I visited two gardens this month, both designed by contemporary landscaper designer Tom Stuart-Smith. The first was his family home, The Barn at Serge Hill near Abbots Langley in Hertfordshire, and the second was Broughton Grange in Oxfordshire.
Both gardens make use of the beautiful surrounding rural landscape. Opening up views and softening the boundaries with clever planting combinations. More formal elements and structure enclose areas closer to the house, these are the backbone to the waves of perennials selected for their texture and form as well as colour.
There are similarities, tall spires of clipped Irish yew surrounded by perennials, along with long views down to focal points or crisscrossing paths. While on a slightly larger and more formal scale at Broughton grange the feel is more relaxed at The Barn, in keeping with the respective houses.
What I particularly liked in both gardens was the ability to get up close to the plants, to get right into the deeply planted borders. Plants billowed out over narrow paths which meandered through the borders, allowing you to brush past grasses and perennials, a feel you don’t often get when visiting a national trust garden.
The first area I came across at the Barn garden was the perennial meadow next to the vegetable garden. The Echinaceas (pallida, paradoxa & purpurea) looked stunning, and I couldn’t help noticing how they harmonised with the grey-blue walls of the near-by building and the aged silvery timber window frame, a carefully considered design detail. This meadow will only get better as the season progresses, so worth revisiting in September.
On the way out of the Barn garden I nearly missed seeing the Courtyard garden, which would have been a shame as this for me was the highlight. Stunning planting combinations which worked so well with the hard landscaping materials. It was like stepping into a show garden, not surprising as the corten steel structures came from Tom’s 2006 Chelsea garden.
It would be difficult for me to describe the garden in any detail in this short blog, however there is a book which Tom has written about this garden, ‘The Barn Garden: Making a Place’.
There was quite a lot to see at Broughton grange, it had just about everything; a walled garden, water rill and pond, meadows including a 30 acre water meadow at the bottom of the garden, orchard, swimming pool area, several knot gardens, a parterre, yew terrace, arboretum, woodland and stumpery.
If you are visiting allow plenty of time, and have some good walking shoes on. There is a small nursery too so you probably won’t go home empty handed.
Both gardens provided a source of inspiration and ideas to take forward, well worth a visit.