either recycled or a piece of salvage. This has helped make the garden feel as if it has been here for so much longer than it really has.”
During the summer months, the garden is
Orientation A south-facing walled garden of about one third of an acre in a small village in the Pang valley, Berkshire.
Soil type Free-draining, chalky soil which has been considerably improved over the years.
Special features The garden has been designed and planted with the formality and planting of a medieval monastic garden.
ABOVE Looking across the box parterre from the house, with the fragrant creamy-white double rose, ‘Albéric Barbier’ underplanted with blue salvia.
RIGHT Fran brought these white agapanthus from a local nurseryman who had in turn sourced them from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. They do well in pots as they thrive in the confined space.
ABOVE A bird bath that Fran found in a reclamation yard is the focal point of this part of the garden. It has a small lip on which bees rest and drink from the water.