New beginnings: Church Barn in Summer
Church Barn is an 18th-century building near Braintree, in the heart of Essex. The converted building was originally surrounded by a garden made up of two parts. A large area behind the house was laid out as a lawn, and much of the area to the front of the house was taken up by a parking area.
The two parts of the garden were originally divided by high brick walls, and it was a big decision to knock one of those walls down. By substituting it with an elegant fence made from mild steel, however, we retained some sense of enclosure, while also creating a connection between the two parts of the garden. The new arrangement also maximised space at the front of the house, so that we have been able to forge a terrace from an area originally used only for parking.
We have replaced the lawn with a substantial area of perennial planting that is guaranteed to attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects. Two grasses – Sesleria autumnalis and Sporobolus heterolepis – dominate, unifying the design and creating the matrix into which we have blended sheets of bulbs and over a thousand perennials, ensuring interest from end to end of the year.
Added to this mix are ten new multistem trees. Among them are our trademark amelanchiers, as well as those other spring flowerers and autumn entertainers – Clerodendrum trichotomum, Koelreuteria paniculata and Magnolia x loebneri ‘Merrill’.
The site is crossed by meandering gravel paths leading to three areas – one created for sunbathing, one centred on the fire pit, and another on a sunny spot conceived for enjoying a morning coffee.
Finally, we clad the barn and the brick wall with climbing roses such as ‘Claire Austin’, ‘Mortimer Sackler’ and ‘The Generous Gardener’.
The protagonists of the Summer peak are grasses like the Sesleria autumnalis, Stipa ichu and Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foester’ alongside perennials like Sedum ‘José Aubergine’, Agastache ‘Blue fortune’ and Sanguisorba canadensis.
Photography: Alister Thorpe
Landscape construction: Shoots and Leaves