On a quiet lane, in Nottinghamshire, is a unique site. It is surrounded on three sides by a stream, and raised up from the road by banking. Stepping into this quarter acre plot feels like entering an island.
The clients are building a forever house here. The brief was to create a garden that was part woodland cottage, part romantic country house garden. Privacy and screening were important, as was the need to conjure an illusion of space in (when the house was built) a fairly restricted space. Areas were required for morning coffee, evening dining, and the clients wanted to maximise their use of the banks and stream.
In design terms, there were a few basic challenges. 1. The site moves from organic banking to a rectilinear house in a short space. We needed to balance the desire lines around the house (i.e straight lines from parking to front door to kitchen doors) with the curving lines of the garden edge. 2. The banks have suffered from erosion, so care would need to be taken on the slopes. 3. The garden needed to feel bigger than it was, and for this we needed to create a journey through it, with pause points.
I was reminded of a childhood friend who lived on a small Scottish island. Around the house, twisting through rhododendrons, dipping and climbing banks, was a circular gravel path. It was only yards from the house, but from the front door, it was barely visible. This is what we wanted to create here, with the exception that this garden path should link to formal paths around the house. We were mindful of making these links hidden from plain sight.
The complete design then is a garden of two paths. From the main parking by the garage, one enters through a gate into a broad path lined with topiary and pleached trees. You can choose to step down into a white evening garden, with seating, dining and a fire pit, or to continue to the front door of the house. The path continues on through a pinch point to the east side of the property, through a small kitchen garden to a circular raised platform for morning coffee. The other path is accessed via a gate in the turning area and takes you along a woodland walkway. This joins with the platform, then carries down the rear bank, passing above the stream and back up alongside the garage.
Materials are kept to brick, gravel and wood. Limiting materials to no more than three is always good design practice, but especially so in a small site, as it stops the garden feeling ‘busy’. The proportions of the paths and seating areas are also deliberately kept large – again, in a small site, upscaling the proportions creates a feeling of more space. The planting will be mostly greens, silvers and splashes of blue and purple. These cool colours tend to extend space – think of fading blue horizons. Using yew hedging amongst hawthorn also will help – the dark, narrow leaves of yew always appear further away than they are. To add to the cottage garden feel, roses and other scented climbers will be trained up the house. There will be subtle lighting throughout the garden.
A challenging, but immensely enjoyable project to end 2018.
The images displayed show the journey through the garden, the Masterplan, and a view of the plot at first site visit.