The design of the garden should reflect the style of the building, how it is furnished and the materials used for decor purposes as well as those used structurally. So a contemporary garden can suit an ancient building if the interior décor and finishes are also contemporary. When considering the landscape designer’s ideas for your garden, try to evaluate how much maintenance will be required. Lawns and vegetable gardens are particularly high maintenance. Can you take a ride on mower around the lawns? Do all parts of the garden connect? There should be a sense of passage around the garden. It’s pointless owning a part of the garden that you never visit.
If your property is listed or it’s in a conservation area, choose a landscape garden designer who has had experience dealing with planning authorities.
Back in 1620, Elmtree Farm, in the hamlet of Wortley was reputedly owned by one Stephen Hopkins who, knowing a thing or two about the cost of maintaining a not-so-soon to be listed homestead, forsook his home and sailed off to America aboard The Mayflower. Today, the farm is split into two properties, each owned by designers, and both passionate about their garden, both working from home and each with a young family – but here the similarities end. Today the original property has been divided into two parts. The barns are now owned by one of the country’s leading graphic designers and as one might expect have been renovated and finished to be the very apotheosis of modern living – spacious, open plan and thoroughly minimalist.
The architect left the shell of the barns as they were. However the floors are polished concrete, the openings are filled with galvanised Crittal Windows and the interior woodwork is almost all plywood. So true to Modernist design philosophy, functionality is supreme. The spirit of Modernism is reflected in the design of the garden. The designer’s solution was to create a series of screened garden ‘rooms’ each with a distinct feel and separate function: inner courtyard, cutting garden, entertainment and sunbathing area, orchard and children’s area. Of these rooms the most successful is undoubtedly the courtyard, which is bordered on one side by the sitting-room, on another by the dining-room and on the third side by the guest bedrooms.
The 12 foot by 5 foot ‘diving board’ in black granite which links the doorway from the sitting room to the courtyard serves as an entertaining terrace and links the central rill to the main house. With the rectangular, randomly placed beds filled with Campanula carpatica ‘Jewel’ the courtyard area might almost be a homage to Piet Mondrian and the black and grey stonework in the horizontal plain are sharply contrasted with the vertical, stark, white trunks of the four Betula jackemontii ‘Jermyns’. Bubble fountains in the rill afford movement and the sound of water. Says the owner, “both the sitting room and the dining room give onto the courtyard and, as we don’t draw curtains in the evening the view to the courtyard must be as good by night as it is by day. So lighting was a significant part of the design.”