Photo by Steve Burden Photography
On Friday 18th March, The Association of Professional Landscapers Awards 2022 were held in the heart of London, nestled between its financial district and the creative community of Shoreditch, at the site of the former Whitbread Brewery. Now an international events venue, The Brewery welcomed more than four hundred people to this prestigious, annual event, all of whom work within the landscape industry.
Hosted this year by renowned garden designer, writer and public speaker, James Alexander Sinclair, this annual event recognises, and rewards registered members who are committed to providing the highest standards of landscape contracting and client satisfaction. Projects must demonstrate technical and horticultural excellence.
For his ‘Ravine Garden’
‘This garden has an extremely sophisticated planting scheme, including a lot of research into the choice of plants. It functions beautifully all year round, it feels like an oasis to be in. Overall, it’s a fantastic, finished garden.’
For his ‘Artist’s Garden’
‘A dynamic and interesting shaped garden. The attention to detail was superb and the workmanship was fantastic. It shows a great understanding of garden design.’
Following the excitement of this year’s awards ceremony, I caught up with Adam to ask him about the event, the inspiration behind both award-winning gardens and to gain an insight into the landscape industry and what it means for him.
‘You could really feel the mix of anticipation, excitement, and nervousness in the air. It was great to meet up with people face to face, given the last two years we have all experienced with national lockdowns and virtual meetings. There was a sense of collective relief that the awards ceremony could be enjoyed, and the creativity of the last year celebrated together.’
‘Inspiration for the Ravine Garden came from my many visits to The Lost Gardens of Heligan. I never tire of visiting it. Recently I visited while holidaying in Cornwall - seeing the Gunneras emerge from their winter slumber never fails to excite me, or the spectacular displays of Primula candelabra with their layered whorls of vibrant orange, pink and purple flowers. The Ravine Garden was created to deliver a truly vibrant planting scheme, which would provide interest all through the year and increase the biodiversity of the site significantly. The site conditions are unique with a cool, damp and shady valley floor, which graduate through east and west facing banks to the hot and dry planting of the southerly facing banks. As such, the conditions were both a challenge and a huge opportunity to blend diverse, yet fascinating planting schemes which would thrive. I always relish a horticultural challenge so far as plants are concerned.’
‘Inspiration for the structure and design of the Artist’s Garden came from the client's wonderful glass sculptures. There were many to choose from, but the underlying theme is one of strong lines, geometry, stacked features and rectangles. These shapes determined the heart of the design (geometry of the garden), plus it allowed for some interesting detailing and finishing touches. The rectilinear design allowed for the easy segregation of the garden into three distinct zones, the intimate garden which houses the two seating areas and the water feature, the flexible garden which houses the lawn for her grandchildren and the dining area on the terrace and the area for her glass studio. I was able to play with the heights through the garden, bringing raised beds, cantilever benching, bespoke corten steel screens and a water feature into the space, which added interest, dynamism, and vitality to the design, all of which were lacking prior to this.’
‘It has to be winning not one, but two APL Awards this year - not least the coveted Designer of the Year Award! I am truly humbled to have received both awards and it is an honour to be recognised and rewarded by the APL for the design projects I am most passionate about. The competition was strong this year and it was a privilege to talk with contractors and fellow designers about their work.’
Photo by Steve Burden Photography
‘The APL are one of the leading organisations in this industry. They are an inclusive organisation and a great resource in terms of facilitating communication between designers and contractors. My experience of the APL’s support of its members through Covid particularly, has been incredibly positive. Virtual CPD training helped me to further develop my CPD and fully met my needs.’
‘Adventurous – I am continually looking to push boundaries in my design work whether it is the planting schemes or the use of building materials. I am inspired by contemporary design, naturalistic and architectural planting. For many years now, the concept of sustainability has underpinned all my designs.’
