James Alexander Sinclair's Green Rise

James Alexander Sinclair’s garden Green Rise in Oxfordshire

Designer James Alexander-Sinclair is happy to allow his new Oxfordshire garden to evolve slowly over time. Words Kendra Wilson, photographs Britt Willoughby Dyer

Perched on a grassy knoll in an Oxfordshire hamlet, the home of garden designer James Alexander-Sinclair is known as Green Rise. In name and style it is the opposite of Blackpitts, which readers of his blogs and other writings will remember as his former family home in Northamptonshire. Slightly further south, Green Rise is a more traditional house and garden, with no plant life transferred from Blackpitts at all, except for some poppy seeds.

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Opium poppies, in shades of amethyst and plum, are one link with Blackpitts, and so it seems, is rubble. Having dealt with a surplus of concrete in the old garden, a grass-covered bank of builder’s rubble from the 1970s greeted the Alexander-Sinclairs at Green Rise: “So we continued that tradition and put all our rubbish in as well,” notes James. A broader take on gravel gardening, rubble gardening might not be to everyone’s taste but plants seem to like it, appreciating the drainage. In joining two piles of rough ground together across the lawn, James has created a graceful arc that prevents the whole garden from being given away. “This is the surprise; you come round the corner and boof-boof, there’s the pond.” Read more about Green Rise below.

James Alexander Sinclair's Green Rise
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

A walk around Green Rise leads to the surprise of an elegant pond, hidden away behind the arc of a mound and surrounded with jungly planting. Large stones were salvaged from Cleve West’s 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden, one of them making a contemplative seat that faces towards the afternoon sun.

James Alexander Sinclair's Green Rise
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

Looking “slightly alien yet completely at home” a large rusted ball from Capital Garden Products covers a patch of ground that is matted with the roots of some old birch trees. On the edge of the kitchen garden, a site-specific Hartley Botanic glasshouse was made using local stone.

Tastefulness is fine but you can be tasteful and be zingy. Colour makes people feel alive; they are sometimes scared of that sort of thing and they shouldn’t be
James Alexander Sinclair
James Alexander Sinclair's Green Rise
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

The charm of common foxgloves is amplified by opium poppies (Papaver somniferum), in this case selected forms chosen for their jewel-like colours. The seeds originated from a friend whose garden was designed by a young Dan Pearson and filmed for television.

James Alexander Sinclair's Green Rise
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

The pink and peach of Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’ adds zing to an already colourful border between the garden and the house. Along the wall by the driveway is a rambling rose, Rosa ‘Cooperi’.

IMG_1781Photography by Britt Willoughby Dyer ©v2
© Britt Willoughby Dyer

Herbaceous planting is approached in a relaxed way; pale-yellow Digitalis lutea originated from a seed packet on the cover of Gardens Illustrated. Further along, unpredictable hues of annual Papaver somniferum mix with mutating colours of Rosa x odorata ‘Mutabilis’.

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In brief

Name Green Rise. What Sheltered, private garden of designer James Alexander-Sinclair. Where Oxfordshire. Size Half an acre. Soil Mixture of good, sandy loam and clay. Climate Temperate, Hardiness zone USDA 9.

24 key plants from Green Rise