Suffolk Wild Mediterranean

A Suffolk coastal garden, with winding paths that lead through dense planting to hidden seating areas, in the shelter of serpentine bay hedges. All of the planted area was meadow when we first saw the site in 2011, the main landscaping took place the following year and several phases of planting were undertaken after that, with small additions and modifications continuing to this day.

In contrast to the first photo on this page, taken using a drone, you can see the field/meadow originally covered the ground right up to the patio around the house. In the photo on the right you can see the top layer of grass and weed roots being removed and gentle cambers added to the ground levels.

The many rare and unusual species in this garden offer a year round floral display, with scent and edible fuits such as the nispero or loquat, figs, mulberries and Madrona or strawberry tree fruits.

Coastal windbreaks area a vital component of garden designs in Norfolk and Suffolk coastal areas. We used a combination of evergreen oaks and Monterey pines to create a sheltered semi woodland microclimate, making the perfect growing conditions for the plants in the foreground of this photo. In the distance, you can see the full sun patio and more Mediterranean style planting.

The owners of this garden are keen gardeners and wanted their outdoor space around the house to have an extensive collection of plants so we based our design on a kind of Mediterranean, orderly yet wild-looking heath, known as garigue. The solid communities of plants are composed so that each species has its place in a carefully contrived yet natural-looking layout. Paths wind through the planting revealing new vistas, flowers and scent at every turn. Here agapanthus and lavender provide the floral display.

An early photo showing the winding stepping stone paths, before the planting began to properly frame the routes around the garden.

This photo shows the planting about seven years on from the photos above. We are still actively involved with the garden; developing new areas of planting and shaping the many different species as they mature into the desired composition. We pride ourselves on the many long term relationships we have with our clients and their gardens.

Evergreen plants make up around 80% of the garden, ensuring that our clients look out on a lush green retreat all year, which is especially important when most of the countryside is bleak and bare in the winter. The seat in the background of this photo is tucked away in the curves of a bay hedge where the highly scented flowers of Seven Son Of  Zhejiang flower can be enjoyed. This small tree flowers late in the summer and bears black fruits afterwards and has beautiful peeling tan coloured bark.

This photo shows the same seat as above, where it appears tucked away in the curves of the bay hedge. Here the 100 or so plants that make up the hedges are still young and the other plants only just beginning to establish, with the agapanthus ‘Black Pantha’ taking centre stage.

The montage above shows how exposed the site was before we started planting; even a gentle breeze from the east (where the north sea is only a mile and half away) could chill you to the bone and make staying long in the garden an unpleasant experience, so we had to do something about that for the plants sake as well as the humans.

You can see some tall plants in pots in the left-hand photo which are evergreen oaks bought in at 5m tall, which now completely block the east wind and in the photos below you can see the Monterey pines that the block the prevailing S.Westerlies, there is only seven years between these photos, demonstrating this species incredible rate of growth.

Another of the Monterey pines can be seen in the background of this photo. As well as their speed of growth they are very resistant to salt-laden winds, and low temperatures – having survived the ‘Beast From The East’ in 2019 in great shape. They also have one of the deepest green, lush looking and dense crowns of foliage of any pine, giving great shelter and colour.

This photo shows how you can feel secluded and remote from the house further out into the garden, where the plants surround hidden seating areas, set shady or full sun locations in the lee of east or west winds.

This photo features one of our favourite plants; a rare dwarf elm variety called Ulmus ‘Jaqueline Hillier’, pruned to show its naturally contorted branching habit in ‘life-size’ bonsai or Niwaki style. In 2019 we modified the planting around them to include a range of dwarf agapanthus, black grasses and soon to be planted in 2020 the purple clover Oxalis triangularis subsp. triangularis.

We have planned phases of work with E.scape this year, 2020, in the garden that they designed and started to build for us in January of the year 2011, when we faced a challenging project to transform the barren wasteland surrounding our newly extended and rebuilt house in Reydon, Suffolk. After searching many garden designers websites E.scape was the first candidate we decided to meet with, mainly because we were impressed by their extensive portfolio and, most importantly, their previous customer’s testimonies. After failing to be inspired by other websites, we were sufficiently impressed with E.scapes ideas and presentation at our initial meeting to commission them on the spot.

In response, a fantastic gravel garden was proposed by the design team, not only were drawings brought to the design meeting for a beautiful Mediterranean style garden but a more exciting option was offered to consider, with detailed planting plans. They suggested serpentine bay hedges and windbreaks of Holm Oaks and Monterey pines to combat the exposed site East coast site, which gave an immediately strong structure to the garden. It was the impact of the whole project visualised and presented so well by the designer that enabled us to go ahead with the more ‘challenging’ of the options.

The entire project was broken down into several phases of development, allowing us to manage the budget with the initial preparation of the site, including the significant structural planting of trees and hedges. Additional plants were brought into the garden later that same year and in the following spring, with the garden evolving to this day.

We were faced with a fairly blank canvas after the first stage was completed; having laid a massive area of gravel mulch over the whole site, to ensure we wouldn’t have to weed from dawn till dusk, in readiness for the more detailed planting around the main structural windbreaks and hedges. The garden was nicknamed Aldeburgh beach for a few months until the paths were laid out and bedded into the gravel, and the planting had bulked up, demanding that we keep faith with the sheer scope of the design. Without the enthusiasm and expertise of E.scape for the project, we might have wavered at that point and backtracked to the safer planting option.

Nine years on and their interest continues to be an integral part of the development of this garden; wanting to visit and see it come into fruition, and to help the organic development of such a large planting. In a short space of time the garden developed amazingly and is now entering into full and wonderful maturity. They could have considered their ‘job’ finished long ago, but it is undoubtedly their ability and passion for creating exciting and unusual gardens that makes the relationship between E.scape and the client a lasting one.