June 2021 – Until last month, the mention of Delos would have taken me back to my childhood history book, with pictures of the avenue of lions illustrating accounts of the Delian league’s flawed aspirations to peace. Now, another image superimposes itself over the old one: that of the Priest’s House, in Sissinghurst, overlooking Dan Pearson’s new magical interpretation of Vita Sackville-West’s and Harold Nicolson’s original vision for their Delos garden.
This new planting scheme for a garden in Islington is a tale of two hemispheres, on two counts.
Based in North London, it incorporates a range of plants native to New Zealand, where the owners spent their childhood.
It also has two distinct environments: one side faces south, it is sunny and warm, with well-drained soil, while the other faces north, is in the shade, and the soil remains reliably moist.
But what can appear a challenge in garden design terms is also an opportunity to bring greater variety, while maintaining coherence by playing with shapes and textures.
A Mediterranean border for the south-facing, sheltered corner of an open site at the back of a former vicarage, planted with evergreen drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials for year-round presence.
A low-maintenance gravel garden with simple lines for the front of an angular 1950s brick house located at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac. Generous planting softens boundaries, increases kerb appeal, and turns a space that was once a mere access route into one where the owners and their visitors might linger.
When a digger nearly fell over the high retaining wall overlooking the overgrown dell just down from the main front garden, the new owners of Chateau Colbert realised there could be more to the long, unkempt site on the western side of the estate.
Mickael Vincent, head gardener at the Potager Colbert, who is taking me around the garden on a bright morning in late August, says earlier plans showed there had been a kitchen garden here, but that before that incident in 2012, there were few signs left of its former glory.
A garden for a young professional couple in North London, who commute into the city every day and enjoy their outdoor space but have little time to look after it.
January 2020 – Winter was once the final frontier for garden folks. The cold season just meant leafless shrubs, perennials cut back to the ground, and muddy borders. Of course you could always count on holly, yew and various conifers for greenery and structure. The odd Christmas rose would bring a bit of colour until the first snowdrops popped up, along with winter aconites, followed by crocuses heralding the imminence of spring and a return to floriferous times. But mostly, in winter, gardens went into hibernation.
February 2019 — A sharp breeze sweeps across the hill, ruffling the silver-green eucalyptus grove in the distance. It forcefully combs the grasses and buffers the young monkey-puzzle trees that are dotted around the meadow. The air is crisp and the sky is clear. Apart from the hissing of the wind in the branches, there is barely a sound. Gondwanaland, on the western fringe of the Marks Hall estate, feels a bit otherworldly.
February 2019 — Search for ‘Betula jacquemontii’ on the internet and the chances are the first page of results will include several pictures of the white birch grove at Anglesey Abbey. It’s a testament to the garden design team that, despite the internet’s ability to warp our perception and unrealistically heighten our expectations, this should still be a striking sight when you eventually see it in real life. Continue reading “Anglesey Abbey: kingdom of stems and scents”
March 2019 – In less than a month, it will be hanami, cherry-blossom time, at Europe’s largest Japanese garden. My last visit to the oriental park at Maulévrier, near Cholet, in France’s Anjou region, dates back to mid-November, on the last day of their autumn season. In the woodland, the nearly bare branches of deciduous trees are holding on to the last gasps of fieriness. Continue reading “Last days of autumn in the Japanese garden”