‘The volatility of material and labour costs over the last two years is by far one of the biggest challenges I have met. It makes designing a garden extremely difficult, especially when the process takes as long as 6-12 months. To mitigate this, I have had to design out cost within the design process. It can be frustrating when cost ‘shackles’ your creativity!’
‘Enrol with a college such as The London College of Garden Design. I would not be where I am today if it had not been for the inspirational training I experienced there - learning from some of the very best people in the industry. Set up your design website early in the training process, then you will be ready and prepared for launching your new career. My final top tip would be don’t be shy, get yourself out there. You might surprise yourself!’
‘I am excited for 2023. Several of my Design-Phase projects will be constructed Late 2022/Early 2023. I cannot wait for my clients’ dreams for their outdoor spaces to be fully realised! I am submitting my Contemporary Courtyard Garden, constructed this year by JJH Landscapes & Construction Ltd, for the APL Awards 2023. We anticipate submitting the design under the categories of Soft Landscaping, Designer of the Year and Collaboration.’
These awards recognise the value of landscape projects under £25,000. They are deemed just as important as larger schemes and are sometimes even more of a challenge. These types of projects are the backbone of the industry and the ‘bread and butter’ for many landscape companies.
These awards celebrate the excellence in individual projects and how people within the industry overcome the restrictions of smaller budgets and spaces, yet still create exceptional landscapes.
Read on to find out more about this Planting Design project.
The clients had asked for inspiration for the design to come from the local setting, its landscape, its beauty, and the randomness of nature, all of which would paint a scene within the landscape. The key was to harmonise the planting scheme with the landscape beyond, allowing the flow of the hills and valley to run through the design and in turn, the final planting scheme.
As such, the design needed to be relatively random in nature, hence a more naturalistic approach, which sought to soften the sharp, angular lines of the house, the gabions and the garden’s hornbeam hedges.
The scheme itself would need to be relatively sustainable, bringing with it waves of colour from spring to autumn.
The plant community would be one which required little watering after the first year, low maintenance, insect and bee friendly and one which would have a positive impact on the ecology of the site.
The clients requested a vibrant, yet sophisticated colour scheme, which would complement the muted colour palette of the hard-landscaping.
I arrived on site eighteen months after the clients had broken ground for their new home. The garden area had been completely stripped and severely compacted/abused in that time by all manner of heavy machinery.
The clients were in the final throes of constructing a new house on the site, which prior to this had been a wild meadow/paddock. There was an old apple tree in the lower corner and hedging which ran along the southern and eastern boundaries.
The site itself is located on a steeply sloping valley side and faces due south with tremendous views to the hills beyond. From examining the surrounding countryside, the general landscape can be described as a Chalk Downland. The underlying soil conditions were a thin topsoil, with a clay content over a chalk and flint bedrock.
I was brought into the project late on (the house was 80% complete when the clients contacted me), so there was not a great deal of time to thoroughly prepare and research the site and work with the Architect. Immediately, I interviewed all the stakeholders to ascertain and understand the requirements, challenges and aims of the project.
The ground conditions were extremely challenging, so selecting the right plants was difficult. I spent considerable time understanding the conditions, aspect, and micro-climate on the site before I started to design the planting schemes.
The ground had been severely compacted by the building contractors’ heavy machinery over the two years of construction, so it was essential to significantly improve the quality of the planting beds before the plants and trees were added. It was noted that there were two key areas of water retention in the winter, so this was addressed too.
All these areas were ‘ripped’ with the toothed bucket of the excavator down to a depth of 300mm into the chalk and flint subsoil/bed rock to ensure good drainage throughout. The original topsoil was saved and was enriched with a well-rotted organic compost to a depth of 400mm, which would add structure and goodness to the soil, thus allowing a fine show in year one.
Finally, a mulch was added to inhibit weed growth and retain moisture.
