'Restraint is not so evident at Ian Kitson's remarkable Follers Manor in Sussex'

Robin Lane Fox/Financial Times


The photographs to the left show the old garden and the plans are early design studies. The larger drawing is the constructed design. Click on the first box for the BBC gardeners World film of the completed garden or go to photos for more images.

The owners of Follers Manor, Geoff and Anne Shaw, contacted Ian to design these gardens in 2008. The first phase (the entrance garden, sunken garden & pool area) were built in 2009. Channel 4 filmed the construction for the 2010 'Landscape Man' series and in 2011 the BBC filmed the gardens with Joe Swift for Gardeners World. He said "This garden has certainly got the wow factor and its a highly designed space but it still fits in the landscape so comfortably its as if its always been here" The gardens have since appeared in many books and magazines and are open under the National Gardens Scheme.

There were no existing gardens, only an east facing house entrance under the canopy of mature trees, a lawn sloping away from the main south elevation and a tarmac tennis court below that. But the new garden would need a powerful identity to compete with the imposing house elevation and the unique surrounding landscape. Key design features include: the sunken garden, which provides enclosure and intimacy within the landscape; the remodeling of the slopes for the sunken garden; the herbaceous displays on the south slopes; the wildlife pond and its deck walk which replaced the tennis court; brush strokes of hawthorn hedging throughout the garden and a journey through the garden which both hides and reveals the garden components. Later additions included the annual meadows, inner courtyard and drive.

Special thanks to Julie Toll for all her help with the planting design. The garden has won a Heritage Trust award and three Society of Garden Designers design awards included the judges award for creativity and innovation. They said "It's incredibly rare that gardens like this get built in this country. The clients should be patted on the back for taking the risk and giving the designer free reign to create a spectacular garden. It is not possible to simply walk through this garden one feels completely immersed in it."

Interview of Ian Kitson on BBC gardeners world