THIS ELEGANT FORMAL garden is packed with colourful plants and inspiring artefacts. “Being former art teachers has definitely had an influence on how we created the garden,” says Barbara. “We’re both interested in architecture, travel and design history, and Marek is interested in classical history and its influence on architecture.”
The classical influence is revealed in the garden structures and ornaments. “There’s a pavilion with classical architrave and columns (now with mosaic inside), an elaborate red brick wall fountain, Pompeii-style frescos and decorative urns. Marek built all the architectural elements himself.”
The garden is a rectangular plot that Barbara says is large by London standards. “It was once part of a large estate that was subdivided into generous plots. The garden is where the manor’s orchard used to be and still contains old pear trees, now covered with scrambling roses ‘Kiftsgate’ and ‘Rambling Rector’.
“When we moved here 15 years ago the garden was simply a large lawn surrounded by established trees,” says Barbara. “I was keen to keep a large area of grass, so the first job was to set out the main feature of the garden – a small parterre – about three-quarters of the way down the lawn. I created lots of box topiary to go with it – pyramids, balls and cylinders – and planted a bay tree in the centre.”
The bay was a small standard 14 years ago, but it’s grown into a large tree. “It’s actually two trees tied together; over time they’ve grown into one another,” says Barbara. “We trimmed out the lower branches then let it come out in an umbrella shape at the top.”
The iron pagoda is a more recent introduction. “We often visit reclamation yards to hunt for architectural treasures and on one visit saw a similar but more expensive piece,” says Barbara. “It inspired us to search online to find something more affordable, and that’s how we found this one at a salvage yard in Suffolk. It was covered in rust and dismantled for transport so we had to piece it back together by hand.
“We guessed it would kind of fit, but when we put it up in situ over the parterre it’s brilliant – as if it was meant to be. I was thrilled because I’d seen ironwork against quite formal box up in Kensington and thought it looked really beautiful.”
Though Barbara initially wanted to keep the large formal lawn, she says she ‘weakened’ and decided to have more flowers instead. “I added two mirror-image beds in front of the parterre and filled them with soft purple and pink flowers that look so lovely in early summer,” she says. “These are followed by hot, bright late summer flowers such as heleniums and crocosmia, chosen by Marek. We’ve also created another bright flower bed nearer the house and filled it with trailing bedding plants. There’s a further formal raised pool behind the parterre, where we grow a huge gunnera flankedby two tall cypress-like conifers. We’ve planted it all symmetrically to go with the formal theme.”
The final few metres of the garden are more relaxed and shady, given over to plantings with a woodland feel. “This area is filled with moss, hostas and ferns,” says Barbara. “Though the garden is south facing, it backs on to a tree-lined railway embankment, which throws deep shade here. It’s a wonderful backdrop but at certain times of day it just doesn’t get any sun – it’s one of the difficult things about the garden.”
Barbara likes to experiment with planting styles and adores the variety offered by plants. “It’s been a challenge but I’ve really tried to stick to a theme. I just wish we had a bigger garden. Or, perhaps I need three!”