The garden designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole, has matured beautifully since its creation in 1999 and was planted in 2000. We were very lucky to have met Christopher at Chelsea Flower Show in 1994; we used his talents to create an oasis behind a mews house in Notting Hill and his acute attention to detail made us look no further when deciding on who would be the best person to interpret the garden at Crockmore House.
The Design Process
The design process began with standing in the garden looking at the way the land fell away from the property. Christopher began drawing a series of curves that would become the basis of the garden design. He visualised the terrace from the large (then unbuilt) conservatory and the generous entertaining spaces leading out from it, surrounded by a vast curved bank dropping down into the garden. Christopher brought the curves out as far as the fields, where a deer fence is planted with Persicaria polymorpha and Miscanthus grasses, to seamlessly knit the garden with the landscape beyond. (Visitors to the garden always want to know the name of the Persicaria, as it works so well as a giant screening plant.)
We enjoy showing visitors up to the top of the house so that they can see the effect the grid beds create. From the upstairs bedrooms they read like a tapestry as the muted colours from the plantings converge. Choosing the plants for the grid beds was left very much in Christopher’s capable hands.
We gravitated towards anything in the mauve, pink or blue spectrum. Christopher made the plant choices and they have sustained the garden well. Knautia macedonica, one of his trademark plants, punctuates the planting throughout, as does Salvia x sylvestris ‘Mainacht’. There is a perfect balance with many beautiful grasses, each with their own special qualities; Calemagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’, Miscanthus gracillimus, Stipa gigantea and Pennisetum alcuperoides ‘Hameln’ being firm favorites. Every year clouds of Aster frikartii ‘Monch’ spill over the gravel pathways under the apple tree in the centre and the odd Dianthus carthusianorum pokes it head through clouds of Astrantia ‘Hapsden Blood’, and Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Firedance’. Clouds of bronze leafed fennel are threaded throughout the plants.
Connecting the grid beds with the enclosed raised vegetable beds was a wildflower meadow with a collection of fruit trees including pear, medlar, damson, quince and cherry. The meadow area, although being a beautiful sea of marguerites and cowslips in early May, didn’t work well in September when the grass had been cut; this is when most visitors come to the garden.
After discussion with Christopher, we decided it should become more of a ‘hortus conclusus’ akin to one of his Chelsea Flower Show Gardens. We set about removing the wildflowers, turfing the areas of grass and lining them with a series of clipped yew hedges; on the side that meets the beech hedge of the vegetable area we added six box pruned Carpinus (hornbeam), planted at intervals along the hedge.
This has been wonderful in terms of adding more structure to the garden and we now have a space in which to create a quiet contemplative space where visitors may pause and reflect on the exuberance of the grid beds beyond, before entering the joyful cacophony of colours that constitute the vegetable beds, filled with dahlias and nasturtiums in the late summer.