Transformation of land in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire
PUBLISHED: 15:02 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013
John Clowes and his wife Linda have transformed farmland in Holmes Chapel into an impressive domestic garden
What a treat for a garden designer to be able to start with a blank canvas. That's exactly what happened to John Clowes when he and his wife Linda purchased a farm house in Holmes Chapel with two-thirds of an acre 30 years ago.
The only remains of the farmyard are a handful of fruit trees. Everything else has been designed for living in: the plants thrive, it's incredibly easy on the eye and there are loads of places to sit and enjoy.
The garden loops around the house and the first impression is of gentle sweeps and curves: there are no angles, no symmetry, just restfulness. Then you realise that the space has been maximised to perfection. Yes, it feels like there's a large lawned area but because one area merges so effortlessly into another, the feeling of space is deceptive.
Thoughtful planting helps to cement this feeling. There are lots of trees to take the eye upwards, but these are carefully chosen and even more carefully pollarded to make sure that they don't take over.
The trick here is to look at which trees are growing successfully and at the right scale in parks and neighbouring gardens. Here they're a key feature in generating all-year colour: from blossom to berries they're always contributing. In autumn the leaf colours are a particular joy with a constantly evolving range of tones and textures.
Subdued colour schemes add significantly to the sense of airiness and peace - despite a large secondary school just a stone's throw away. It's mostly restful greens with significant splashes of colour. You're meandering around (this is definitely a garden to meander in!) when suddenly a striking rudbeckia throws its head above a dense planting of green like a yellow punctuation mark. Somehow it manages to compliment rather than intrude.
While showing me round, John says: 'I'm not a tidy gardener. I like plants to take up the space and make the most of it'. But this is only partly true - it's the unobtrusive control that makes this garden such a success. The pond area is central to this: it's an area of grey stone and stainless steel in the middle of greens and red brick - yet it sits comfortably, making a focal point without being overpowering.
This is the genius of good garden design, combining interest and challenge within an area where you feel that nature is in control.
The best way to sum up the Clowes' approach is their 'dog garden'. They have two much-loved dogs who have the potential to leave their mark on any lawn or border.
The solution is to give them their own outdoor exercise space, still beautiful with lawn, seats and flowers, but quietly protecting the rest of the garden. And that's the clever part: using the limited space so that the garden seems to be extended by the dog garden rather than having a chunk lopped off.
Occasionally the Clowes open their garden to the public for local charities - do take advantage of these opportunities because whether it's for trees or people, dogs or plants, this is a fine example of design for living.