SOUTHDOWN (the making of)
Go to SOUTHDOWN to see the completed garden.
The garden is based on the Devonshire farm on which the client grew up. The more exposed upper garden takes its cue from the rich herbacious planting of his family's garden and is perhaps suggestive of hilltops and open countryside. The sunken lower garden, meanwhile, drew inspiration from steep-sided valleys, secluded woodlands and deep stream beds with lush green vegetation.
The upper garden
The original garden had not been maintained for some time, and was full of knee-high grass tussocks and weeds. An 'airstrip' concrete path ran the length of the garden, skirted by a washing line, and there were disintegrating sheds at each end of the the plot(1). The first task was to clear the space, which involved removing all grass, weeds and unnecessary planting, along with hard standing and sheds. The few remaining salvageable plants (crocosmia, cotoneaster and a chaenomeles) were retained(2). Topsoil from the lower garden was seived and used to level the upper garden(3/4), and a temporary clay retaining wall was made halfway up the garden, delineating the two halves(5). A meandering lawn area was marked out and the beds enriched with compost before being planted. As per the client's request, one side was designated cool, white planting; the other side warm/hot reds, oranges and purples(6).
The lower garden
Once again, the tussocks and weeds along with sheds, path and hardstanding from the original garden(7) were cleared(8). With the division of the garden into two halves established by the temporary clay wall, the upper garden received the seived topsoil from the lower garden, from which clay subsoil was also removed, reducing the surface to almost a meter below the original level(9). Path and seating area were marked out and a sand foundation delineated the beds(10), after which topsoil was imported and banked up to make the new beds(11). Finally, logs taken, with permission, from the farm in Devon were used to provide interest and structure prior to planting(12).
The lower garden, paths and seating area
With the lower garden dug out, rush screening was put up against the fence, partly to increase privacy and the feeling of seclusion in this area, and partly as a more uniform and appealing background for the tropical planting(13). As described above, the paths, seating area and steps to the upper garden were then marked out and flattened(14), then topsoil brought in to make the banked beds(15). The logs from the farm provided a means of shoring up the soil while adding interest and structure for the new planting, which consisted of two Indian Bean trees, several acers, ferns, hostas and heucheras along with a variety unusual shade-loving natives and some exotics(16). The paths and seating area were given a strong foundation of hard core and the pond was dug, fed by a stream from the upper garden(17). The stream was given a rocky slate bed which mirrored the theme for the paving(18).