The garden surrounding Sarah Pajwani’s Berkshire home is surprisingly paradoxical. At first glance, it appears a wide, naturalistic landscape, but it’s held back from open countryside by ruddy hornbeam and mixed native hedging. House and garden borrow the open views and the outlying fringe of mature willow, walnut, pine, oak and copper beech, brings a feeling of maturity to a relatively new garden.


Natural as it may seem, none of this is by chance. Sarah has deliberately selected and placed key plants for maximum effect. Using a relatively restricted plant palette, she has embroidered a free-flowing design with an intricate web of planting that is intentionally strong in winter. Although she has deliberately steered clear of traditional, heavy, evergreen winter structure, she has made use of existing evergreens, including a towering yew and tapering pine, but has used these to punctuate her planting rather than make them the main structural text. “In winter the entire garden lights up,” she says. “The grasses, in particular, capture every bit of light, as does the pond.”

St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani
© Richard Bloom

Fifteen years ago, when Sarah started work on the garden, it was little more than an empty field with perimeter trees, a section of hornbeam hedging and four isolated pampas grasses marooned in various parts of the lawn. Sarah’s ambition was to link the house to the garden, and to create a series of beds that would change with the seasons and offer a different view for each aspect. To insert some fluid design and definition, Sarah brought in design studio Acres Wild, who created a large wildlife pond as a central focal point, from which a series of deep beds and curvaceous borders radiate out. It was then left to Sarah to bring in diggers to make the beds and add the all-important planting.

In brief

Name St Timothee. What Private garden, planted

for year-round interest with strong winter structure. Where Berkshire. Size Two acres. Soil Variety of soil conditions, ranging

from heavy clay to well-drained chalk. Climate Temperate. Hardiness zone USDA 9a. 

Inspiration came from other gardens, in particular Le Jardin Plume in Normandy and Knoll Gardens in Dorset, where Sarah was drawn to ornamental grasses. This aesthetic dovetailed more practically with Beth Chatto’s ‘right plant, right place’ philosophy. “The garden is open and quite exposed, so plants, especially in winter, need to be tough, resilient and largely look after themselves,” explains Sarah.

The full feature appeared in our December issue of Gardens Illustrated.

St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani
© Richard Bloom

The two-acre garden at St Timothee provides winter drama on a grand scale. Owner Sarah Pajwani has blended existing structure with soft plantings of mainly perennials and grasses to add interest throughout the year.

Pennisetum macrourum
Pennisetum macrourum © Richard Bloom

A range of tough grasses, including slow-growing Pennisetum macrourum, add soft structure to the garden, while also catching the low winter sun.

Sarah Pajwani
Sarah Pajwani © Richard Bloom

Sarah Pajwani in the garden she has created slowly over time, building on an outline plan from design studio Acres Wild to make a garden that offers interest for every season.

St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani
© Richard Bloom

Sarah briefed Acres Wild to design the garden around a new pond that would encourage wildlife and act as a central focal point. The design studio created an outline of where borders and paths would go but left Sarah with the freedom to put together her own planting plan. She rescued the pampas grasses, Cortaderia selloana, from their solitary positions in the lawn to add a theatrical backdrop to the pond. Now they bring real energy and dynamism to the winter garden, interplanted with verdant evergreen Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii and Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’. Behind this, a backbone of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’, brings warmth and energy to the Fire Border.

St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani
St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani © Richard Bloom

Sarah’s 1930s red-brick house looks out on to her Grass Island, where the planting includes a Piet Oudolf-inspired mix of grasses such as Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and perennials that continue to provide interest in their senescence throughout winter. Beyond, a row of Lombardy poplars mark the garden’s boundary.

St Timothee garden in Berkshire designed by Sarah Pajwani
© Richard Bloom

The classic parterre garden, devised by Acres Wild, sits between the potting and tool sheds. The idea to round the edges of the box hedging is one Sarah took from designer Mary Keen’s former Cotswold garden. Drifts of Russian sage, Salvia ‘Blue Spire’ (previously known as Perovskia ‘Blue Spire), help to soften this formal arrangement even more.

St Timothee garden, Berkshire. Designed by owner Sarah Pajwani
© Richard Bloom

Beyond the pond, Sarah’s Fire Border is dominated by the bright stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’. The dogwood’s fiery colour is cooled by a range of grasses and sedges of different heights, from the low-growing Carex comans, through Anemanthele lessoniana and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Kleine Silberspinne’ to the giant pampas grass Cortaderia selloana. Anchored by a large box ball, the border has an orange and blue theme throughout the year, with a mix of perennials, including the evergreen, blue-green foliage of Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii, and the spiky Mahonia nitens ‘Cabaret’, which offers orange-red buds opening to yellow flowers in summer, followed by blue-grey berries in autumn.

Key plants from Sarah Pajwani’s Berkshire home

Sarcococca confusa

Sarcococca x confusa
Sarcococca x confusa © Richard Bloom

Glossy, evergreen shrub that bears highly scented, tiny white flowers in winter. These are followed by glossy black berries. 1.5m x 1.5m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 6a-8b.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire
Cornus sanguinea Midwinter Fire © Richard Bloom

Bushy, spreading shrub, which drops its butter-yellow autumn foliage to reveal brilliantly coloured stems. 2m x 2m. RHS H6, USDA 5a-7b.

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii

Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii
Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii © Richard Bloom

Short-lived perennial with propensity to self-seed. Best in full sun, it tolerates dry shade. Its evergreen foliage provides winter interest long after the acid-green flowers have been cut back. 1.2m x 1.2m. RHS H4, USDA 6a-8b.

Here's our euphorbia plant profile

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’

Hydrangea paniculata Limelight
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' © Richard Bloom

A robust, prolific-flowering hydrangea. Flowers emerge lime green, fading to white before blushing in autumn, with desiccating flowerheads clinging on through winter. 2.5m x 2.5m. AGM. RHS H5, USDA 3a-8b.

Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster'

An upright, light-catching, clump-forming perennial grass. Its high-held, iridescent flower plumes form attractive seedheads, which linger throughout winter. 1.6m x 50cm. AGM. RHS H6. USDA 5a-9b.

Cyclamen coum f. pallidum ‘Album’

Cyclamen coum
© Richard Bloom

Bulbous perennial that offers beautifully patterned evergreen foliage and a profusion of winter-flowering, white blooms. Naturalises well under a deciduous hedge or woodland canopy. 10cm x 10cm. AGM. RHS H5.

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Don't miss our guide to cyclamen

Helleborus Walberton’s Rosemary (= ‘Walhero’)

Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary ('Walhero'PBR)
Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary ('Walhero'PBR) © Richard Bloom

Semi-evergreen perennial, and one of the earliest hellebores to flower. Its star-shaped, pink flowers often appear from December right through to mid-spring. 50cm x 50cm. AGM. RHS H7.

Here's how to grow hellebores

Cortaderia selloana

Cortaderia selloana, pampas grass
Cortaderia selloana, pampas grass © Richard Bloom

Densely tufted, clump-forming perennial with towering, waving, shaggy-feathered flower plumes, starting white but fading to cream throughout winter. 4m x 2.5m. RHS H6, USDA 8a-10b.

Don't miss our piece on how pampas grass is back in fashion


USEFUL INFORMATION Address St Timothee, Darlings Lane, Pinkneys Green, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 6PA. Web Open 12 January 2023, 10.30am-12.30pm for Winter Talk and Walk in aid of the National Garden Scheme. Admission £16. Limited to 25 people. See NGS website to book and for details of more dates throughout the year.