The site itself is extremely exposed. I needed to add height into the planting to ensure that the planting scheme was not overwhelmed by the landscape beyond. It needed to be self-supporting in the constant wind. This was achieved by weaving the Verbena bonariensis, Stipa gigantea and Deschampsia cespitosa through the backbone of each bed, allowing them to grow through each other. It was also helped by placing the large specimen shrubs at intervals through each bed, thus allowing the plant community to ‘knit together’.
The site was stripped of all vegetation before I started and had been left for nearly two years, so re-introducing vegetation which would encourage wildlife and increase the biodiversity of the site was key. I ensured the planting schemes were full of insect favourites such as Verbena bonariensis, Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’, Digitalis purpurea ‘Dalmatian Peach’, Salvias, Achillea ‘Terracotta’ etc.
The addition of a Wildflower Orchard added to the site ecology.
The clients set out in the brief a desire for the planting design to take inspiration from the surrounding landscape, so there had to be a focus on the form and texture of the planting scheme too.
The beds were designed to mimic the flowing valley and hills, pushing and reconciling their shape and form out into the larger landscape beyond.
The form and texture of the planting was key. It was imperative to keep a relatively limited palette, adding grasses and perennials with height, form and texture, such as the sharp edges of Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Amethyst’, the warmth of the Salvias, the contrast of the ‘frothy’ Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, the statuesque Verbena bonariensis and the delicate Heuchera ‘Schneewitchen’, but to name a few.
It was also important not to lay the plants out in blobs and blocks, as a naturalistic approach was needed to match the client brief and the call of the surrounding landscape. However, while it needed to remain naturalistic, I did add an element of formality to the scheme which would reconcile with the hard-landscaping features of the garden. To achieve this, I developed a planting square which could then be rotated and joined to the next square to create a natural look within a structured pattern.
The clients have dogs, so the lawn in between the beds had to be long and wide, thus allowing them the freedom to run around the garden without having to run through the beds.
Two planting schemes were developed - a ‘Modern Perennial’ and a ‘Rose Prairie’ scheme, which would develop the on-site biodiversity which had been missing for nearly two years. Each scheme was designed for year-round interest, with waves of colour from late March to November, followed by the shapes, form and structure of the golden grasses and seedheads through the winter.
The ‘Modern Perennial’ scheme was designed to look fresh and verdant in the spring, but as these months recede, so too would the Alliums, Irises and Euphorbia, leaving the Scabiosa, Knautia and Nepeta to soldier on into early summer, dying back in July. The zingy greens/yellows are replaced by the darkening greens and eventual golds of the grasses, rich purples, silver blues and oranges of the summer perennials.
The ‘Rose Prairie’ scheme was designed to create a relatively low maintenance scheme, with colour from April to October.
The clients wanted a cottage border, which from a maintenance perspective was out of the question, so the ‘Rose Prairie’ scheme was developed to deliver this brief, without the high maintenance.
While each scheme would have its own look and feel, it was imperative to reconcile both, so several plants were replicated in each scheme such as Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’, Stipa tenuissima, Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’, Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ and Pennisetum ‘Red Buttons’.
Running through the beds are specimen multi-stemmed Syringa vulgaris 'Katherine Havemeyer’ and Amelanchier lamarkii, to provide a mid- canopy layer, kissed by the grasses, perennials and roses from late spring onwards.
As you can see from the clients’ comments, the project indeed delivered in terms of the ‘wow’ factor!
"We are thrilled with the colour and texture of Adam's planting and the informal, natural effect he has achieved. I love the way the curved beds and the movement of the plants and grasses in the wind reflect the surrounding fields and landscape. Adam's skilled design has greatly enriched our garden, providing a habitat for an abundant variety of wildlife. Adam's innovative combinations and interesting selection of plants has given us a stunning garden that we can enjoy throughout the seasons. We couldn't have asked for anything better."
It was planted in April 2020 using a mix of 9cm – 2L pots for the perennials and grasses, which were soon flowering from May onwards. The schemes have delivered waves of colour throughout the spring and summer and continue to do so into late September.
