March 29, 2017
Another weekend in the New Forest, inching forward with the design of the new garden. We are building an ample stone-flagged terrace outside the kitchen-conservatory, facing pretty much due south. March days with clear skies have given us a chance to road-test it in perfect conditions, so the first question is, when summer comes and heaven shines in earnest, what do we do for shade?
We have outlined the terrace with brick pillars at the corners, supporting an oak beam that frames the view down the walled garden and will carry swags of climbing roses. Roses, though, are scarcely shade-trees. It can be a windy spot, too, on a hill facing southwest and only three miles from the sea, so parasols have limitations; could end up fields away in fact.
Our new scheme is more nautical; to step a ship’s mast in the centre of the terrace and rig it to the house, the garden wall and the brick pillars to carry an assortment of sails. I first met this idea in a restaurant overlooking the port of Sète on the Mediterranean. The white triangles of jibs (and I suppose staysails) caught the eye invitingly from the quayside below. Rigged precisely to intercept the rays of the sun crossing the sky, they kept at least some of its heat and dazzle off the restaurant. Could we make it work at this slightly higher latitude? It will take a lot of seamanship, but I love the idea of unfurling a jib for lunch and another for tea.
I see the walled garden as a stage set, with the terrace as the stalls, the pergola the proscenium arch, and the wings as, on the left, the perspective of a long border, and on the right a pleached hornbeam hedge half-hiding a lower level of garden, and beyond it the wide valley view. The lower garden is the sports section: ‘short’ tennis and croquet, the upper part the leisure department – apart, that is, from the gardener’s point of view.
Water flows laterally across the garden from the upper wall on the left, reappears as low fountains in a central rectangular basin, and makes a third appearance splashing into another tank at the lower level. You’ll hardly think you’re in the Shalimar Bagh, I’m afraid, but this is Hampshire..