Cheshire Country Garden 20 years on

30 Years in Garden design

As we approach our thirtieth year designing and building gardens, it is inevitable that I am drawn back to visit previous defining projects. I always think it can take 20 or more years before a garden shows its true maturity, with the relationship and interplay between trees, larger shrubs and small plants, becoming finally resolved.

We have tackled a number of larger country gardens, the largest, near London, being 140 acres! These schemes need specific attention to get right, since they often include large tree and shrub planting, a forward looking vision is needed to plan and understand how this will resolve over many years to come.

Country  Garden, Tarporley Cheshire

This scheme was about 6 acres and once completed was staffed with a full time gardener, a rare luxury, these days! The scheme is featured in one of our earlier project listings, but on a recent visit, I became aware how well it has matured, hence the need to show off these images.


The Lake is on three levels and follows the slope of the land, dropping a total of 1.2m over a 30 metre distance. I remember the look of horror on the clients face as we used a digger to drop fresh soil on the marginal (underwater) section of the freshly installed liner. This in fact allowed the many waterside plants, such as iris sibirica, to spread and colonise large sections of the water, giving a softer more natural edge to the pond.


Rhododendrons and azaleas come from the  same genus and are much loved in the spring border. With their beautiful show of blooms and large (mostly) evergreen leaves combining well with other spring flowering plants like bluebells. Many of the flowers gracing the borders bring a fragrant note to the garden. The yellow/gold Azalea shown here is Knaphill Azalea Golden Sunset, they originally hail  from  North America, from the frosty Canadian plains to tropical Florida. These shrubs prefer fairly good amounts of rainfall, so Northern Europe is perfect for them.




Large Nature Pond

This large garden needed a striking feature to make sense of the area away from the
main garden, (formerly a horse Manège). The clients also wanted a chill-out zone in
contrast to the formality of the garden area nearer the house.


(Newly Finished and Planted)

The main design concept was to have a dramatic water feature, combined with a
seating area and dramatic planting. This was achieved by applying the principle of
two large circular ponds defined by inter-linking timber-sleeper pathways.

The paved area was achieved using large stone off-cuts laid in an informal manner
(with little or no pointing between) to allow for herbs and grasses to be planted in the
gaps, and to be allowed to colonise (thyme, sage, liriope, carex etc).


(Under Construction)

The clients had requested an informal fire pit, which was achieved simply by
leaving a gap with no paving. The idea to sit around the fire on chilly evenings, a
natural way to extend the hours of enjoyment to be had in the garden.

The planting was mostly native species, larger trees being oak, rowan, hawthorn and
Scots pine. The shrubs chosen were yew, holly, cornus, field maple and a number of native
wild roses.

IMG_4038(Before Construction)




Wraysbury – We were proud last year to be asked to design and build a landscape on a large-scale at the famous Wraysbury lakes near Heathrow Airport.The Wraysbury Nature Reserve is a large (over 140 acres) of semi-wild landscape with SSSI status (Site of special scientific interest).

History – It developed in the last 100 years primarily as it was used to quarry aggregates (for the Heathrow runways and other projects). As the sand and gravel was removed, the remaining pits were left to fill with water, attracting new plant life and, in turn, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. By the time of the second World War, this process was already forming the lake at W1-Wraysbury Nature Reserve, which was already 50 acres in size. Wraysbury 2 took longer, probably only beginning to form during the 1950’s.

A Haven for Wildlife – The atmosphere around the lakes is magical the lake and its margins are havens for a host of indigenous and migrant bird life and animals. The waters offer sustenance and shelter to everything from cormorants and migrant gulls to heron, warblers and SSSI-noted Goosander and Gadwell ducks. A lone otter also appears on the lake from time to time, feeding here before disappearing and returning again. Other wildlife concentrates around the shores, with toads, frogs, newts, diving beetles, pond skaters and water scorpions all making an appearance, amongst a multitude of other insects, amphibians and reptiles. Away from the water, the meadows, shrubberies and woodlands provide another playground for birds and mammals. Warblers, Wrens, Dunnocks and Goldcrest feast on the insect life and diverse flora, while woodpecker, buzzards, owls and roe and Chinese deer are just a few of the regular visitors to the shaded copses of oak, ash, elm and sycamore.


Design Principles – Our brief was to design a landscape with a fishing lodge/ functions suite as a focal point, using design principles that would sensitively reflect the existing landscape. Over 1000 native trees and 4,000 native shrubs were used to revive the area as well putting in new paved and driveway areas. The existing, lake edge had been neglected, and a series of gabion cages were used to formalise the waters edge, being softened by planting a reed bed strip.