When viewing the planting from their large terrace, it is incredible to see how the planting beds mimic the surrounding landscape, nestling/grounding the development of the house back into its beautiful surroundings.
Walking alongside the beds you hear the hum of the insects and catch the grace of the grasses and verbena as they sway in the wind. In the light of evening, the grassheads also catch the golden rays of sunlight beautifully.
The project has delivered and exceeded its brief in such a short space of time. What was not so apparent early on was the extent to which the garden would be viewed regularly, by local residents walking the footpaths on the opposite valley side. Whilst I had payed attention to ensuring the design worked from the outside looking in, it is fair to say that I had not quite anticipated the sheer impact the garden design would have on passers-by. My clients, their neighbours and all the walkers who pass their garden are full of praise for it.
I really look forward to seeing how the design will mature into its second year and thereon.
You might be wondering what this has to do with this particular feature on ‘Ask The Designer’. Well, with people working from home and spending more time in their outdoor spaces, we have seen a significant increase in enquiries through the website and general website traffic. We anticipate that this increase is partly because people have had more time on their hands to browse the internet, but moreover because people have discovered the ‘sheer joy’ of the outdoors and the positive impact it has had on their mental well-being during this challenging time. Their outdoor spaces have become an even more important extension of their indoor living spaces and of course, the glorious weather has helped! This coupled with the plethora of garden makeover programmes on TV, has fuelled and inspired people to want to ‘get more creative’ with their outdoor spaces.
In June’s copy of Pro Landscaper (2021), a publication for garden and landscape professionals, several articles were featured illustrating all the above. Recent RHS research shows ‘that nearly six in ten people (57%) now value their gardens more than previously. More than half (51%) said they will value their garden more after lockdown.’ Post-lockdown, emerging trends might see more people wanting to work from ‘home offices’ in their outdoor spaces, growing fruits and vegetables in dedicated spaces, creating outdoor grown-up living rooms for relaxation and more sophisticated cooking spaces for entertaining family and friends.
We asked Adam to share with you the ‘real’ costs involved in turning your dreams of a new outdoor space into reality and how the expertise of a garden designer can add genuine value to your home.
“Clients do have widely varying budgets. They can be anything from £5,000 to £200,000. I will come back to what you can expect from a smaller budget later. Whilst cost is unique to each garden design and is significantly influenced by the site’s size, drainage, aspect and accessibility for groundworks, the following table is a rough, illustrative guide as to what you can potentially expect from the services of a reputable landscape contractor, using mid-range quality building/landscape products.”
EXTENT OF WORK
PRICE IN £ PER M2
150 M2 SPACE
300 M2 SPACE
|New planting, trees and lawn||100||£15,000||£22,500|
|New planting, trees, lawn & a small terrace/patio||200||£30,000||£45,000|
|New planting, trees, lawn & a small terrace/patio, retaining walls & a small water feature||250||£37,500||£56,250|
|All the above, plus large specimen shrubs, simple lighting & irrigation||300||£45,000||£67,500|
|All the above, plus an additional terrace/seating area & more complex lighting||350||£52,500||£78,750|
|All of the above, using top of the range materials||400||£60,000||£90,000|
The above guide does not take into account sites where access may be limited/poor. As a rough guide, the costs can double or even triple, especially in a city centre location, with limited parking, access and working restrictions. This would reflect increased labour costs for manual clearing of the site and/or specialist equipment hire, such as cranes to lift equipment into the rear garden.
The above table is a rough, illustrative guide as to what you can potentially expect to pay.
“As a rough guide, in addition, you can expect to pay between 8-15% of the total construction cost for garden and landscape design services. The garden design process has three distinct phases, from initial concepts and designs to fine detailing, constructional drawings and planting designs and finally the selection of a preferred contractor and the construction of the garden.”
