From Building Plot to Beautiful Country Garden

The Brief

Sometimes a blank canvas can be overwhelming, especially if it’s an acre of land previously left fallow and then turned into a building site.

My clients moved into their new build home with plenty on their garden “wish list” and rightly so, the space had so much potential. However, although keen plants people, they were concerned about the scale of the project, they just didn’t know “where to start”, let alone how they were going to tackle ongoing maintenance, now in their retirement they wanted to minimise labour intensive herbaceous borders.

As a new build the property was one of two built on the site with gardens running parallel and open to one another, so they were keen to improve seclusion along the boundary and on the terrace near the house.

With a love of formal Italianate style gardens, they wanted somewhere to relax, entertain, sit out on bright winter days, encourage birds and wildlife, grow vegetables and potter.

My Design

Because of the scale of this project we agreed the design for the entire garden at the outset, with the build planned in three phases over two years. This meant both the work and the cost could be staggered and the garden would settle and evolve as we went along.

The key to the design was to create a garden that becomes more relaxed and naturalised as you travel through it, minimising ongoing maintenance. By having separate discrete areas, linked by defined paths, modern arches and a Lavender walk, the space encourages a natural flow through the garden to the top where the great views are.

To address the concern about seclusion from the neighbours, we planted a tall hornbeam hedge along the boundary. I designed the whole garden so that attention would naturally be drawn away from the boundary and my clients could relax with their gaze drawn into the garden and the opposite side.

To make the entire project manageable I broke it down into phases:
Phase 1. To build a stone terrace across the rear of the property, with a brick retaining wall and formal steps flanked by deep borders, to address the marked level change from terrace to garden. The rest of the garden was set to lawn to make the considerable space usable and prevent pernicious weeds from setting seed.

Phase 2. To build the more formal garden nearer the house, creating the main view. The steps lead to a large serpentine lawn where we created deep curving borders, planted with a seasonal mix of trees, spring flowering bulbs, shrubs, perennials and grasses. This lovely mix provides a year-round firework display of colour.

A large secluded stone seating area was created so my clients can enjoy the evening sunshine, surrounded by soft scented planting and a curving screen of wooden posts for added seclusion. Tall yew hedges separate this formal garden from the garden beyond, creating a foil for the plants, acting as both windbreak and screen from the yet to be landscaped garden beyond!

Phase 3. To create a more naturalised garden and kitchen garden. My clients can now use this area to grow and cultivate a mix of edibles from raised vegetable boxes, the nuttery and the varied, informal orchard. All linked by defined paths, seating areas and a Lime Walk with pleached lime trees.

At the very back of the plot is a partially hidden children’s play area too, perfect for when the grandchildren visit.

The garden is now a relaxed yet refined space where every inch has been maximised and the whole garden sits well in its open countryside setting.


“When we asked Nicola to design our garden and recommend a plant programme to replace the builder’s aftermath, we did not imagine how well she would creatively interpret our wishes. The result, after 3 years, is a wonderfully sculptured haven of peace and tranquillity.” -Mr & Mrs L , Ropley

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