Having bought an Edwardian House with a 12 acre garden with over a mile of frontage onto the River Thames, the new owners of this house in Oxfordshire had plenty on their plate.
8 acres of the garden were water meadows and hence regularly if unpredictably flooded. Yet most of this was abandoned paddocks. But the setting with a navigable stream joining the Thames to an adjacent Roman Pond and Mill oozed potential.
With such a naturalistic setting, The Garden Design Company introduced Dan Pearson to the owners of the garden.
Closer to the house the garden needed to be more formal but with regard to a proposed extension. Dan has an international reputation as a garden designer, whose sense of place is paramount. Use of plants that reflected the local habitat and a tying in of the proposed extension and garden to be were key. The result of numerous meetings between Dan, his team, the clients’ architect, The Garden Design Company and the clients was a concept document from Dan that set out the bones and layout of the garden to be.
With the extension imminent, we started work on restoring the water meadows, spreading dredging from the stream, levelling and grading, ripping to help drainage, harrowing, seeding and then rolling. Several different batches of wild flower seed were used depending upon the habitat of the particular area of the garden. Whilst most was a perennial mix, which would come up year after year, one area close to the house was seeded with an annual mix to provide an instant hit of colour for the first year.
The overall look of a wild flower meadow and cut rides is one of striking simplicity, where you are working with nature, not against. The reality is that it’s not so simple as nasty perennial weeds such as docks, thistles and nettles can unexpectedly appear, having previously laid dormant in the seedbank. Steps were taken to address these with the use of herbicides and reseeding where necessary. Even then we were hit by a drought of several months and the appearance of the forest of Spear leafed Orache, which smothered another area of meadow that was sown later.
Nevertheless, the achievements in less than 2 years are dramatic and bode well for the future.