The playground is surrounded by a low hillock carpeted with wildflower forbs that sets it apart from the rest of the gardenscape and offers good views of the entire plot. The playground is ‘kiddie-sized’ so children feel at ease while hedges of brightly-coloured shrubs seem to burst out and flow into the flowerbeds, drawing your gaze into the distance, and linking the playground with the rest of the garden
The setting for our experiments with size and scale comprised two plots – one old and one new – covering two hectares on the banks of the River Neva. Each plot had its own buildings, structures and individual characteristics.
Our task was to combine the plots and connect their buildings, gathering the scattered parts into a cohesive design, and to introduce attractive relaxation areas. We were also intent on creating functional ‘spaces within a space’ and filling the garden with colour while preserving the sense of expanse around the Neva.
In a nutshell
If we had to define the spirit of our project in just two words, they would be ‘exciting’ and ‘surprising’, but we have no intention of taking a laconic approach. This garden is no place for the predictable or methodical. The plot is impressive in terms of sheer size and features a number of separate spaces. Some are vast, executed on the same scale as the plot itself, while others are the opposite – small and cosy. Each of the spaces has its own purpose and its own mood.
It would be impossible to see, explore and experience everything that this garden has to offer in one go. It’s not a place for haste and commotion. Visitors need time and commitment to become familiar with this garden. You can only really appreciate its ambience if you wander, relax and live in it.
In front of the house, an enormous open clearing sits in the centre encircled by a path. And if the path is a necklace, the other areas are strung like beads around it: a fruit orchard, a fire pit, a bathhouse compound, a summer house, a playground, a small English garden and a kitchen garden with hothouses.
The path leading to the summer house opens onto a panoramic view giving a true picture of the sheer scale of the site and the vastness of the open clearing.
The summerhouse itself abounds with irises, daylilies, geraniums and polygonum while colourful waves of flowers and perennials sweep around it and over the edges. You’re sure to be moved as the glorious colours fill even the coldest heart with joyful delight.
The fire pit sits on a patchwork meadow of grasses and perennials with a sprinkling of shrub roses and cherry trees. The blooming cherry is a sight to behold and it retains an architectural composition even in winter. Visitors experience the space not as a whole but in a particularly distinctive, fragmented way.
When the grasses and perennials reach their full height in late summer, this area becomes a world of its own, hidden behind a two-metre wall of vegetation.
The path stretches across the clearing and the fruit garden, along the spectacularly majestic Neva, then past a zigzag flight of steps leading to the bathhouse compound.
The path brings us to the English garden where a cosy new world opens up as you pass through the gate, which is engulfed in greenery – one of three entrances. The garden was designed especially for the lady of the house. It’s warm, sunny and protected with brick walls that shelter it from the cold winds that blow in from the Neva. Immersed in abundant shrubbery, the English garden has become the perfect home for her sun-seeking plants and beloved roses. Here, she can also enjoy some peace and quiet with a good book in hand. But even without, boredom is impossible with the blooms, flowering shrubs and endless sweep of the clearing beyond the garden which seems to stretch on forever.
Behind the luscious pine trees that separate the entrance and outbuildings from the main house and serve as a backdrop for the other visual displays, a full-scale functioning hothouse brings fresh vegetables and salads to the table all year round. There is also a small kitchen garden nearby.
To one side sit a fruit garden and mini-farm with poultry houses, rabbit hutches and other similar facilities, and on the other lies a stream with a rope bridge and boat house. Another completely unique garden will one day unfurl along the stream but for now this extension exists only in our imaginations.