Tag Archives: Wales

Wondering down a mown pathway, with the dappled shade from many trees dancing on either side, I gaze ahead to see the reflections on a lake drawing me on.

I breathe in and turn right and step into a grove of wild cherry, Prunus avium, planted in a large square formation grid. The design, so regimented amongst the naturalistic planting, gives this grove so much sense of place. All around me tall pale tree trunks reach up to the sky, they look like pillars. The canopies above flutter and play with the light. It feels powerful and emotive, I am standing in natures church, happily worshipping its beauty.

I have been visiting Bryan’s ground for four years, each year I am delighted by its design and amazed at how quickly the garden is maturing in the rich loam of Herefordshire.

The house, owned by David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell, lies near Presteigne on the border between England and Wales and was built between 1911 and 1913. The gardens are home to 20 garden rooms, a rose garden, topiary, box pareterres, follies, long hedges, a ha-ha, a potager, a lake, a river and a thriving arboretum with long mown paths. It is a dream come true garden.

The planting is wonderful, sometimes colour themed, often very formal, at times very wild.

At the entrance, by the house, beautiful fruit trees line the scallop edged canal, they are underplanted with squares of 4ft-high Iris sibirica. If you come between mid May and early June you are greeted by thousands of these mass planted Iris in dazzling blue full bloom.

Full of anticipation, one flows from one garden room to the next, drawn on by the next peek of an urn, a gap in the hedges, or a jaunty building. It never disappoints, there is something special round every corner and down every path. The carefully curated vistas anchor the garden to the surrounding landscape and make you stop, gaze and wonder how you might be able to make it so you could stay here forever.


Bryan’s Ground, Stapleton (Nr Presteigne), Herefordshire (01544 260001; It will open again next spring to the public.

David Wheeler and Simon Dorrell are editors of Hortus magazine, a collection of essays and notes on horticulture.

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The grid, Bryan’s Ground © Cat Howard

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Mown pathways, Bryan’s Ground © Cat Howard


The canal, Bryan’s Ground © Cat Howard


The house at Bryan’s Ground © Cat Howard


The wonderful planting, Bryan’s Ground © Cat Howard



We have just begun the process of designing the terrace of an eco house in Holland Park. The house is one of three, set within a private gated courtyard. They have a wonderful sense of space and are, as it says on the website, sustainably stunning.

It is an honour to work on a building that has been designed with an eco ethos. A lot of research will have to be made into the technicalities of building a large roof terrace. Weight will be a huge consideration as this terrace sits on the second floor and for insulation reasons some of the walls are made of pulp board and shredded newspaper – it will be interesting to work out how to function alongside these materials without compromising their structure.

The brief from the clients is exciting to say the least, they want an antithesis to their other garden in Wales; the garden there is a country garden, it has a large variety of planting and has been planned and gardened by them for many years. This terrace is their town garden, they want a selective choice of plants in a contemporary and inspirational space. They invited us to taste some food they had just eaten, we sampled the delicious spoonful of wonderfully fragrant and fresh Israeli salad which was to become the basis of my brief for their garden. She said “That is what I want my garden to be like. Zingy!”

How wonderful to have clients like this.

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