Large estate in Essex
Having studied Garden History at London University, Andy Gardiner was delighted to put his knowledge into practice with designs that reflected the clients’ wishes and honoured the rich history of the property. The first step was to transform the sprawling, unstructured space left by the previous owners into distinctive areas, different in mood and historical style but connected with a series of yorkstone paths. The stylish formality of a privy garden; the topiary of a box allée; a lush camellia and magnolia garden; a tranquil lily pool with a Victorian fountain; an iris walk; and a private swimming pool enclosed with yew hedging and clairvoyez portholes. Finally, we transplanted large espalier apple and pear trees and created a small orchard of plums, gages and apples from indigenous varieties.
Since this large, detailed project was completed we have made regular site visits to guide the staff through garden maintenance. A second phase of work is planned, which will include a new herbaceous border and a large parterre inspired by the rococo plasterwork of the house’s drawing room.
Three-acre plot near Guildford
We took the precaution of enclosing the site with stock fencing to keep out deer and reduce the damage caused by rabbits. The plot was broadly divided into three landscaped areas: a courtyard garden connected to the house and enclosed by brick walls, a woodland area and a meadow-style planting through which mown grassy paths next to the main lawn lead into the woodland.
The courtyard garden faced fully south and was designed as a water garden; it was in full sun most of the day. It was sub-divided with a rectilinear geometry through a series of rills and waterfalls. The divisions were further emphasised with strong plantings of Miscanthus malapartus and other tall perennials which acted as green walls in the growing season.
The flowing water travelled between two pools; a walk-over pool in the main leisure area and a Half Moon Pool at the entrance to the house. The perennial nature of the plantings in this garden ensured a joyous explosion of colour from April through to October and a cool stillness in winter.
Mike and Andy had designed seven connecting gardens that would showcase a blend of English and indigenous plantings. Peat was imported from Russia to establish Azaleas and Japanese maples in the Woodland Garden, which was set under pines and in cooler clearings. Behind a hedge of salt-tolerant Pittosporum crassifolia, the Sheltered Garden offered a meandering walk through scented Cistus, Myrtle, Rosemary, Santolina and Lavender. This, in turn, opened out through a shrubby gateway onto the scree of The Hot Garden. Facing the sea, it was bursting with the oranges of Lantana and Gazania and accented with Chaemerops palms, Cactus, Agave and Aloes. The Moonlight Garden, which was surrounded by olive trees, was reached via a stone staircase and its plantings of Echium, Gardenia, Jasmine and Nicotiana beautifully scented the night air around the circular marble terrace and fountain.
Fifteen or so years later, Mike was chatting to a famous stage and TV personality at a party. During the conversation the gentleman mentioned a fabulous garden that he had just seen while visiting the South of France. As he described it in more detail, Mike realised exactly where he had been. Glowing a gentle pink, he admitted modestly that it was the one that he had created all those years ago.
Town and country gardens
Mike was determined that the cottage garden would be like those he remembered from his childhood in rural Cambridgeshire. He described them as being “like the paintings of Helen Allingham, not full of box topiary and other nonsense.” He recalled how these gardens would be bursting with colour from lupins, delphiniums, hollyhocks, foxgloves, pinks and geraniums… nothing grand or expensive, just simple plants grown from cuttings. Taking this as his inspiration, he made a beautiful garden with a stone path winding through the space that made upkeep easy.
Andy and Mike worked together on the Knightsbridge garden, where all the plantings had to be in containers. Bespoke wooden planters were designed and built and the central courtyard featured an Acacia dealbata and four mop-head Sweet Bay arranged in a quincunx fashion. Mike used subtle contrasts in the foliage shapes and colours and the shades of glaucous green produced a peaceful atmosphere against the subdued pink of Victorian granite setts. This was complemented by white pelargoniums in summer and white tulips in spring. Sarcococca was planted at the front door, where its perfume welcomed visitors through the winter.