Heralding the Return of Traditional English Country Gardens

Heralding the Return of Traditional English Country Gardens

Over the past decade you’d have been forgiven for thinking that every new garden has to be pared down to a few elements of contemporary styling. You know what I’m talking about – the big sheets of glass window, designer rattan furniture and stainless steel water features. These elements have been the soul of many designers’ gardens, especially the big show gardens seen at Chelsea and in the modern stripped out homes that inhabit the lifestyle magazines. Plants seem to have been pushed aside but fear not, get ready for a return to basics and some traditional English country gardening.

For some of us garden designers we’ve never strayed far from the path of using reclaimed York stone, big planted borders and traditional materials like oak in our summerhouses, pergolas and arbors. I’ve been a garden designer in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire for more years than I’d care to admit and our clients are drawn to an aesthetic that might not appeal for a small urban space but suits their large country gardens.

Whilst we might be installing sleek new swimming pools, we understand that the character of the house and the surrounding landscape is what drives us to a more traditional view of gardens that includes kitchen gardens, orchards and collections of trees that will live longer than ourselves. And all this alongside some of the trappings of modern day gardening that make maintenance so much easier, the ride-on mower, well-mulched borders and not feeling guilty about allowing the professionals to do all the hard work.

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But look closer at where those uber-cool gardens are heading. Peek inside the London garden and you’ll see that everyone is growing food again, albeit in small quantities. They’re planting fruit trees instead of huge instant impact ornamental trees, letting the kids chew up the lawn and letting their hair down in the garden. Cool urban gardens are no longer the ‘outside room’ but a place to hang out, chill out and be at one with nature.

And with that new laid-back feel we’re turning to the ideal of country gardening. Where you’re happy not to pressure-wash the terrace because old York stone actually looks better when it’s left to age. Where your oak garden furniture that the local craftsman made for you will outlast anything you can buy at John Lewis. And you have a greenhouse because there’s no better place to spend a January afternoon than sowing Sweet Peas and early carrots.

What we’re doing is making the country gardens of Surrey and Sussex into an ideal for the future. Returning to the focus of our childhood gardens where we’re happy to sit back and watch the trees grow from a small sapling to a mature specimen that we planted. It’s something I’ve been doing for many years now but it’s good to have some company again.