We often get asked to give our expert thoughts and opinions on difficult to manage gardens. Recently we were approached by a property management company for suggestions on what could be done with the grounds of this place. Once the site of a lovely traditional cliff top cafe, it has since been built on.
An incredibly exposed part of the very low cliff just west of Hengistbury Head, it showed all of the signs of the typically thoughtless landscaping of developers.
A huge hole was first dug to accommodate the underground car park, and the sand from this simply spread around the site, whereupon the 'garden' was then laid. We found that large areas of grass had simply blown away in the westerly winds that thunder across the bay. In the picture below, facing west, you can imagine what rough day could bring weather wise, and in the summer the whole area becomes scorched with the wind and sun. Just for your information, we live way off in the distance.
The view east gives a little idea of the rest of the exposure problem. We were asked for suggestions regarding bringing the garden back up to scratch, and were informed that replacement shrubs had been ordered. Note also another thing that we both hate, the silly plastic chain draped around the perimeter of the site.
Either side of the property is completely open to public access, as you can see from the well worn path, and steps lead down to the beach from both sides. Even Phormiums have dried up and blown away. If only the glass screen had been put along the wall and the planting made on the then protected side. Needless to say we suggested that the plant order was cancelled.
Although the building itself is of a high standard, it's such a shame that no thought went into the definition of it's surrounding space and location. Our suggestions have been gratefully acknowledged, but I fear all will be too much to take on board, and too expensive.
To remove the chain, and define the southern perimeter with large timber sleepers. The entire lawn area would then be covered with a heavy duty weed proof membrane and topped off with tons of granite shingle. Amongst this would be a small number of large boulder clusters, and the occasional monolithic stone. On the building side of the rocks there should then be enough shelter for Eryngium, Thrift, Helianthemum and Lampranthus etc, in small groups.
On the eastern side, where the stepping stones can be seen leading away from the Griselinia 'hedge', we have suggested a mixture of Gorse and Hawthorn, kept low enough to still afford a view to Hengistbury Head, but if kept trimmed carefully will offer a more natural looking solution to the matter of privacy from the public, and exposure from the weather. Similarly, we have suggested the same on the other side, which would stop the wind in it's track naturally and effectively. It's expected that this latter suggestion plant choice will prove to be particularly scary to the residents, as both plants are nowadays only seen as wild and unattractive, but when seen in their wild best, there is no such rich yellow as that of Gorse, and the red blossom of Hawthorn is second to none. They also have the benefit of already being established across huge areas of the cliff top and Hengistbury Head itself.
Maybe next year will see the changes, we will see.