Waltham Place
The Square Garden in Waltham Place at White Waltham, Berkshire, owned by Nicky en Strilli Oppenheimer from South Africa, is a walled garden of about 55 by 36 metres that has been laid out as a vegetable garden in the 17th century and has been altered into an ornamental garden in the beginning of the 20st century by Carlota Oppenheimer. The large pergola, that splits the garden in two, the rectangular pond and the Yorkstone paths date from that period. Only along the edges of  the garden narrow borders for perennials and shrubs existed, the middle part was lawn: large, empty and not particularly captivating except when the climbing roses over the pergola were in full bloom. The edge planting was lacking coherence.
In order to provide more coherence the decision was taken to largely remove the lawn and add a new design element: a giant "caterpillar" of  irregularly clipped Box, that appears to crawl underneath the pergola and thus links both parts of the garden. In this way nothing of the existing hard material had to be altered.
To the north of the caterpillar tough perennials have been planted, which will be able to equal the Ground Elder that grows on that side of the garden and that can never be completely eradicated without the use of chemical weed killers. In that way the Groud Elder will be an integral (and no longer undesirable) part of the planting.
To the south of the caterpillar next to the existing raised bed with South African plants gravel has been put in, where a drought-resistant planting will thrive without ever watering. Between both parts of the garden a four metre wide strip of lawn has been maintained to prevent the Ground Elder from crossing and overgrowing the weaker, drougt-resistant planting.
Square Garden (2000-2001)
Pictures of June 2002, one year after planting
Long Borders (2002 - 2003)
Over the years the maintenance of the Yew hedges backing both sides of the 85 metre Long Borders had become more and more difficult, due to the fact that they had widened to over three metres. They had lost their original, formal character. The planting of perennials in large groups was satisfying, when seen from a distance, but not when walking in between. The shrub planting of mainly Cornus alba was attractive in winter but absolutely dull in summer.
An important detail in the changing of this border was Strilli Oppenheimer's wish to maintain the Bindweed, which overgrew everything in this border, in some way or the other.  
The solution was to give up the idle efforts to keep the Yew hedge formal and deliberately clip it into a whimsical shape from now on. A new formality will be brought inside the border by means of five formally clipped beech circles, planted at regular intervals. Inside the beech circles weed beds are created, crowned by iron pillars for Bindweed to climb in.
The perennials will be scattered throughout the borders and not planted in large groups anymore to achieve a more natural effect. In each season a limited number of species will define the overall view. Cornus alba will be reduced in numbers and scattered throughout the border. Large numbers of ornamental grasses (Miscanthus, Panicum) will add to the attractiveness of the border in winter
The old situation
The new situation
Design for the Long Border
The Yew hedge is getting its new shape (first clipping, May 2002)
(to be continued)
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