Last weekend I had the delight of visiting Brockhampton Cottage, near Ross on Wye with a group of friends from Hardy Plant Society. Brockhampton Cottage is the home of Peter Clay, part owner of Crocus (the online plant company) and was designed with the help of Tom Stuart-Smith.
The house sits on top of a hill in a site of several acres. As you can see the views from the house are stunning, probably more so from the upstairs windows. You can see for miles. Peter showed us around the garden and spent time explaining the ethos behind the development of the garden and how it inadvertently led to the creation of Crocus.
Peter is not a gardener by trade, coming instead from a marketing background but having inherited the property back in the 1990s he decided to create the garden of his childhood dreams – that country garden surrounded by wild flowers and meadows; the ideal of many a retrospective childhood dream.
He learnt that with a large space he needed to plant in large quantities and quickly became frustrated with phoning around nurseries tracking down a couple of plants here and a couple there. This led to a evening conversation with a close friend, where fuelled by beer, they postulated about how the new worldwide web should be able to change things and make it possible to choose plants to decorate your outside space just as you could chose furniture and paint to decorate your inside space. This mad idea is where Crocus was formed leading to Peter having a career he had never envisaged.
Around this time Peter met a young designer called Tom Stuart-Smith and asked him to help him with his garden, their collaboration on the garden as continued ever since.
What I found fascinating about this garden was the complete celebration of its location. The view is king and Peter explained how having cleared the land in front of the house he decided to mirror the natural landscape by planting a range of trees of different sizes and shapes to reflect the variety of trees in the wider landscape.
We also learnt how having planted a selection of trees across the site, these were under-planted by box bushes which in their growth habit replicated the shrubby under-planting you could see in the distant landscape.
Close to the house the planting is more formal with wide herbaceous borders full of large drifts of perennials. The intention is that the colour pallet is limited and is partly driven by the naturally pink coloured bricks of the house. This house can be seen for miles and there is a conscious attempt to help it sit comfortably within its landscape through the use of climbers, with only white flowers, and the creation of three wide shallow steps across the front of the house to help ground the house.
As the planting moves away from the house the colours fade into whites and greens – many different greens and many textures again referencing the landscape.
The landscape drops steeply away from the side of the house and the view of the house is broken with these beech columns which also act to filter the wind coming through the valleys.
The meadows and the sweeping grass paths are the real triumph of this garden but tucked away along the side of the property is a shady garden with a brook which flows down the side of the property and is clothed in ferns, siberian irises and these wonderful Primula florindae which caused many oo’s and arh’s. On reaching the bottom of the hill you find wide beds of foliage rich herbaceous plants primarily with white or cream foliage. This planting is in large blocks following the matrix approach which Tom Stuart-Smith is known for and which works so well on this scale.
The visit was a delight and I took away some interesting thoughts and ideas to play with in my own space.
The garden opens under the National Garden Scheme each year to coincide with the orchids flowering in the meadows.