Gardening: The Oast House in Isfield

PUBLISHED: 01:16 07 August 2011 | UPDATED: 19:49 20 February 2013

Gardening: The Oast House in Isfield

Gardening: The Oast House in Isfield

Take a stroll on a jetty walk and admire the textural prairie plantings in the unusual gardens at The Oast House in Isfield

The gardens at The Oast House have been developed from a mainly blank canvas with the aim to embrace their location with its lovely vistas to the open countryside backed by the South Downs. When Ann and Richard Montier moved to the property in 2004 they began to make decisions about how they would transform the space.

The main existing features were two mature oaks and a multi-stemmed ash, along with a fairly large pond, while the lower part of the garden was fenced off as it had been used to graze cattle. We loved the garden from the very beginning and its very informal state was just what we wanted so we could set about making it our own, comments Ann.
We knew from the very start that we were exceptionally lucky to have such wonderful views and decided whatever we created these would remain and play an important part. We both come from Sussex and the sights of the South Downs are part of what we hold dear.

Guiding the process was Richards knowledge gained on retirement on taking a course in garden design and Anns eye for colour, perspective and texture honed over many years as a florist. Richard in particular loved the planting aspect of the course at Plumpton College with Nigel Phillips. I mainly select the colours, size and shape of the plant and Richard finds the right specimen, Ann explains.

On a suggestion from Nigel for the initial design, they enlarged the pond in a serpentine shape so the water can be seen from the house. Rather than removing the spoils it was decided to use them to create a double helix mound beyond to add dimension to the flat garden. You can now take a lovely stroll around the pond on a jetty walk made of green oak, with stepping pads over the water, and then walk up the mound one way and down another to a meadow area, while admiring the shimmering reflections from the water and textural naturalistic plantings of grasses and perennials.

The design is then echoed in an orchard at the back of the garden that has been planted in a spiral shape.

Consideration has been carefully given to the planting for harmonious tones of soft pinks, whites and blues using plant choices that will also be attractive to wildlife, in particular bees and butterflies. This peaceful setting is also enhanced by bird song and darting wings of House Martins skimming across the surface of the pond throughout the summer.

Being an open site wind can be a challenge so grasses that provide movement but will not break easily are a great choice and also blend into the surrounding fields. The couple has also planted in bold swathes using plants that do well en masse for a wonderful show that is at its peak in late summer when it opens briefly through the National Gardens Scheme to visitors. Although there is always something to do in the garden and new plans to develop, taking time to sit and enjoy the garden is also very important to Ann and Richard. We love the ability to see the surrounding countryside and yet we are in our own space, they add.

The Oast House, Isfield, TN22 5XG is off the A26 between Uckfield and Lewes

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