Earth elements in the windswept Pennines

My choice of materials in a garden often tends towards the natural and elemental, but sometimes, a garden will just lend itself so perfectly to these materials that I can really go all out.

This garden is a good example of what I would call an ‘elemental garden’ which we did a few years ago (alas seen here before planting had matured). The setting for this garden was in the high pennines, adjacent to a remote farmhouse complex. This windswept landscape created such a strong sense of the natural and wild. As soon as I saw it, I could see that elements of timber, water, stone, and plant material would be perfect, and could be used sparingly to great effect.

The palette for planting was sparse, being mainly grasses (cortaderia, stipa, carex, pennisetum – some of my favourites) and tough perennials that cope well with the windy conditions. Some good examples include geranium “orion”, verbena, alstroemeria, schizostylis coccinea, and euphorbia. These plants associated well with the water and with the pebbles leading into the pool, that you see in the image below.

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I couldn’t resist this winter photograph, enhanced by the appearance in the water of a mature oak tree.

The stone slabs are off-cuts from large boulders from a local sandstone quarry, and make excellent flat paved areas giving a contemporary zen look, while remaining anchored in the immediate landscape. Using local stone in this way helps a scheme to resonate with the local ‘laws of nature’. In the same way, it would be a folly to use suburban garden plants, practically because it’s a windswept area, and aesthetically because earthy, elemental planting will ‘feel’ right, rooted into the spirit of the place.

As a point of resonating contrast, the sweeping, sinuous line of the timber sleepers has a simplicity born of a strong sense of geometry. I like the idea of an amorphous organic informal scheme offset by a bold, structural line like this. A contemporary design that is quite at home atop the breathtaking Pennines.