winner of Homes & Garden’s Best Garden Reader Award 2021this garden achieves the harmonious balance between architecture and outdoor environment that is best achieved when they are designed at the same time.
With architectural plans for the home on the drawing board, the ambitious and cohesive garden design was formulated, with shared ambitions in style, space, function and materials.
Be inspired by the garden and plant design tips for your own garden ideas.
Natural pool design
The concept of a formal, geometric but natural swimming pool idea, strategically in line with the architecture and using the same materials of the house, was central to the entire design.
Garden designer Anthea Harrison (opens in new tab) was challenged to come up with a concept that made the status of the pool the main feature of the garden.
“Aesthetically more ‘classic water feature idea’ than a swimming pool, this dual-purpose reflective body of water creates an apparent movement as clouds race across the sky, its mirrored glass surface magically casting shards of light straight into the house,” reveals owner Jo Carter.
Working with the sloping contours of the garden
On a more practical level, the need to filter, purify and recirculate water became an integral part of the design.
“The pebble-filled streams are dramatically graded to conform to the natural contours of the sloping garden, drawing water through the garden by gravity to a semi-circular filter basin cleverly camouflaged by water-purifying reeds and species Iris pseudocorus,’ explains Anthea.
A clean cut waterfall path follows the geometry of the water-filled creek to a circular seating area and fire pit beneath mature Blue Atlas Cedar, Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauka’.
A rich tapestry of textured green planting is mottled with white Astrantia majorblue Iris sibirica ‘Caesar’s Brother’, purple Salvia nemerosa “Ostfriesland”, linden blossom lady’s mantle, Alchemilla Mollis.
The rest of the garden revolves around this intricate and aesthetic water system, with key elements arranged for convenience, aspect and view.
A garden in harmony with its surroundings
The overarching concept aimed to transform the 3.5 acres of grassy grounds while preserving mature majestic trees and sweeping views of the open countryside.
“We wanted to create an intimate garden, in harmony with our natural surroundings, with different levels or spaces where we could enjoy some solitude, relax, bathe or swim and chat comfortably,” explains owner Jo Carter.
A rich tapestry of textured green planting blends into the landscape beyond.
An informal earth garden path meanders through the tree lined walking garden. here Acer platanoides’Princeton Gold‘ and white-legged silver birch, Betula utilis jacquemontii are underplanted with shade tolerant perennials underneath iris ‘Cliffs of Dover’iris “Caesar’s brother”, with purple tips Salvia caradonna, Veronicastrum lavender tower.
Naturalistic plant design includes waves of Euphorbia wulfenii and bubbling grasses, Stipa tenuissima, Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinace ‘Transparent’ and Stipa gigantica.
Formal and informal planting areas
A subtle change in touch ensures that the landscaping and planting, which is more formal near the home, becomes progressively more informal as the gardens drift outwards to comfortably fit into the context of the secluded landscape.
The carved stone terraces and steps around the pool and stream garden are replaced by winding hoggin’ paths in the walk garden.
Structural blocks of neatly trimmed yew hedges in the upper garden give way to lower-lying, more decorative yew topiary domes hidden among fountains of ornamental grasses and heaped perennials.
Using screens to create “rooms”
The area has been loosely partitioned using garden screen ideas to create ‘open’ spaces, airy spaces artfully partitioned with decorative laser cut or solid corten steel screens.
The screens gently confine the more formal elements of the garden, directing the eye to specific focal points or garden vistas.
Outdoor living areas conveniently placed
Clever use of the garden zones places the outdoor kitchen and dining areas, as well as areas for relaxing and enjoying the view, conveniently and compatibly close to the home.
The wide, elevated terrace overlooking the pool and wider garden is suitable for entertaining in large or small numbers. A double row of young plane trees provide dappled shade for guests, replacing the planned trio of mulberries that were ‘not up to the task’.
Plant consecutive flowers for a long season of interest
The summer garden is teeming with a gigantic matrix of 5,000 seasonal and succession plants.
“The scale of the planting is immense,” reveals Anthea, pleased that the owners insisted on voluminous planting areas rather than the usual grassy areas. “The original brief was for low-maintenance garden bed ideas, but the sheer volume of plants demands a gardener’s full attention,” explains Jo.
“The garden is constantly evolving as we make our own mark and introduce new flowering plants where a few original plants failed.”
The width, intensity and type of planting seemingly absorbs and cushions the weight of the harsh landscape features. As a result, an exquisite tapestry of texture, form and color seamlessly rolls outwards from the house, enveloping a multitude of seating areas designed to capture the midday or setting sun.
Various plant color palettes
Jo pushed the eye-catching color overlay with different garden color schemes for each area.
Vivid and intense reds, oranges and yellows color the “hot borders” closest to the house, while softer, softer tones, blues and whites adorn the plants further away.
The overall result is a beautifully landscaped garden, perfectly designed for solitude or sharing.
How to successfully integrate key elements of garden design
Garden designer Anthea Harrison advises on how to incorporate key elements into the garden with minimal impact.
- Plan the location of seating and lounging areas before landscaping – push seating areas back, set them back, integrate them into the actual design space rather than jutting out onto walkways and patios.
- Understand the movement of sun and shade in your garden and position seating accordingly.
- Choose simple, low furniture that complements the contemporary style and lines of the landscaping – in this design, the minimalist, geometric “panel” sofa and coffee table merge with the cobblestones.
- Dress in colors with cushions to complement the surrounding planting – green and purple, orange would also work.
- Hide unsightly but desirable features; a large, square whirlpool is minimized, discreetly embedded in front of the low boxwood hedge, its cover is reminiscent of paving clinker
- Choose garden buildings that blend into the garden; The rectangular pool house, which fits seamlessly into the angle of a yew hedge, reflects the dominant silver grey/green of the nearby planting with its lighter sage green finish.
- Distract the eye and soften the effect by surrounding, but not obscuring, entertaining areas with mounds of lush and profusely flowering perennials and grasses.
- Use living walls and decorative filigree screens to enhance privacy and create protection.