Frost glitters and glistens across the all-seasons, landscaped lawns of this picturesque Suffolk garden, designed by Hugo Nicolle
Even on a cold and frosty morning, Jane dickens’ all-seasons garden, designed by Hugo nicolle, glitters and glistens with flashes of delicate colour
When Jane and Richard Dickens first saw Victoria House in 2012 it ticked all their boxes. ‘It was a much-loved family home,’ says Jane. ‘The owners had lived there for nearly 50 years and had planted the garden with interesting trees and shrubs. As an interior designer, I could see that the house had huge potential and that the garden offered scope for new ideas.’
The Dickens spent 18 months concentrating on renovating the house and planning the garden, then began planting and paving in spring 2015. ‘Plants aren’t my speciality, so I was delighted to find that Hugo Nicolle, a childhood friend, lived nearby – and is a garden designer! I hadn’t seen any of his gardens but I knew he had impeccable taste so I invited him to help me create the kind of garden that would work for our lifestyle.’
Jane gave Hugo just two instructions. ‘I wanted the house to be anchored to its surroundings, and I told him to avoid red and yellow flowers as I’m not mad about them!’ His solution was to encircle the house with a combination of York stone slabs and Belgian brick pavers; the variation in sizes and shades has a softening effect. The same hard landscaping is followed through the various garden rooms, creating an easy flow.
‘We didn’t make radical changes to the layout of the garden,’ explains Jane. ‘The lawns, hedges and vistas already existed, so the challenge was to link up the areas and make them interesting, useful spaces by devising a series of rooms.’
The north-facing courtyard terrace has a formal feel, with parasol-pruned ornamental pears (Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’) underplanted with box (Buxus sempervirens). In the spring months, borders are filled with tulips including ‘Queen of the
Night’, while in summer the colour scheme is pinks and purples, featuring purple sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurea’),
Astrantia major ‘Claret’ and Geranium ‘Suzanne’.
An arch in the wall gives a view into Rosie’s Garden, a scented area named after Jane’s mother. Rosa ‘Mortimer Sackler’ and the honeysuckle ‘Graham Thomas’ fill the air with their perfume.
An Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ fills a corner of the courtyard terrace and the fountain garden can be glimpsed through a screen of pleached crab apples. The circular shape of the Allison Armour glass ball water feature is echoed in the giant box balls surrounding it. The swimming pool garden has generous summer borders with lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina ‘Big
Ears’), agapanthus and Verbena bonariensis.
Even in the depths of winter, the garden has colour and shape.
Rosa ‘Bonica’ defies the frost, its pink flowers like icing-sugar cake decorations. In the walled garden, the leaves of Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) hang like golden discs in the thin November sun. The dogwood (Cornus controversa ‘Variegata’) is transformed into tangled macramé by the frost.
Nerines along the wall at the front of the house are drooping in the cold, but the pale lime leaves of the glorious corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) catch the early morning light. In the swimming pool garden, the bold shapes of Irish yew, Mediterranean spurge (Euphorbia wulfenii) and Hakonechloa
macra grasses are outlined by frost against an old brick wall. ‘I love the garden through all the seasons,’ says Jane, ‘but in the depths of winter, sparkling frost gives it a special magic.’
The clean lines of low Buxus hedges work well with the Regency-style house.
Newly planted Carpinus betulus provides autumn colour in the swimming pool garden.
Old stone statues representing winter on the left and summer on right frame a wooden bench.