“Most definitely! The skills and expertise of an experienced garden and landscape designer are paramount in creating a strong and coherent garden design. Construction by an equally reputable and experienced landscape contractor is key in successfully delivering this vision. A well-designed and constructed garden can potentially increase your property’s market value by 10-15%. Garden appeal is well-documented when trying to sell your property.”
I would say a majority of the gardens which I fully design cost between £40,000 - £500,000. However, for smaller gardens or clients just wanting to rejuvenate their herbaceous borders, then the cost can often be less.
“Some recent enquiries through my design website have been potential clients, with budgets of about £5000, keen to redesign and construct their dream outdoor space. When I explain that the groundwork costs alone of clearing a site, removing soil and/or undertaking drainage works could exceed this, I understand their dismay and surprise with the figures. I have lost count of the number of times clients have said, “I really had no idea of the costs involved.”
Unfortunately, the garden makeover programmes on TV do little to educate people on the ‘real’ costs involved in designing and constructing new spaces. Seldom do they highlight the actual design and labour costs of landscape and garden professionals, not to mention groundworks, the hire of machinery and time expenses associated with mandatory Health & Safety Regulations and Risk Assessments for sites.
Whilst a smaller budget is not going to afford you a significant hard-landscaping project, what can be achieved is a partial redesign and/or new planting plan for rejuvenating a small, existing outdoor space.”
“I would strongly recommend a half/whole day garden and landscape design consultation, even with a smaller budget. For £250-£400, I can visit to discuss your initial thoughts about your outdoor space and its future direction. I will assess your site, considering factors such as soil type, drainage, aspect, prevailing winds and micro-climate. Following our discussions, I would then advise you on how I think you could best spend your budget. I might suggest a phased approach to redesigning your outdoor space or a simple planting design scheme to improve your existing space. By the end of the consultation process, you will have a better understanding and vision for how to move forward with your plans.”
I designed the garden in 2009 after the completion of the house and we started construction of the gardens in 2010. I say we, as it was largely a family affair – the projected construction costs for the entire garden were approximately £500k so we tackled it ourselves! A majority of the construction was finished by the latter half of 2016, with further projects developed in 2018/19 with the completion of the Orto, and in 2021 I expect to have a brand new Contemporary Courtyard Garden completed.
The garden is located in north Hampshire between Newbury and Basingstoke and benefits from a southerly facing aspect on a gentle slope, a fertile soil with an acidic ph, good drainage and a fabulous micro-climate which allows for the growth of some very interesting planting schemes, as you will see.
Adam (centre) in the garden with his family
We asked Adam to share with you where his sources of garden design inspiration come from in his landscape and garden design work. He will also be sharing how he turned a ‘mere thought into a reality’, as illustrated in the garden design projects he has worked on below.
"Clients often enlist the services of a garden designer to give them the inspiration they need to create a beautiful outdoor space, which enhances their home and fulfils their needs for outdoor living."
In the initial consultation process, whilst listening to the clients’ needs, Adam also uses it as an opportunity to ask a lot of questions in order to get to know them – their interests, hobbies, occupations and so on.
"In these moments, a thought might be ignited and one which has collaboratively sparked the garden design thought process."
Following the initial client meeting Adam also investigates and researches the history of the site and/or the local surroundings. This aids him in "better understanding the essence and soul of a place." Again, inspiration can be kindled from either the historical and/or geographical contexts within which the site lies.
So, we have our inspiration, what next?
The real skill is in harnessing the initial design inspiration ideas to create a strong and coherent landscape and/or garden design. Adam also draws upon his own expertise, skills, life experiences, knowledge, and exposure to the inspiring works of others to deliver his vision for his clients’ brief.
Adam says, "More recently, many clients are looking for a modern or contemporary garden design." This can be achieved by interpreting the garden design inspiration in a manner to deliver the brief as set by the client.
A commercial events venue primarily used for weddings.
