A Real-Life Secret Garden





This ongoing design project involves the restoration of the once-magnificent garden of an ancient Rectory, that was abandoned for many years, and had been all but lost to Nature. 

The initial stages of work required massive amounts of clearance. Great swathes of neck-high Brambles and countless Ash and Sycamore saplings were removed to expose the bone-structure of the original garden and to unearth hidden treasures, such as an ancient, espaliered Apple tree, complete with Mistletoe, and an enormous Trachycarpus Palm that had been engulfed by overgrown Portuguese Laurels. 

The challenge here was to create a garden that remained true to its origins and history. Much of my inspiration was literary: the abandoned greenhouse, with its ancient hypocaust, clay pots and antique garden tools called to mind Beatrix Potter or The Secret Garden. I wanted to maintain the sense that Mr McGregor or Ben Weatherstaff could still be somewhere about, maybe just around the corner.

Where I introduced new features, such as the raised, formal pond, it felt almost as though I were replacing elements that were ‘missing’ – and their ghosts were almost palpable. The pond itself was inspired by an illustration in Beatrix Potter’s ‘Peter Rabbit’, where a white cat is shown keenly observing some fish, swimming amongst the lily pads.

I used local stone for the walling and reclaimed flagstones for the paving, to match the existing garden features. My planting schemes used a backbone of formal, evergreen structure, softened with  generous masses of traditional, romantic plants such as Wisteria, Lavender, Roses, Phlox and Iris.





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