Myth Venus sculpture of Kate Moss by Marc Quinn

An art dealer’s garden where the planting showcases the owner’s sculpture collection

In East Sussex, designer Marian Boswall has created a thoughtful landscape to accommodate a growing collection of contemporary sculpture. Words Kendra Wilson, photographs Jason Ingram

This art collector’s garden has views over family estate in East Sussex. The garden is 12 acres and sits on heavy clay, naturally irrigated with underground springs.It is a temperate climate, typical of the south of England in the equivalent of USDA hardiness zone 9.

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When designing an art collector’s garden, it is only a matter of time before the sculptures begin to arrive. Landscape gardener Marian Boswall knew that “something bold was coming” when she took on a property in Sussex and began to reconfigure a traditional parterre. Enclosed within extant hedges of thuja, the new, perennial-based layout was designed for walking through, and also for the enjoyment of those looking out from the new orangery. Possibly the best view is from its crenelated balcony, where the owner practises yoga. From this perspective, the eye is drawn over the tall, high-spirited planting to a clearing in the cloud-pruned hedge, framed by woodland in the distance. Here, perfectly poised and naturally framed, sits a shiny three-metre sculpture of the model Kate Moss in an impressive yoga position, her body weight resting on her elbows. The sculpture is called Myth Venus, created by the artist Marc Quinn, and is one of several arresting, yet strangely serene sculptures in this thoughtfully landscaped garden.

Another edition of Kate Moss guards the garden entrance like a sphinx; no visitor is allowed to escape her unblinking gaze. Marian’s client, a well-regarded art dealer, loves the reaction they get. “They are quite unconventional here and I like that,” she says. The former garden layout is still fresh in the memory: only five years ago, visitors were greeted by a tarmac turning circle, with some greenery hiding a well. Now, a grid of gravel bisected with paths of shot-sawn York stone accommodates cars for the many guests, their vehicles disappearing into a matrix of deep border planting. See more of the garden, its art and Marian’s planting below.
Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

In this part of the garden, an animated parterre of hardy perennials and grasses was designed by Marian Boswall Landscape Architects, to create a setting for a new orangery with a crenelated balcony above. Helianthus salicifolius jostles with Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ and adds mystery to the sculpture layout in summer.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

A sunken croquet lawn edged with Corten steel emphasises the clean lines of the flattened lawn, with sharply defined Yorkstone pavers in the grass. This setting adds even more drama to the view of ancient forest, with formal bosquets added on either side.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

In the parterre garden fountains of Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ are joined by lively hardy perennials, and a katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). In autumn, its scent of burnt sugar will be enclosed within the hedging of cloud-pruned thuja.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

Opposite the front door, the sculpture Tear by Richard Hudson sits in a grid of hard paths and dense planting in the parking area, and reflects the house as well as a backdrop of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ and a line of Parrotia persica that turn a fiery orange in autumn.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

Free-form Crataegus persimilis ‘Prunifolia Splendens’ mixes with topiarised trees of Carpinus betulus. For understorey structure, Marian continues to plant Buxus sempervirens despite its well-known challenges. To protect it from blight she sprays it with diluted organic whey.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

Crenelated garden walls were added when the neo-Gothic house was refurbished. Planting is given height with columns of yew and a vertical leitmotif around the front of the house: Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ and ‘Fascination’. Box balls are mobbed by Eurybia divaricata.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

The owner, a fan of the artist Marc Quinn, has included several of his sculptures in the garden. “They make people sit up and think,” she says. Placed within modular planting, this image of model Kate Moss near the garden entrance called Myth Mirror Sphinx, is impossible to miss.

Art collector's garden designed by Marian Boswall
© Jason Ingram

A meandering path of brick forms a labyrinth through a wildflower meadow sown with an Emorsgate Seeds general seed mix. This is intended as foraging for the wild bees that live in a log hive in one of the old oaks, while young trees that attract bees include Liriodendron tulipifera, Tilia cordata and Arbutus unedo.

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Read more about Marian Boswall here