A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild

Traditional and contemporary planting and design in an Acres Wild garden

Design studio Acres Wild has created a garden around a former stable block that matches traditional and contemporary planting and design. Words Jodie Jones, photographs Marianne Majerus

Building work is often the catalyst for a garden redesign and Debbie Roberts of design studio Acres Wild is used to visualising the potential within a sea of mud. The harder challenge is to create a coherent design when the garden already contains a number of established elements. The owners of this property had lived here for over 20 years and the garden was planted primarily for spring and early summer interest, with an orchard and woodland, a recently added swimming pool and a large, green-oak pool house. They had decided to reconfigure their house, a converted stable block, with a large modern extension and wanted a contemporary garden to complement their newly styled contemporary interiors. The challenge was to create a link with the wider setting and provide views over the North Downs.

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“This meant creating a hierarchy of formality, from the most contemporary area adjacent to the house, softening out to the wooded boundaries over a series of gently rising levels and rationalising the position of the pool, which aligned with the boundary wall but nothing else,” says Debbie. Having trained as a landscape architect, Debbie is more sensitive than most to a lack of alignment, but she is also expert in baffling the eye. “Design is about working within constraints. Once you know what those constraints are the whole design falls into place.” Today you would need a tape measure and a set square to spot the clever way she has normalised the relationship of pool to main lawn with a deep ornamental border that expands at one end to absorb the change of angle.

Read more about the garden below.

In brief

What Private family garden. Where Surrey. Size Five acres, including woodland. Soil Sandy loam. Climate Temperate. Hardiness zone USDA 9.

A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

One side of a gravel path in the cooler part of the garden is awash with Hakonechloa macra and anemones, both pure-white Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ and shell pink ‘September Charm’, while the facing bed is filled with Miscanthus plumes. At the end of the path, a stone figure is framed by masses of greenish white Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’.

A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

Overlooking the swimming pool flower beds is a Victorian glasshouse that the owners had dismantled, refurbished and rebuilt in a new location, where it is now filled with ferns and provides a sheltered place in which to enjoy the evening sun.

Design is about working within constraints. Once you know what those constraints are the whole design falls into place
A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

Hydrangeas grow well in this garden and Debbie has used different cultivars in various sections, including the compact mophead Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Ami Pasquier’, which here marks a transition from the more contemporary and manicured part of the garden that runs across the back of the house, to a path that leads to more mature and woody reaches.

A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

Right below On the lowest terrace, the view is animated by layers and layers of plants. Swathes of Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’, Hakonechloa macra alongside Rosa Desdemona (= ‘Auskindling’), Miscanthus sinensis ‘Ferner Osten’ and a multi-stemmed Prunus serrula, all grow on different levels, but create a single picture
of beguiling depth and interest.

We wanted to have fun around the swimming pool but the terrace required a more contemporary polish
A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

The natural topography of  the terrace posed practical difficulties but now has a sense of inevitable logic and calm organisation. The broad, shallow steps have a sculptural quality that turns them into a feature in their own right, and four Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Robin Hill’ skirted by clipped squares of box bridge the transition up to the next level.

A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

In the old orchard, Debbie created a traditional kitchen garden where oak-edged raised beds give the space a pleasing sense of order, and allow for intensive cultivation. The greenhouse is a new addition in period style that is filled with tomatoes throughout the summer.

A garden round a stable block from Acres Wild
© Marianne Majerus

Masses of late summer perennials, including a swathe of Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’, rich orange Rosa Lady Emma Hamilton (= ‘Ausbrother’), lavender-coloured Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’ and pink and white anemones, create a colourful transition between the main lawn and the swimming pool garden. The corners are anchored by multi-stemmed Tibetan cherry trees (Prunus serrula) with beautifully peeling coppery-coloured bark.

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Find out more about Debbie’s work at acreswild.co.uk