Formal gardens have all of the elements that make a job really interesting – large scale earthworks, technical challenges, precise formal paths and features, hedges and enclosures and, of course, lots of wonderful planting. It’s rare these days to find a large country house that isn’t already graced with wonderful gardens, but we were lucky to find just such an opportunity, and a client with the vision and determination to create something exceptional.
On the first day of what turned out to be eight months of hard work we were faced with a very uninteresting grassy slope and some huge earth-moving machinery… and so the fun began! Apart from the sheer joy of watching and directing engineering on this scale, there was also a sense that we were making a significant change to the landscape that would be there for a great many years to come.
Technical expertise and knowledge were required to set out and form the three terraces, and state-of-the-art surveying equipment was used to ensure that the new gardens would be symmetrical and central to the main house. Grading and compaction of the sub-soil was completed and followed by the forming of the paths and steps, planting beds, irrigation, drainage and lighting conduits. Planting trenches for the yew hedges were dug and then filled with a specially selected soil, different from the herbaceous borders.
Topsoil of the lawn areas was different again, so all three types of soil had to be carefully placed and retained. Two types of turf were used, with premium quality for the four rectangular lawns to the top terrace.
Paths were formed with metal edging, to give a crisp and well-defined form, and then built up with layers of compacted stone, with crushed stone dressing on tarmac, for durability. Lighting cables were incorporated in the paths as well as the soft areas. Three sets of marble clad steps were built, between the top two tiers, and two sets of oak steps at the lower part of the garden, so that the whole effect was to become less formal as the garden descended. We had virtually completed the paths when our client informed us that he had bought a sculpture for the central bed, weighing two tons!
We worked closely with the horticultural and planting team to create mixed borders, as well as shrub and specimen planting. The yew hedges were a particular challenge – as they were 2.5 – 3.0m high each they needed machinery to move and plant them.
As is often the case, the weather proved to be the biggest challenge of all, and some days we seemed to be going backwards. Being out in the elements is one of the positive aspects of landscaping, but sometimes you just wish it would stop raining…
Looking at the matured garden now, I always feel a sense of achievement, pride, and excitement, that we created a beautiful garden that will remain – and grow more and more spectacular – for generations to come. I’m delighted to have had that experience.