Le Jardin Contemporain, Chambe, Vienne

Brief:

The existing garden comprised a bed of herbaceous planting beside one wall, a small corner of mixed hedge by the property, lawn, an area of grass left long, several trees and shrubs. The garden was baked to a crisp when we moved to the house and garden in September 2018 so it was crystal clear at that stage that all planting brought into the garden would have to be very drought tolerant.

Immediately I could see that the garden and its aspect was begging for a degree of connection to the beautiful fields and woodland copses beyond. The presentation of the planted areas by the house also needed some attention. The garden is extremely exposed to sun and so requires more planting that will offer areas of shade. After living here for a period it became clear also that the end of the garden required large planting to shelter the garden from westerly winds that howl through from the fields beyond in autumn and winter.

The gite shares the same site as our home and so some degree of privacy from guests, and vice versa, was desired, but without a hard boundary such as a fence.

Reduction of water usage, drought tolerance, wildlife friendly, high impact planting with long periods of interest, and fuel reduction themes were all factors important to the new design.

Budget allows for the design to be implemented in phases, as funds become available.

Design:

Very quickly I seized upon the idea that the garden could be divided into three sections which, through the planting choices and an increasing lack of formality as the garden progresses away from the house, could link the house, garden and fields together.

More vibrant, naturalistic herbaecous planting will be utilised by the house, progressing through more formal and informal meadows away from the house, flanked by areas of tree and shrub planting on both sides, more so on the right to reflect the need for shelter from wind. Planting by the house will include tall, yet diaphernous, species to offer a degree of privacy. Plant choices will also include more natives away from the house. Planting choices will change throughout the different areas of the garden, and to take advantage of late afternoon backlighting, although certain species will link all areas to give the garden overall cohesion. The existing tree and shrub planting will be altered and significantly added to to reflect the species seen in the woodlands beyond that are coppiced for firewood.

In terms of construction for areas of hard landscaping leftover building stone will be crushed on site to make gravel seating area by the house, the remainder uncrushed and used to fill gabion baskets. Durable corten steel border edging and certain items of garden equipment will be used to specifically colour reference the soil colour and abundance of terracotta tiles prevalent in this part of France.

Remodelling of the areas of the garden, to include formal and informally shaped meadow areas to reference the Charente river which runs through the village and by our house, and planting began in April 2018. The new garden has begun its fourth year. Work and planting remains ongoing.