The 'Big Idea' and inspiration behind this design started life as the union of the rings or interlocking rings, as would be seen in many wedding ceremonies.
Adam created a strong, contemporary design for spatial definition, whilst bringing a warmth back into the venue's gardens, through the planting schemes. The garden design had to deliver on style, accessibility and tranquillity in equal measure.
Garden Design Proposal - Axonometric View
The garden plan (Axonometric View) best illustrates the strong interlocking rings design from above. The end result: a sharp/modern garden design which fully met the requirements of the client.
Garden Design Proposal - The Bold Move
Garden Plan in bottom left corner highlights in blue:
The garden design inspiration for the main structure of this garden came from the world- renowned Japanese Architect Tadao Ando and his stark concrete creation at the University of Monterey in Mexico.
Adam took the striking offset angles from cast concrete to develop a highly dynamic and contemporary garden design, much to the delight of the garden's architect owners.
The quality of the design comes from its minimalist simplicity. This is echoed in the planting scheme. Adam chose 'green architecture' with a softer palette of year round herbaceous planting, like that of the work of Jacques Wirtz, Belgian Landscape Architect.
Garden Design Proposal - Axonometric View
Aerial view of the rear garden, looking in a southerly direction.
Adam chose a B&W rendering to better show the structure of the garden, highlighting the central retaining walls, Bocce Path, The Return, Ando's Steps and Wirtz's Lawn.
A contemporary garden design interpretation from the works of Ando and Wirtz.
Design Proposal - View from The Return, looking south
Standing at the top of The Return, looking south along The Steps and towards the The Bowl and Bench.
The planting is shown in late spring, as the Alliums, Nepeta and Euphorbia are in full swing. Under The Balcony the Hachonochloa flanks the Wirtz Lawn and The Water Feature. The polished concrete steps drop 100mm per step and lead you gracefully down to the lawn.
The Client Brief:
"We want a wonderful space for entertaining, enjoying the garden and nature, areas for the children (and adults) to play, fruit and veg production and areas to relax so that we may enjoy the stunning views."
Having spent considerable discussion time in the initial consultation with his clients, Adam learnt that both owners were avid gin fans. Entertaining family, friends and sometimes clients would play an integral part of how they wanted to use their new outdoor space.
The garden design inspiration for this energetic and dynamic design was found in Thomas Heatherwick's glasshouses at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Hampshire. Stunning pieces of architecture which flow and morph into fluid organic shapes.
"The energy within this design is uplifting; the supporting bars distort into a central focus point as they enter the building. It is so dynamic, it never seems to stop...wonderful!" (Adam)
Design Evolution - Garden Design Plan
The plan elevation was scaled at 1:50 @ A1.
Garden Design Evolution - Aerial View
To gain an idea of the space, mass and void over such a large area, Adam pulled together an aerial view looking in a southerly direction. At this altitude you can understand the flow and dynamics of the design and the graduation of the scheme from the front garden to the back.
Now, integrate some structured geometry and some strong lines and you have the makings of A Contemporary Woodland Wildflower Meadow.
Inspiration for the garden was sought from the client’s dominant sculpture which resides as a centre piece in the formal heart of the garden. More precisely, the distinctive geometric shapes would generate the focus for the design.
The client’s brief was to create a woodland screen in the lower part of their garden, which would integrate into the larger garden as a whole, but there were clear instructions not to add any additional perennial borders as maintenance was to be kept to a minimum. However, trees alone do not create a beautiful design.
Therefore, to offset the underlying strong geometric style of the design, billowing wildflower meadow beds would bring interest to the lower levels of the design. They will add interest from May to October when they receive their final cut of the year, but spring bulbs will extend the season from January to April. In order to highlight the core structure of the design while the meadow beds are dormant, geometric yew hedges were added.
