A garden with character

Jane Saville has redesigned her garden, extending the patio and creating a series of outdoor 'rooms', each with an individual feel for herself and her family to enjoy

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My house is next to a farm, and I loved the location when I first saw it,’ recalls Jane.

‘I wanted a private space, but nothing too isolated. The house sits in the middle of the garden, and it’s so relaxing to sit in my family room but still feel as if I’m outdoors.’

At first, the third-of-an-acre garden was little more than a field with mature apple trees, a mulberry tree, plus a treehouse and a summerhouse.

‘The plot was a blank canvas,’ says Jane. She decided to radically re-think the entire space, not only to add value, but also to create a peaceful, beautiful garden to enjoy.

Fact file

  • The owner: Jane Saville, a reflexologist and massage therapist
  • The property: A four-bedroom detached house, built in the 1930s
  • The location: West End Village, Surrey
  • What she spent: Jane’s garden redesign project cost around £32,000

The plans

When planning the changes, Jane also considered what her eight grandchildren would like to find in a garden, imagining little pathways linking areas where they could play. ‘I decided that an English country garden with a “secret garden” zone would work well in the semi-rural setting,’ she says.

Jane consulted the garden designer Selina Botham (07894 553202; designsforallseasons.co.uk) who, after much discussion, drew up a plan. ‘Initially, I wasn’t sure about all the hedges or the wide beds full of perennials, because I thought dividing up the space might make it seem small,’ explains Jane, but she was delighted once the layout was marked out on the ground. ‘The dimensions of each area are perfect.’

The garden

The garden is overlooked by houses on the right, but new evergreen rhododendron and camellia plants form a living screen, while fences and walls are now clad in climbers such as clematis and jasmine. ‘When you could see the boundaries, they became dominant and made the garden seem smaller than it is,’ Jane explains.

Keen to include some familiar objects in the new space, Jane brought some ornaments from her old house, as well as an oak pergola. This was dismantled and re-assembled in a quiet corner where it forms a leafy retreat, clad in a dainty blue Clematis macropetala.

The terrace

At the rear of the house, the stone terrace was extended and redesigned for Jane to share with her large extended family and old English sheepdog, Lottie. ‘The original one was an awkward shape and too small for entertaining,’ says Jane. Edged in brick, linking it with the brick walls of the house and boundaries, the terrace leads to a grassy parterre consisting of four rectangular flower beds which, in spring, are filled with daffodils and red tulips that thrive in the loam soil. The beds are arranged around a central sculpture, and the whole parterre is contained within sections of yew hedge.


Zoning the space

‘The hedges give a sense of enclosure, dividing the garden into distinct areas,’ explains Jane. One section has a brick floor and a bench. Behind it, an old orchard of apple and crab apple trees is set in grass planted with daffodils. ‘In summer, paths are mown through longer grass studded with wildflowers,’ she adds.

To the east, a lawn passes beneath the mulberry tree. Opposite this an informal gravel path edged in ferns, bluebells, Viburnum plicatum, hellebores, euphorbia, dicentra, hardy geraniums and heuchera ends at a hidden shed and compost area. The path passes the lopsided treehouse that was there when Jane moved in. ‘It looked rather forlorn until I re-painted it and stood pots of flowers on the steps,’ she says.

The summerhouse

The summerhouse was plain stained wood and had an old-fashioned porch. ‘I looked into a replacement, but realised that if the old one was painted and the roof tiled with cedar shingles, it wouldn’t look very different from a costly new alternative,’ Jane adds. Finally, the summerhouse porch was replaced with decking. ‘My granddaughters use it as a stage for putting on little shows.’ Inside, chairs and an old pine school cupboard create a quiet place to sit.

Garden views

Sitting in her garden is important to Jane, who has placed benches strategically so she can enjoy different views. ‘Sometimes I’m just happy to sit under the apple trees, especially during spring, when I put deck chairs outside the summerhouse so as to enjoy the blossom and daffodils,’ she says.

Seasonal planting

Each season is different, with summer bringing alliums, roses, lavender and herbaceous perennials in shades of pink and purple. There are climbing roses on the walls and fragrant star jasmine encircling the water feature. In autumn, colour is provided by a smoke bush, a Liquidambar tree, an Amelanchier and a hornbeam, as well as crab apples that last until Christmas.

In winter the focus is on the framework of box and yew hedging and the structure of the trees, including a mulberry with its branches illuminated at night by uplighters. ‘The subtle lighting picks out the features of the garden,’ says Jane. The pergola frames a wall-hung, ceramic fountain by sculptor Lucy Smith, and the armillary sphere, crane sculpture and some planting are also lit.

Recent plantings include the strawberry tree, a white magnolia, silver birch and maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’). Two huge leylandii conifers were removed from the western boundary. ‘This has allowed lots of light into the garden – the back wall of the house and terrace are now sunny, whereas before they were shaded,’ adds Jane, who takes great pleasure from looking out on to the garden she has created, come rain or shine. ‘It’s fantastic to have a garden that constantly inspires me.’

The costs

Oak pergola£5,000
Bed preparation and planting£4,240
Gravel paths£3,000
Water feature£2,800
Summerhouse decking£2,400
Large urns and pots£1,400
Wooden benches£800
Armillary sphere£500
Crane sculpture£250
Bird bath£125