For two long years we looked out on a desolate scene, the aftermath of our Grand Designs style house build. The house was everything we’d hoped for, and more; toasty warm, light, bright, sunny, spacious and delightfully economic to run. But by the time we moved in in late 2014, the piggy bank was looking decidedly anorexic. As is so often the case in gardening, patience was called for.
Before work started
Finally last autumn we could make a start, building a terrace, using pale grey granite slabs with narrow grout lines, to echo the crisp contemporary interior. Raising the ground outside gives us a level step straight out from the bedrooms – I dream of wandering out there to have my breakfast…..!
The whole garden falls steadily downhill away from the house and our landscaper, Mic, came up with the inspired idea of raising the bottom of the garden by building a small retaining wall to reduce the gradient. I had a clear vision of a dramatic zig zag path across the full width.
Clearing the site created a blank canvas – the edge of the terrace is at the very bottom of the pic
Whilst the house is all clean lines and modernism, the view beyond the garden extends to the rather grittier view of a working boatyard on the far bank. Wanting the garden to reflect this transition, my inspirational moment came when I saw the garden paths at Kestle Barton, near Helford, edged with Corten steel. Slowly but surely, the design began to fall into place and just as when I’m working on an interior, I’ve restricted the palette of materials, choosing Corten, gravel, timber and granite.
With the land falling away and no other buildings surrounding the garden, it feels big and endlessly high with a panoramic view, so I was keen to add some instant height to the space. A substantial pergola will screen the unattractive gas cylinder when I plant it up with Trachelospermum jasminoides and it frames the entrance to the garden from the footpath beautifully.
The detailing on the pergola echoes the construction of the house
Mic suggested using old piles that came from Falmouth docks following a fire in 2003. I was intrigued, so he took me to a smallholding high above Penryn, to see the salvaged timbers, heaped up in the side of a field with brambles growing all over them. The MASSIVE chunks of hardwood, with their huge fixing bolts still protruding from them, had formed the Queens Wharf at Falmouth since 1936.
What better connection with the boatyard could there be? and a great contrast with the sharp lines of the terrace. I picked my favourite three and a deal was done. When you buy furniture, you need to make sure you can get it into the house…. and it has to be said that choosing the piles, and a large piece of granite from a local quarry, was the easy bit. The logistics of transporting them along a narrow road, craning them down to the level of the garden and moving them into place was trickier, but we got there!
Great excitement to see the dock timbers being craned off but I was apprehensive too. Would they look OK?
The dock timbers make a real statement
Moving heavy lumps of granite isn’t easy
So the structure of the garden is in and I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas Eve. Just a little more patience is needed to get the gravel onto the paths, fill the beds with topsoil and let the weather warm up a touch. Then I shall let loose in the local nurseries. I can hardly wait – come on Spring!
The structure of the new garden is all now in place
The view looking back up the garden towards the house.
Useful Link : Iron Orchid Landscape Gardeners