Beyond design to making the space your own….Grendon Court

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Dazzling Eremurus spearing through Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’ (I think), Grendon Court, June 2017

Grendon Court was the last of our ‘Gardens in the Wild’ bonanza weekend.  And it was really worth the visit in so many ways- warm welcome from the owner, interesting and beguiling features in the design of Tom Stuart-Smith, and some breakthrough moments.  The best of which came about during a casual conversation with the owner, who strode out to meet every visitor personally and was very good at being around whilst leaving the garden entirely to you.

I asked her something I have always wanted to ask a garden design client who has hired a big name like Tom Stuart-Smith.  I asked her how long it was before the garden felt as if it was really hers- and her reply was just brilliant.  She said that the garden had been an immense responsibility and that it had probably taken her about seven years to feel ready to add to and change any elements of the planting design.  And when she did, one of the plants she added was this fabulous golden Eremurus- and she said she added it because the planting was a bit sombre and restrained.  Look at what she did.

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Double take on the Eremurus, Grendon Court, June 2017
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Longer view on the Eremurus, Grendon Court, June 2017

Stunning.  Stunning because she has lit up the entire planting, linked it along the length of this massive, deep border, and it is utterly captivating.  I kept walking around and looking at it from different vantage points, and it was fabulous from everywhere.  I loved her straightforwardness and honesty, as well as her great choice of the spot-on plant for her border.  Just one addition.  Brilliant.

I really enjoyed the wavy box planting- luckily no blight or caterpillars- which made such a big and also slightly surreal statement at the entrance to the garden.  I don’t know if the chickens were original to the design, but they are a lovey wacky addition at the top of the deep box planting.

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The wavy box planting, Grendon Court, June 2017
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The chickens, or maybe not, Grendon Court, June 2017

In front of the house, a wide open lawn sits square which creates the space and proportion that Russell Page always liked, so that the deep borders to left and right completely flank the house and open out the view towards it.  Large shaped evergreens hold the loose planting of the left hand border.

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The left hand border, simply planted with repeats of Phlomis russelliana, Allium and alchemilla, and touches of the same purple-blue Salvia, Grendon Court, June 2017
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Rounded cubes of box link the garden to the borrowed landscape beyond, Grendon Court, June 2017

Nearer to the house, immense rounded box cubes punctuate the wall looking into the borrowed landscape beyond.  The land around the house has been landscaped to create almost a platform on which the house sits, proud of the rolling landscape and not dwarfed by it.  This means that the garden now wraps around the house and almost displays the house- whereas before the garden renovation, the house would have been almost sunk into the landscape.

To the side of the house and up the hill, the garden changes tone.  From displaying and framing the house, steps and a path lead up and away from the house, through a massive Miscanthus planting, interspersed with other tall perennials and roses, to a hidden swimming pool completely immersed in the waving fronds of Miscanthus.  On that windy day,  the grasses moved as if they were a raging sea.

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The swimming pool, framed by the sea of Miscanthus, Grendon Court, June 2017
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Massed plantings of tall perennials combined with the grasses, Grendon Court, June 2017
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Looking back down the steps from the pool area to the left hand border and the large shaped evergreens that hold the planting together, Grendon Court, June 2017

Coming back towards the house, and staying at the height of the chicken statue group, the steepness of the original hillside can really be appreciated- and Tom Stuart Smith has worked with it, whilst at the same time losing it in the apron of the wrap-around garden that sits the house at the centre.  Repeats in the planting, a simple plant palette, and imaginative use of green and good, architectural elements all combine- and are brought alive by the owner’s own imagination and choice.  I loved it.

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The wavy box holds its own against the steep hillside allowed to grass naturally, Grendon Court, June 2017