by Olivia Stewart
1st Febuary 2020
In the spring of 2015 Sarah Naybour Design was commissioned to work on a recently renovated house with a historical garden.
This large garden was once owned by the doyenne of snowdrops, the late Primrose Warburg. Primrose’s husband, William Frederic ‘Heff’ Warburg, was an eminent Professor of Botany and famous in Oxford for his involvement in the development of the Botanical Gardens. There are three snowdrops associated with this garden. ‘Heffalump’ is a suitably chunky double and ‘Primrose Warburg’, an elegant yellow single and ‘South Hayes’, named after the garden itself, is a green and white pixie hat, all of these rare snowdrop varieties can be found in the woods adjoining the site.
The current owners had the terraces rebuilt with a new “floating” balcony, removed many of the mature trees and shrubs to clear the views to the surrounding landscape. The garden was a blank canvas ready for a new design that better suited their needs and complemented the new modern extension. The main feature, and challenge of this garden, was a very steep bank which started only meters from the back of the house and dropped almost 10 meters below to a gently sloping lawn and pond. The house perched high on top of the bank looked out across to a wooded valley.
The focus in redesigning this space was to negotiate the steep bank, managing the levels and turn it into a pleasant transitional space connecting house and garden, embellished with new trees, shrubs and large swathes of perennials. The new design integrated a modern terrace area, framed by evergreen clipped shrubs in a grid formation which then tumble down the bank through the herbaceous beds. A series of criss-crossing and gently sloping paths, cut through bold swathes of planting, the whole retained by green oak timbers, driven vertically into the ground, and large stone filled Gabion walls with integrated oak benches and night lighting. Soft pillows of ornamental grasses contrast with brightly coloured blocks of perennials such as Achillea, Salvia, and structural plants such as Phlomis and Sedum. The style and beauty of the planting and the natural materials, such as oak and stone were carefully chosen to reduce the impact of all the hard landscaping necessary to retain the bank. The overall effect is a stunning descent from house to garden, through richly planted borders and exquisite plant combinations, which pay homage to the original garden and it’s horticultural history.
The transformation of a garden from paper to reality is often quite a journey which both Client, Designer and Landscaper embark upon togehter. The challenges along the way are often unknown at the start of the project, but hopefully the end result is a great garden that far exceeds expectations. South Hayes, was one such journey, and has eclipsed all initial expectations. It has been shortlisted to win the prestigious Association of Professional Landscapers Design Award 2020. We look forward to sharing results, to be announced on the 13th March.