Piet-Oudolf inspired sophisticated garden design in Reigate

This was the second garden design in Reigate that I created for a couple of attractive new executive homes on Park Lane in Reigate. When I completed their neighbours’ garden, these clients contacted me to ask me to take a look at their own garden, which was almost a mirror image of its neighbour, but significantly longer.

Although of a similar width to the neighbours’ garden, I came up with a completely different design for this property, making extensive use of sculptural curved yew hedges and lawns to make sense of this grown-up family space (including three grown up children). When creating a garden design in Reigate, it’s important to be aware of the three types of soil that you may encounter: chalk to the north of Reigate, sandy soil to the centre and south, and some clay in pockets in between, and to the east and west.

The soil itself is the first element that a successful garden design needs to address: in the space of half a mile or so, you might encounter any one of these very different soil types, each with their own benefits, challenges and suitable planting. A plant that thrives on sandy soil may not thrive on clay, and vice versa – the challenge on this site being that the sand is very free draining and also nutrient poor – rendering plants at risk of both thirst and hunger. This is where the eye of an experienced garden designer pays dividends in finding the right plants that address the challenges of the site.

The design features a Terrabase Rustic resin-bound path from Addagrip, and uses four Betula nigra and three Sorbus ‘Sheerwater Seedling’ trees from Barcham. Betula nigra are a beautiful, tough species of birch that cast a light dappled shade and have attractive shaggy creamy copper bark, whilst the Sorbus are a cultivar of our native rowan that bring blossom, berries, autumn colour and good branch structure to the garden – a true four-season tree.

The Brief

As with the neighbouring property, this garden had been left as a blank slate by the developer, and suffered from the same problem of poorly designed steps, no path to the garage at the end of the garden, and a complete lack of planting interest in this somewhat sun-baked and free-draining plot, which was so sandy that it had previously been excavated for building sand – such are the challenges of being a garden designer in Reigate.

The clients wanted to introduce a lot of planting interest, add an additional seating area, and create a sense of structure, privacy and enclosure. There were also some challenging banked areas to the rear that required attractive planting to surround the garage. And as with their neighbours, all-weather access was required from the garage to the house.

I’m really happy with this design – it’s well-structured, did a lot for the budget, and has a real sense of tranquility which will only increase as the trees mature. It’s also lovely for me to encounter clients who really love plants and really look after the garden that they have invested in – one of the most satisfying experiences for a garden designer.

The Design

Taking my inspiration from Piet Oudolf’s masterly use of yew hedging at his garden in Hummelo, I used yew and a collection of trees to give a new form to the standard rectangular garden space, create privacy from overlooking neighbours, and screen a utility area and garage, dividing the garden up into three distinct areas and creating a practical way of accessing the house from the rear garage all year round.

The yew hedges will form the bones of the garden, and are designed to be trimmed to flowing curved lines, in increasing heights as they move away from the house, like a series of waves intersecting with the much softer perennial and shrub planting to the well-stocked borders. The sense of green architecture is also enhanced by my re-use of the clients existing Buxus balls in the design – used to add emphasis to border-ends and paths. A resin-bound path leads to beautiful limestone stepping stones that bisect a perfectly round rear lawn with quartered beds wrapping around it, and a lovely Jura Beige limestone patio creating a secluded and sunny seating area at the end of the main part of the garden.

The design was completed by a simple but effective garden lighting scheme, designed to emphasise the sense of structure and to add drama and excitement to evenings in the garden. I started the design with some simple 2D concepts, but used Sketchup Pro to work out the perfect curves and heights for the hedges, and to use the sunlight function to work out how the sun and shade would work with the seven trees that I intended to plant – a key feature in this garden to link to the wider landscape, lend a sense of structure, and increase seasonal interest.

Due to covid hitting during the first full growing season, I didn’t get to return to this garden until spring 2023 – more than four years after I planted it, in late November 2018, and four years since i first photographed the fledgling planting. It was a real joy to see how the garden had matured and flourished, to see how much the trees had grown, and to hera how the clients were enjoying using the garden




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