The New Garden
We’re not tennis players.
When we first arrived we used the tennis court to store all the garden ornaments and plants we’d brought with us from Cornwall.
But we knew what we really wanted to do eventually was to take up the court, and turn it back into a garden, as it had been when the vicarage grounds were first developed.
The high chainlink fencing was an eyesore, but behind it, at the perimeter of the vicarage, was some attractive mature planting and hedging which we wanted to use as a backdrop to a new garden.
With so much work to do on the house and the rest of the garden it took some time to finally get work on the new ‘tennis court’ garden underway.
Firstly we cut up a slab of the tennis court surface to explore the composition of the materials beneath the tarmac. From that we then planned the next moves.
We wanted to have a parking area for cars at the sunken end of the court, where they’d be hidden away from the house. That meant having a driveway to that point.
To work out the best route for it, we laid bricks on the court to simulate the shape we could create.
The aim was to design a new garden on either side of the driveway that would complement the rest of the vicarage gardens, but would also enable us to plant in a more contemporary style.
Where it would become driveway, we decided to leave the surface of the old court as it was. With loose stone beneath it should drain pretty well – tennis courts are designed to do that.
We then dug out all the other areas, and brought in subsoil, and then topsoil to make the new landform ready for planting.
Here you can see the sweep of the driveway, and its setting against the mature hedging beginning to take shape. We left some of the old court fence posts in the far corner as they were supporting a large old clematis, which should enhance the sense of enclosure.
We had inherited a huge old animal drinking trough, and we moved it into position to become a large planter. It’ll eventually form the backdrop to a paved seating area in front of the old clematis.
In the centre of the new garden we created a mound that rises to about the same height as the mound that stands in front of the house.
This will become an area for the new planting plan, three areas separated by paths, each planted in a particular colour theme.
The mound will have a mix of grasses, perennials and bulbs to which we’ll be adding annuals. To give height and variety we do have a few shrubs too – two black chokeberries, an amelanchier, a catalpa which we’re planning to pollard, and a Forest Pansy cercis.
This is a shot taken across the garden, from the other mound (the lawn and bed in front of the house), and shows how the two mounds, and the curving driveway, flow in design terms (hopefully).
The long curving bed on the outer side of the drive was rotavated, with the help of our son Sam.
The planting along the outside of this curve will be backed by a section of low hornbeam hedge. The basic planting will be a mix of grasses, nepeta and white and blue asters, but with plenty of variety added in. We originally then chose a line of cypress trees spaced out alongside the driveway for counterpoint and balance, but they have now been replaced with hornbeams which prefer the clay conditions there.
This was how the new mound bed was beginning to look with about 2 months to go to the NGS Opening.
And below is a view from the new bed looking back across the front lawn. The new imported soil in this section had proved to be exceptionally fertile – the aliums looked to be on steroids!
And this was how the planting looked on the eve of opening the garden for the NGS. We were blessed with fabulous weather on the day itself, and we had 547 visitors through the garden during that weekend. We thought that we used to do well with visitor numbers in Cornwall, but Somerset had surpassed it all.
As the year progressed, the relationship between the new mound bed and the front garden opposite it, settled as the planting matured.
Later in the year, as the grasses began to yellow up, the driveway beside the new bed seemd as if it had been there forever. Result.