viii 21


Gardens are places of beauty. I remember a talk given by Dan Pearson and being struck that the conversation was all about the creation of beauty, framed in the language of beauty.

I and my clients are more concerned with damp proof courses and keeping the rain out, providing shelter, with convenience and comfort. Beauty too, yes, but a house is rarely commissioned with the aim of simply being beautiful.

But with a garden, isn’t that all? The production of apples is generally secondary.

We are working alongside garden designer Jinny Blom on a project involving several buildings in a garden with a house which cannot be separated from its garden. A trip to Sussex and Kent gardens for inspiration. Four different accounts of beauty.


Charleston creates a world-within-a-world, with a small walled garden and pond nestled next to a modest farmhouse below the Downs. A dairy farm backs hard on to it, very conscious olfactorily. Jamie Fobert’s recent gallery addition creates an extra buffer. A surprisingly small world. I could see why they would need their set to populate it, somehow.

Great Dixter, the star of the tour for its energy. Ripping out a fusty old rose garden was the catalyst for a new, eventful, energetic mode of gardening. Plants visibly jostling for attention. The original fifteenth century hall house with its Lutyens additions (including a re-assembled Wealden hall house as the master bedroom wing) becomes backdrop rather than focus. Instead, it was the low, covered outbuildings I wanted to inhabit, with their sheltering roofs looking out like Japanese temples into the dense planting.

Sissinghurst, a bit prim and proper for my taste. Notes of municipality creeping in. That is perhaps unfair, but the effort of keeping it going… The double yew hedge, my favourite space, is being re-grown. We missed the long grass of the meadow by days.

Dungeness and Derek Jarman’s open, wild layered garden, the inverse of Sissinghurst, running out into the strangeness of the found (or curated?) landscape of Dungeness beach, with the nuclear power station part of the composition, humming menacingly in the background. Is it weird that a nuclear power station can be thought beautiful?