Coun­try Gar­den

A slop­ing, ne­glected plot over­run with rab­bits would be too much of a chal­lenge for some, but gar­den de­signer Kristina Clode was un­de­terred, us­ing clever zon­ing and plant­ing com­bi­na­tions to cre­ate her ru­ral idyll

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - WORDS Stephanie Ma­hon PHO­TO­GRAPHS an­naick Guit­teny

The owner - and de­signer - of an East Sus­sex gar­den has drawn in­spi­ra­tion from wild mead­ows and the bor­rowed coun­try land­scape, re­sult­ing in a re­lax­ing haven.

Kristina Clode left Lon­don 10 years ago for an East Sus­sex cot­tage, to make her gar­den dreams come true. ‘We bought the house be­cause of the gar­den,’ she says. ‘I was look­ing for a project – a blank can­vas – and I had quite a long wish list.’ The gar­den de­signer loved the ru­ral set­ting and grounds of al­most half an acre, and opted to look past the run­down house, the slop­ing site and an odd col­lec­tion of build­ings, in­clud­ing an Ed­war­dian steam pump house and a de­com­mis­sioned nu­clear bunker. The over­grown gar­den was cov­ered in bram­bles and over­run with rab­bits, but it had charm.

Kristina, who orig­i­nally trained in fash­ion, went to study at Capel Manor be­fore work­ing for sev­eral gar­den de­sign com­pa­nies. Her knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence meant she could iden­tify what she should do to make her new plot work. ‘It was all one gar­den with the house plonked in the mid­dle,’ she says, ‘and I wanted a sep­a­rate front gar­den and gar­den rooms. That would take you on a jour­ney around the gar­den, and you wouldn’t see ev­ery­thing all at once.’

To get rid of the rab­bits, she re­did all the bound­ary fences, adding wire sunk a foot be­low the ground. ‘Most of the struc­ture was put in when we did a two-storey ex­ten­sion in 2010 – the builders ter­raced some ar­eas, put paths down and dug out a pond. Then we tack­led each sec­tion a bit at a time.’

Now, the front gar­den has a wild­flower meadow, which is in full bloom when Kristina opens the gar­den to vis­i­tors each June. Loosely planted or­na­men­tal borders around it

of­fer in­ter­est once the meadow is cut down. Con­tin­u­ing the wild theme, the pond is now home to newts and dragon­flies.

Along­side the house lies the fire cir­cle and a large ter­race. Con­tin­u­ing through to the back gar­den, a cir­cu­lar bed cre­ates the frame­work for a for­mal flower gar­den, next to which is a glass dome left by the pre­vi­ous in­hab­i­tants, and the green­house where Kristina raises veg­etable plants and an­nu­als.

The main fo­cal point be­hind the house is a huge old ap­ple tree with a swing. ‘Ev­ery­one is amazed by it, be­cause it’s hol­low, but still pro­duces hun­dreds of ap­ples.’ There are more seat­ing ar­eas nearby, with an up­per pa­tio out­side the con­ser­va­tory and a per­gola, smoth­ered in wis­te­ria in spring. From there, a large lawn sweeps down to more borders, and reaches across to the veg­etable patch and fruit cage.

Mak­ing this gar­den led to other projects, and Kristina has now set up her own prac­tice. She will al­ways be grate­ful, how­ever, to have had the chance to cre­ate her own lit­tle piece of heaven. ‘When you are a de­signer, you stick to the client’s brief,’ she says, ‘so it’s lovely to have a space to make what I want, that has all the plants I’ve al­ways wanted to grow.’

I wanted gar­den rooms to take you on a jour­ney and you wouldn’t see ev­ery­thing at once.ó

The fire cir­cle is a shel­tered space where Kristina and her fam­ily likes to sit in the last of the sun­shine. It is planted withPan­icum vir­ga­tum ‘Rubrum’ and yel­low Sol­idago ru­gosa ‘Fire­cracker’.

Raised beds and brick paths form the veg­etable patch, while in the borders (be­low right) au­tumn in­ter­est is pro­vided by Ac­taeasim­plex (Atrop­ur­purea Group) ‘Brunette’ and aster ‘Lit­tle Car­low’.

The pond is sur­rounded by Mis­cant­hus sinen­sis‘Malepar­tus’, Eu­pa­to­riumpur­pureum ‘Glut­ball’ and Darmera peltata.

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