The wildflower meadow mix was designed to thrive in the partial shade created by the trees above, with a ratio of 85% to 15% perennials to grasses. The mix was as follows:
Providing mid-level interest, was the addition of multi-stemmed Amelanchier and Taxus baccata to provide a Segway between the lower meadow and the tree canopy above, plus added interest in the winter and spring, as the Amelanchier bursts into flower.
The trees themselves were limited to three varieties to resonate with the contemporary nature of the design. Firstly, the Betula jacquemontii ‘Grayswood Ghost’ was selected for its beautiful white trunk, which contrasts magnificently with the evergreen Taxus baccata hedges and balls.
Secondly, Prunus serrula was selected again for the colour of its bark, this time an intense golden bronze which radiates in the low winter sun. It also has the added interest of spring blossom too.
Thirdly, Malus ‘Evereste’ was selected as a fruiting tree which would reconcile with the collection of old English apples already present within the garden, plus it has the added benefit of wonderful spring blossom.
As a designer, the vision to create A Contemporary Woodland Wildflower Meadow sits within my mind, but it has to be clearly delivered to the client. To do this, it had to be modelled in 3D and rendered in a photo realistic style, visualising the finished article within the current garden of the client. The finished images were delivered to the client within the Outline Design Package.
Louise is an accomplished plants-person and it therefore came highly recommended, as what she doesn’t know about plants isn’t worth knowing!
We, Heidi and I, finally found time to visit in mid-September one Friday morning and after battling with the traffic on the A303, we finally arrived just before lunch. We had hoped to visit the garden and gallery, but unfortunately the latter was closed for the day while they were updating the display. Oh well, we’ll just have to come back in the future!
Before taking in the gardens, we decided to stop for some lunch in Roth Bar & Grill – www.rothbarandgrill.co.uk. I have to say, it was worth the 1.5hrs in the car just for lunch; wonderful, fresh cooked food served in a charming restaurant.
Once fed and watered, we then turned our attention to the gardens and wow, we weren’t disappointed! Even though they had passed their best and looking at the planting schemes, I’d say July and August are the best months to visit.
We strode in and were overwhelmed by the scale and artistry of the planting; flowing drifts of purples, pinks, blues, whites and a sea of gold. The scheme is relaxed yet flows with a symmetry through the sweeping beds which mirror the shape of the Radic pavilion at the end of the site. Truly a site to behold. Garden design executed with style and simplicity, yet with a hidden detail – a masterpiece.
In summary, Oudulf Field is a large, perennial meadow that sits behind the gallery. Carefully shaped and planted, the garden echoes the tradition of classical gardens, but the variety of species and combination of plants creates a looseness, softening the overall formality of its appearance.
What makes it doubly special is the conditions of its birth. If ever there were a difficult year to create a garden from nothing more than a bare field surrounded by hedges, it was 2014. Months of relentless rain in the wettest winter on record reduced the soil to a quagmire, followed by weeks of drought, just when the 26,000 plants grown at Orchard Dene Nursery in Oxfordshire were getting established. But, despite all this – and thanks also to the glorious, late summer and the hard work of Petherick, Urquhart & Hunt, the landscapers, as well as Mark Dumbleton, Durslade’s head gardener – the team pulled off one of the most exciting new gardens in the country.
Wide canopied trees have been planted between the gallery and garden to frame the view. The surrounding hedges provide a sense of enclosure, whilst the views of the hills and fields beyond remain visible. We stood along the north west boundary and looked east, taking in the rolling hills beyond, which cleverly added height to the gardens without having to add any real height to the planting scheme.
A series of paths cut through the borders, like a hot knife through butter, inviting visitors to wander through the garden. Piet’s design continues across the whole site too, enticing the visitor into the inner cloister courtyard where the buildings, old and new meet.
I have to say, as a garden designer, anyone who decides to visit, will be inspired. I have come away with more ideas for prairie planting, perennial schemes, improved use of grasses and inspiration to fuel my future garden designs for years to come.
Relaxed, refreshed and inspired, we headed back towards the A303...