How to design a garden landscape that complements a country house in Somerset?

12 June 2024

Designing a garden landscape to complement a country house in Somerset is an art that combines architectural finesse, horticultural knowledge, and a deep understanding of the local climate and soil type. Weaving in elements like shrubs, flowering plants, trees, assorted greenery, and features like cottages and yew hedges can create a harmonious outdoor living space. This article will guide you through the process of creating a garden landscape that adds beauty and value to your Somerset country house.

Understanding Somerset's Climate and Soil

Before you embark on designing your garden landscape, it’s crucial to understand Somerset's unique climate and soil conditions. Somerset, located in the South West of England, is known for its moderate to high rainfall throughout the year. The soil is typically clay, sandy or loamy, favouring a range of plants that thrive in these conditions.

If your house is located near the Somerset Levels, you'll need to consider the high water table when selecting plants. Near the Mendip Hills, the soil is predominantly limestone, making it suitable for a certain set of plants.

Incorporate local plants such as English lavender, foxgloves, and yew trees that thrive in Somerset conditions into your design. They are not only adapted to the climate but also contribute to the typical English countryside charm.

Planting for Aesthetic Appeal and Functionality

The layout of your garden should not only be visually appealing but also functional. Consider your outdoor space's current structure and how you can best utilise it to create a stunning landscape.

Planting is an art form where each plant and tree has a role in the overall design. For example, larger trees like the native English Yew can act as a natural screen, creating privacy and reducing noise.

Flowering plants such as roses, peonies, and camellias can become the jewel in the crown of your landscape, attracting attention with their vibrant colours. Remember to consider the timing of blooms when planning your garden, to ensure you have colour and interest throughout the year.

Cottage gardens, a popular choice for country homes, are characterised by their informal, whimsical style. This design often includes a mix of edible and ornamental plants, with the addition of classic English flowers like delphiniums, hollyhocks, and daisies.

Incorporating Architectural Features

While plants, trees, and flowers are the heart of any garden, architectural features can provide the structure around which the landscape develops. These features, such as garden cottages, can add character and depth to your garden.

A garden cottage, for instance, can serve as a quaint hideaway for reading or enjoying a cup of tea amidst nature. Apart from being functional, it can add a charming focal point to your garden space.

Similarly, a well-placed garden arbour, covered with climbing roses or honeysuckle, can create a romantic and secluded spot. Stone paths winding through the garden can guide visitors, allowing them to fully appreciate the varied planting and beautiful features of your landscape.

Forming a Cohesive Landscape Design

The secret to a captivating garden landscape lies in achieving a harmonious blend of natural and man-made elements. A cohesive design takes into consideration the architectural style of your house, the natural surroundings, and your personal preferences.

For example, if you have a traditional Somerset country house, a formal English garden with neatly trimmed hedges, rose gardens, and a well-groomed lawn might complement it best. On the other hand, a contemporary home might be better suited for a more modern landscape design, featuring minimalist planting, architectural grasses, and clean lines.

Working with Landscape Professionals

While it's possible to design and develop your garden landscape independently, working with landscape professionals such as Hawes and McCaughan can significantly enhance the outcome. These experts have the experience and knowledge to guide you through the process, helping to realise your vision in the most practical and aesthetically pleasing way.

These professionals can share invaluable insights into plant selection, layout design, and feature placement. Moreover, they can help to ensure your garden remains beautiful and manageable throughout the seasons, offering advice on maintenance and care.

Designing a garden landscape that complements your Somerset country house is a rewarding endeavour. It allows you to create a tranquil and beautiful outdoor space where you, your family, and your guests can enjoy the natural beauty of the Somerset countryside. With careful planning, a dash of creativity, and perhaps professional guidance, you can craft a garden that's not only visually stunning but also a reflection of your personal style and love for nature.

Incorporating Native Shrubs and Trees

With a basic understanding of Somerset's climate and soil, you can dive into the selection of native shrubs and trees for your garden design. Native plants tend to be more resilient and require less maintenance, as they have evolved to thrive in the local environment. Charlotte McCaughan and Hawes, renowned landscape architects, advise the inclusion of native species in your garden design to give it a distinct Somerset character.

For instance, the English Yew tree, a native species, is highly adaptable and can be pruned into a formal hedge or allowed to grow freely, forming impressive canopies. It's not only an excellent choice for creating privacy in your garden but is also known to thrive in Somerset soils.

A country house garden wouldn't be complete without the traditional English Rose. Roses are versatile and come in various colours and forms, allowing you to create stunning combinations in your garden.

Remember, mixing different types of plants and trees creates various heights in your garden, adding interest and depth to your outdoor space. Consult with experts like McCaughan and Hawes for detailed advice on plant selection and placement.

The Cottage Garden Concept

A popular option for a Somerset country house is the creation of a cottage garden. This garden design concept is characteristically English and conjures up images of quaint cottages surrounded by a riot of colourful flowers.

In a cottage garden, the plants are arranged naturally rather than formally, creating a charming, informal look. This style typically includes a mix of flowering plants for colour, interspersed with edible plants like herbs and fruit trees.

Design your cottage garden with a free spirit, filling it with your favourite plants. Include classic English plants like delphiniums, hollyhocks, and daisies, as well as productive plants like lavender, thyme, and apple trees that serve both aesthetic and practical purposes.

Remember, the cottage garden is not constrained by strict geometrical layouts; rather, it’s a celebration of nature's wild beauty. So don't be afraid to experiment with plant placement. As Elizabeth Metcalfe, the famous garden designer, would say, a cottage garden is 'a painter's eye arranged in a landscape'.

The Grand Finale: A Harmonious Design

Designing a garden landscape that complements your Somerset country house is a journey of creativity and practicality. By understanding the local climate and soil, incorporating native plants, and embracing traditional English garden styles like the cottage garden, you can create a stunning outdoor space that enhances the beauty of your home.

As the renowned landscape architect Charlotte McCaughan mentions, a well-designed garden is a blend of 'the old and the new, the formal and the informal, the cultivated and the wild'. So, whether you own an impressive Northamptonshire mansion or a modest country house, your garden should be a reflection of your personal style and taste, as well as the natural beauty of Somerset.

Embrace the journey and don't hesitate to seek professional guidance from experts such as McCaughan and Hawes. They can help you realise your vision, ensuring that your garden is not only visually stunning but also easy to maintain throughout the changing seasons.

In conclusion, a well-designed garden landscape is a timeless asset that adds immense value to your country house. With patience, creativity, and a deep understanding of Somerset's unique environment, you can create an outdoor living space that you and your guests will cherish for years to come.

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