It was thanks to a Scotland on Sunday article about my Serpentine Garden design that Ann and James Simpson contacted me about their own back garden project. Tucked away in the Stockbridge area of Edinburgh off an extremely busy road, their garden is sheltered, quite shaded and surprisingly peaceful and calm. James makes up the Simpson of the renowned Edinburgh architects Simpson and Brown and Ann was then a senior curator at the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. So, it was with a little trepidation and a lot of curiosity that I met up with them to discuss their requirements for their back garden.
The brief was to create a simple, elegant framework which could support over-flowing herbaceous borders, keep grandchildren and their grandparents entertained during the holidays, and provide year-round interest when viewed from the three storey house overlooking the garden.
The garden is long and narrow and I opted to use the lawn to exaggerate and elongate this, rather than attempting to visually widen the space. Along one side of the garden, the boundary is marked by a thirty foot high red brick wall, formerly the Woolies wall. A feature such as this is hard to ignore or camouflage so we carried the brick theme through by edging the lawn with reclaimed bricks set into lime mortar. I created two large circles using this edging to punctuate the lawn and give the garden the structure it needed.
Tucked in next to the house is a lime-washed garden shed and log store with clay tiles which James had designed and constructed. This is not your average garden shed but rather a beautiful feature to be viewed from the garden itself. Carefully positioned benches (chosen by Ann) give plenty of opportunity to enjoy this. The woven willow wigwam with a hidden sandpit underneath provides a neat solution for when the grandchildren come to visit.
Ann and I worked closely together to create the planting scheme in the garden. It was based on Ann’s wish list, including Astrantias, grape vines for the walls, and roses (but absolutely no variegated plants!). Herbs grow between the paving stones and brick edging, Stipa grasses add texture and movement around the willow wigwam, and a Cercidiphyllum sits at the far end of the garden from providing the smell the scent of burnt sugar given off by the leaves most obviously in autumn.