The first time I ever saw our walled garden my mind was alight with ideas to make it a perfect cornucopia of sensory delights! There is, indeed nothing more exciting than a new home and garden to unleash my creativity. Everything I ever do in design terms is about bringing the outside in and visa versa. Connecting the interior with the outside world and bridging the gap between the comforts of home and the pleasures of the botanical.
To me, nature, our gardens and the seasons are intrinsically linked to us and the way we live. One’s mental health relies on it. Our homes, our interiors should reflect those changes throughout the year. In my mind a room isn’t complete without an element of the outdoors within it. Just as a garden feels lost and uninviting without thought for how humans interact with it and utilise the space.
I have always had a natural ability to merge the two worlds. In fact, I believe they are one big beautiful planet of design heaven! What’s a vase without blooms? What’s a quiet garden nook without a place to sit and read? One doesn’t work without the other. They are soulmates. Colours and texture, form and function, fragrance, sound and tactility, all collide in my little world where gardens and interiors meet as one.
The sensory garden
The five senses: sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell nearly always form the basis of my garden designs. Keeping these at the forefront of your mind is a surefire route towards a successful design, not only for humans, but for the good of our planet and nature itself.
I’ll be incorporating a multitude of textures within my planting schemes from soft fluffy grasses to blousy hydrangea blooms. There will be Dicksonia Antartica (tree ferns), Yucca with their long spiky glaucous arms, a bountiful supply of hydrangea, bushy white Hebe and intense deep blue Hidcote Lavender. I’ll be adding various different size spheres to the garden as focal points. Taxus Baccata (Yew) balls adorn the Silver Birch border. Rusty metal spheres will be dotted around, along with creamy coloured stone balls to signal a new zone, or room within the garden. I might even add in spheres that light up. You’ll have to wait and see! The point is: I want to delight the person who walks down our sensory walled garden. I want to keep their interest, but at the same time not bombard the senses, keeping to a relatively limited palette.
Herbs and cushions in equal measure!
I want as many plants as possible to have fragrance too by using herbs and heady scented blooms. The bees will love it! Rosemary, lavender and thyme are a few of my favourites as well as lemon verbena and Helichrysum Italicum (curry plant). White roses are also another favourite of mine, particularly as a backdrop to lavender. Our wedding flowers were Munstead lavender, white roses and Bay.
I’ll be incorporating a large verdigris coloured water feature later on this year as I love the sound of gently trickling water in the background. It must be gentle mind you. No one wants to listen to the sound of a horse pissing on tin!
There will be soft furnishings, tactile fabrics and squidgy cushions. A mirror will reflect the light and the world around you. Plus, it’s handy for a quick forehead shine check, if you have guests. Various benches will adorn the garden, inviting you to stay for a spell and just collect your thoughts. Or, if you’re like me, take a cheeky G&T down there and sip away to your hearts content!
There are so many gardens all over the world that are almost completely devoid of sensory pleasure. I have never understood why so many people just create a hard surface patio and slap a table and chairs on it, thinking: ”job done”! Yes, you’ve thought about your outdoor space’s human use, but what about delight? What about igniting the senses, beauty, excitement and how about all the other wonderful creatures that could possibly call it home?
Artificial grass is my biggest bug bear, along with creating a ”living wall” using plastic plants made in China! If you don’t consider yourself green-fingered, then I do understand why you might opt for these easy, maintenance free eco-monstrosities. But, you have robbed yourself and others of so many natural wonders.
Don’t you want to smell the rosemary as you brush passed it? What about the reassuring fragrance of freshly cut grass, reminding you of long summer days spent playing as a child? Most importantly, what about all of the insects that desperately need the biggest players in this world to remember them? Without bees, butterflies and suchlike, we won’t be around much longer to marvel at our ingenious labour-saving fake lawn!
There are so many relatively easy options you could go for instead of faux. If you don’t have a large area for a lawn and therefore wonder what the point of one is, why not try a no mow option? You could choose chamomile, sedums, a wild flower meadow, or even moss, which can give an architectural, almost ethereal feel to a space?
Our outside space is a victorian walled garden, which extends some 45 metres. Believe it or not, it’s a lot smaller than our last garden. I loved it, but it did become a bit of a ball and chain. Even in the first lockdown I didn’t have enough time to maintain it all. Sometimes, you just want to sit and enjoy your garden. But, that’s not possible if your garden is enormous and you don’t have any outside help, which we have never had and never will!
In all honesty, I wish we had chosen an even smaller outdoor space to move to this time as designing it, creating it and then dealing with the upkeep seems to take forever. Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate and it is an absolute dream to have a walled garden. But, this garden has not been touched in decades and, although it had some great specimens, most of it was overgrown with weeds.
Feeling the pressure
I think I’m feeling the pressure a bit at the moment because there is so much to do inside the house. I also seem to be juggling the design and renovation of not only the garden, but at least five rooms and a conservatory to oranagery-esque structure too. I do like a challenge though and when have I not been a busy man?
However, it’s all worth it and the stress doesn’t last forever. The results will be so worth it and then I can chill. Next weekend I’ll be going into much more detail about my design, describing the first five flower beds and telling you all about our exciting summer house and chill out canopy!
If you liked this you might like to read: How I Designed My Silver Birch Border.
Transparency: Although this blog post is not a direct part of a paid collaboration with Cox and Cox, the entire garden campaign on Instagram is part of a paid partnership. Some of the linked items mentioned are PR products gifted to enable the design. I will not receive any commission for the links provided.