The BALI National Landscape Awards are held annually to recognise BALI (British Association of Landscape Industries) members who have demonstrated exceptional levels of skill and professionalism. The awards are separated in to categories and gardens put forward for an award are assessed by BALI and those considered worthy are put through as finalists. From the finalists in each category a Principal Award winner is selected. I am very proud that a garden I designed which was built by Design Scape who are BALI members, has won a Principal Award in the £60,000- £100,000 category at the 2014 ceremony held in London in early December.
Phil Wilcox of Design Scape and I have worked together for many years and I can be assured that if Phil is building one of my designs it will be executed to an extremely high standard and any problems or difficulties that arise during a build will be given a great deal of thought to arrive at the best solution. I was delighted for Phil to receive this award to recognise all the hard work that was put in to this project, as there were many unexpected challenges thrown up.
I was commissioned to design both the front and back gardens of the large Victorian villa in Staffordshire which at the out set was a blank canvas just laid to lawn. The brief was to have an elegant garden to complement the proportions of the grand house. The client was very keen to develop her gardening skills and wanted plenty of plants and a large vegetable garden.
The original garden was on several levels so I introduced a York stone raised terrace at ground level with the property retained by a brick wall laid with sawn York stone copings, with steps leading down to the lawn. This is where the first unexpected discovery was unearthed as a well was discovered by the house. The client wanted to make a feature of this so with a bit of adjustment it was centred in the terrace in line with the steps and a glass cover and lighting were introduced.
To create the vegetable garden the space was divided with a purple beech hedge and a bespoke oak gate designed by myself was installed to create a focal point and striking entrance to the vegetable area. This was accessed beneath a bespoke oak pergola which was flanked by large rose beds and bands of catmint.
The vegetable garden, although practical, was designed to be aesthetically pleasing with timber raised beds creating a semi-circular area around the new greenhouse. The client has worked extremely hard in this area and produces a large amount of fruit and vegetables.
A raised circular brick built pond was included in the centre of the lawn to provide a focal point from down the steps, through the pergola and from the summerhouse. This was planted with irises and water lilies and the stone paving beneath was filled with pockets of thyme.
The planting design was traditional and elegant with box hedging, yew balls, roses and perennials with pleached trees on the boundary for privacy and a hornbeam hedge around the perimeter to screen the fences. A simple lavender hedge on the terrace creates scent and colour. A vast quantity of bulbs was planted throughout the garden, such as white daffodils, alliums and many different coloured tulips.
Whilst the garden was under construction the client was also having a large oak framed garage constructed which unfortunately threw up a large headache. The garden was designed with the garage taken in to consideration from the plans provided by the builder. Unfortunately when preparing the foundations they made an error and set them far too high which resulted in the garage being much higher up and leaving a large concrete base exposed in the back garden. This caused problems with space and steps etc. The solution was to create a turn in the steps and face the concrete with dry stone walling sourced from the same quarry as the paving to provide continuity. Although an unexpected addition this is now a feature in it’s own right which introduces a different texture to the space.
The front garden had it’s own challenges. The existing front brick pillars on the boundary were in need of repair and the clients wanted to increase the security around the property. The front garden was also enclosed by mature lime trees which had a tree preservation order on them. Phil took on the boundary challenge with careful consideration and the original brickwork and copings were reused and railings and gateways were constructed.
In keeping with the elegance of the house I designed some painted trellis work and a gateway to enclose the space and brighten the area. The driveway was laid to gravel at the clients’ request. Box edged beds leading up to the front door were designed to mirror the windows at the front of the house and the three beds each hold a topiary holly tree in decreasing sizes with under planting.
The main difficulty at the front was the planting beneath the lime trees. These are large beds with little sun and we needed to be careful not to damage the trees’ delicate roots. We planted hundreds of plants in 9cm pots to allow them the chance to grow and develop in this difficult spot. I chose a selection of hardy geraniums, ferns, alchemilla mollis, euphorbia robbiae, aquilegia, bergenia to name but a few and these were interspersed with wood anemones, cyclamen, scilla, daffodils, crocus and snowdrops.
On a project this size a good relationship is built up with the clients and they were extremely pleased with the outcome, not only the design of the garden but also the quality of the work carried out by Phil and his team. Also as a garden is a developing changing space, it is interesting to return to see how things are progressing and to make any changes or additions to the planting. It makes all the hard work worthwhile when you see how lovely the garden is and how much enjoyment it brings to the client and it makes it even more special when your efforts are recognised.