The best advice given to the owners of any new garden is to live with it for a year as it is before making any changes. Whether because we were directly following that advice, or whether because we were up to our eyes and ears in building work, we have assiduously maintained the garden as it was when we first took ownership and not made any changes at all.
Well, that in itself might be a rather ambitious claim as the previous owner kept the garden immaculate and I have attempted to do so but have had to make do with “tidy-ish”. It really isn’t too bad, and the most important thing is that this slight hiatus has allowed us time to come to an important decision.
I am full of ideas. An exotic style garden. A parterre. A labyrinth. An orchard. A flower meadow. Topiary. Of course. Lots of topiary. Pleaching. Edible hedges. A petanque court. A grassy area for childrens’ games. Flowers (in what I’m coming to understand is thought of in Continental Europe as the “English style”). Pebble mosaics. Water features. Gates. Paths. Rills. A pigeonnier. Pergolas. Seating areas in sun and shade. A new pool. Encouragement of the orchids. Compost bays. A hydrangea walk. Garden rooms galore. … … … and so on … … …
Yes, you’re getting the idea. I have so many ideas and not a little knowledge, but what is lacking is any real understanding of how to join this all up together so that there is a natural flow and journey around the garden, maximising enjoyment of the views and all the different areas. I wanted to avoid the sense that a random collection of garden features had landed from outer space, neither connected to each other nor to the landscape around.
In April I joined Arne Maynard, renowned garden designer and RHS Chelsea Gold medallist, at his house and garden, Allt-y-bela in the Welsh borders, for a day’s course. It was organised by the Garden Museum in London (of which I’m a Lifetime Friend), and around 20 of us (some professionals, some keen amateurs) explored the concepts around evoking the spirit of place. A warm spring sun shone for most of the day, and Arne’s own natural warmth made the day memorable, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable. I’d hoped that I’d return home with some magical new skill in garden design. Not so, rather I had an increasing awareness that I needed help.
Fortunately, when I broached the idea to my husband, he immediately agreed that we needed professional input. So I sent out some feelers, followed up several suggestions, and we have now appointed an English landscape architect who lives in Paris, who has the most interesting background and connections, to help us create the master plan for the garden. She has made her first site visit, and we have commissioned a géomètre (land surveyor) who has visited and taken all the measurements and readings. We await his initial drawings, and then we will be in business to start work on that wonderful master plan.
Budget for implementation is limited, and we will undoubtedly develop the garden in stages as and when funds become available. But by having a master plan from the outset we hope to create something special, something that will stand the test of time and perhaps even outlive us. I hope it doesn’t sound too ambitious or perhaps even pompous to say that we want to create a great garden, one that people will want to visit, one that we will be proud of opening to visitors.
These are interesting and exciting times – in the truest sense of those words.