Last Saturday evening on our way to London driving down the A1 M, at the very sociable time of between 5-8pm we found the gate open…
at Beechleigh, in Birch Green, Hertfordshire. We walked down the long drive running alongside a field, where a footpath crosses over and the grass has recently been cut, and found the property, which was originally a gamekeeper’s cottage on a former country estate.
Evening openings are fun; held in lovely surroundings it is rather like a drinks party, but without the people you so desperately want to avoid.
There is no defined boundary between field and garden, mature trees, newly planted grass beds and pond, merge naturally together.
And we find ourselves amongst colourful beds which flow around the house in the neatly mown lawn.
The garden is owned by Jacky and Gary and was designed a couple of years ago by London-based Daniel Shea (http://www.danielshea.co.uk/about); his brief was to create a contemporary design whilst also keeping within traditional influences.
This circular shape of this eye-catching border complements the moon shape sculpture.
Visitors are asking about the colour of the water, it has a little black dye put in which keeps the water weed free and is also environmentally friendly. Around the little waterfall is a soft palette of ferns, sedum and Mexican feather grass, stipa tenuissima with knotweed persicaria and blood grass imperata cylindrica providing touches of red.
Although the good thick hedge does not quite hide the sound of the traffic from the A414 it is a calming and secluded garden. Three stones on the lawn link the pond area to a traditional herbaceous border,
which is packed with dahlias, sedum and roses, the edges kept clean by plate steel edging.
This is a garden designed for outdoor living. The modern kitchen extension with bifold doors on two sides opens seamlessly onto bleached Balau decking.
Alongside is a what is described as 13m reflective pond, and I am puzzled why this canal-like feature it is not called a rill. Edged with brick, the flowing water here is very dark. On the far side a long border is effective with a naturalistic style of planting; lavender, purple salvia, sedum, echinacea and calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ is repeated throughout.
There are comfortable and hospitable places to sit on the patio
around the nearby fire pit which is gently smoking in the fading evening light.
There is a Lutyens bench tucked against the wall,
from where you can look back through calamagrostis, over the rill and decking to the kitchen.
This side of the herbaceous border is paved with York stone and edged with reclaimed bricks.
A door in the wall clothed with a montana clematis opens into the allotment area and the brick path invites us in.
Vegetables grow on one side of the path and on the other is a wild flower meadow that even in August is still dotted with colour.
A decoratively-filled wheel barrow, cheers up a gravelled corner in the yard.
Back by the house the steel heron stands and watches the water from the end of the rill just where a solid oak pergola has weathered to silvery grey.
On the North East side of the house acers are amongst the shrubs that fill the island border.
An ornamental well brings an olde world charm.
Mature trees on the North side of the house are underplanted with beds which display a variety and interest. The light is fading fast
and we return along the decking.
where Betsie and Evie, mum and daughter are helping to count the evening’s takings.
It is time to go, the sun is setting and my camera is flashing.
A last look at the deer standing in the long grass; they were recently acquired at Chelsea.
Beechleigh is not vast but a well-designed garden with plenty of interesting areas combined with effective planting, It is a garden to be enjoyed, for entertaining and relaxing.
So inspired by the plan of her own garden Jacky has completed a course in garden design and has now runs her own consultancy: email@example.com
The garden gate will be open again TODAY from12 noon -5pm and if you just find yourself on the A1M, I suggest you take a short detour and see for yourself. Gary and Jacky will welcome you and there will be delicious home-made teas.