Just over half an acre (approx. 40yds wide and 60yds long) west facing sloping from South to North (ie from left to right across) with a maximum crossfall of 2metres. The existing soil was acid sandy supporting a number of mature Rhododendrons. Existing trees around the property were mainly Oak. In the garden itself just a single Oak tree was to be found growing adjacent to the SW corner elevation of the new house. The subsoil was clay.
The overall site was purchased with intention of demolishing the existing building and replacing it with larger residence incorporating a swimming pool. The new house was basically Queen Anne revival in style. The clients were from overseas, family and pet orientated, who wanted a garden that was harmonious with the house but atypical of English period style. The house construction had been underway for about a year so that the foundations and elevations were completed when our design for the rear garden was submitted. Due to the access constraint and the major excavations required to adjust the level of the garden it was intended that the landscape works be co-ordinated with the final building works of the house.
As the scheme required a level finishing with the terrace necessitating the removal of several thousand cubic metres of soil and clay (most of the soil had to be taken away due to lack of spoil storage space) to give a final down fall towards the house of about a 900mm we were able to incorporate a large expanse of grass with medium loam soil on a bed of sharp sand and a land drainage system. The whole garden also had a 12-station irrigation system.
This also meant that we were able to dispense with paths. The lawns were designed as three circles on different levels connected by discreet curved steps of new sawn York stone which would match the terrace paving. We chose from a pit in Yorkshire that supplied stone in a buff yellow colour which harmonised well with the soft yellow texture of the Bath stone quoins of the house and terrace walling.
Initially the design allowed for an ornamental pool, a rose pergola for axis and planting proximity to the terrace, greenhouse and vegetable garden, shrub and flower borders and a water tank for the irrigation plus a seat feature. The scheme was accepted in the autumn. We commenced work on site the following Spring.
During the winter, in our absence, it had been decided that a waterfall feature was to be introduced and large concrete retention steps had been laid from the garden to the basement in the form of an amphitheatre. The steps were also to act as a foundation for a double waterfall. My task was to design the finish article and build it before starting any other work in the garden (which now consisted of a few square yards of soil, a few sad shrubs, odd saplings and four or five Rhododendrons planted along the South boundary; plus rain, clay and site huts). Also a lily-pool was wanted. Using 20tonnes of 8-15cwt Westmoreland rocks bedded on bags of cement and Resin to create waterproof pools and cascades to the pools at the base we also installed powerful pumps to recycle the water into the lily pool with a weir over which the water flowed back over the rocks. A Chinese bridge was later designed to cross over from terrace to lawn.
As soon as the sand was brought in and sound footing established over the clay the pipe work for the irrigation was laid, the steps installed, brick works laid, the ornamental pool elevation built and the raft base poured for the quarter-circle Pergola. The pergola design originated from a contemporary photograph of an Edwardian garden – in practice the geometry of this structure proved to be very exacting with each metal arch and transverse sections and separate radial elevations springing from the centre of an unfinished (in our case) lawn needing great precision. With the 250cu m of topsoil in spread we were able to begin planting.
In order to hide the new oak fencing along the South boundary a tall hedge of 3m Hornbeams was planted. The sloping shady bed in front of the Hornbeams was cleared of saplings and all of the old rhododendrons except for one very large specimen that was accordingly transplanted to a key position. In this bed we planted a selection shrubs to give all year round flowering either red or white. On the West side of the main lawn and behind a low box hedge space was created for a small vegetable garden. The flower colour theme was to flow anticlockwise around the main lawn from the deep reds in the shady border to oranges, bright yellows to blues and lemon yellows in the South facing herbaceous border. A row of 1.8m Yews (Taxus baccatta ) was planted to form a screen to the green house and backcloth to the plants in the herbaceous border.
Nearer to the house, still South facing, we fixed to the boundary fence a treillage of light weight hard wood panels painted dark olive green on to which were trained a selection of espaliered pear, apple and fig trees to provide fruit for the kitchen.
An area for the young children was made at the end of the garden. The main feature here was the swing. Based on a traditional design that we have been using successfully for some years in the smaller garden, and what we call the pergola-swing, a modern version was designed that had two swing seats. All models are of oak timber supports, wide oak seats supported by adjustable chains and edged with thick hemp rope.
Finally with the lawn turf laid and planting completed, and an old York stone patiolaid in the basement with its pre-cast stone fountain pool to provide the more intimate atmosphere of a, secret garden, and lighting in place there only remained ornaments and furniture to find. The fountain statues were pre-cast weathered, a curved carved-stone seat came from a firm specialising in antique ware, also the lead masks. Terra cotta pots and planters were a mixture of mass-produced and hand made from Tuscany.
A 12-month maintenance contract ensured proper establishment of planting and on site availability to cover any commissioning problems.