I love visiting gardens. Old friends, new friends, places that I have never been and old favourites are all alike in that I just love seeing gardens, other people’s ways of using their space, and inhabiting their world for a short time. And when you meet people who have tackled, and are still tackling, an impressive amount of space, with open areas, courtyards, woodlands and open meadows- it is quite humbling. In Sombrun, a village about 30 minutes from us, a couple have done just that. These are not flowery people or the gardener who might have a trough of alpines on display- this couple wanted a ‘green garden’ and so have set about their big space with the eyes of landscape designers rather than gardeners.
With mature woodland on almost three sides, they have chosen to melt the garden into the borrowed landscape in all sorts of clever ways. I loved this faux hedging staircase alongside the actual steps, which shows so well that just a little formality can bring a disparate woodland scene together.
But there are areas where the dense privacy of a really good hedge was needed. And so, working its way up the hill is a long, zigzagged hedge of beech, which embraces the newer tree planting in the angles of the zigzag.
And now and then, there is a flash of colour, like the Mutabilis rose snuggled into a crook of the beech hedge. Another bold choice was to create tiered sweeps of hedging taking you away from the courtyard to the start of the hill, I love Eleagnus x ebbingei for its silvery look and slightly stiff shaping, and it was a great choice to make this statement.
To soften the hedging emphasis, the grass is allowed to be longer, to support buttercups and other wild flowers, with mown areas where a passageway is needed. This made for a relaxed feel in amongst the big formal strokes. And green it is- I loved the faux crowns of Phormium sprouting through the spreading conifers.
One mixed border runs close by the side of the house, where clipped shapes and big, spreading shrubs are supported by perennials- this area used to be a woodland, but the removal of the trees opened up light and air for the house- you can still see the tree stumps through the grass.
Pencil cypresses draw the eye up and out of the rear courtyard, past the pretty cart- as if the farmer had just pulled up there. The swimming pool can just be seen because of the cover, with a large cream Cistus flowering at the far side.
I was running round the garden as a big, cold storm piled in- so my last stop was to get closer to the pink clematis twisting through the old iron fencing at the front of the house. There were lots of photographs that never got taken!