Follers Manor is a Farm House on the outskirts of Alfriston, East Sussex. The garden design and build process was filmed by Channel 4 TV over a 15 months period for their ‘Landscape Man’ series, shown in 2010.

Its has since been filmed for Gardeners World, Love your Garden and featured in many garden publications. The garden has won a Heritage Trust Award and Society of Garden Designers award for best medium residential design, best hard lanscape design and the Judges award.

The judges 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. From plan to conception there is strong spatial understanding of scale and proportion and a sculptural use of level changes that brings the user to a more intimate connection with detail. It is not possible to simply walk through this garden one feels completely immersed in it.”

From the outset the client had no particular aesthetic brief: they wanting a well designed garden which would compliment the attention given to the house renovations.

The existing garden included no more than a shaded east facing house entrance under the canopy of mature trees, a lawn sloping away from the main (south) elevation and an unused tarmac tennis court below that. But the larger landscape setting is remarkable, being both part of the National Park and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

This setting established the two clear agendas for the garden: first, that any experience or enjoyment of or in it could not be separated from the experience of this wider landscape. Second, that the garden needed a strong personality to mediate between the imposing south elevation and the powerful larger landscape.

Key design features of the garden include: the sunken garden, which explores the experience of enclosure and intimacy within larger landscapes as well as providing practical shelter for eating and socialising close to the house; the remodeling of the slope in front of the south elevation by cut and fill to realise the sunken garden; herbaceous displays especially on the south slopes; the wildlife pond, which replaced the tennis court, together with its deck walk which mimics the vegetation forms on the south downs hills; brush strokes of hawthorn hedging acting a structural anchors throughout the garden and again representing elements of the larger landscape within the garden; a clear journey through the garden which both hides and reveals the core garden components.

The personality of the garden intentionally ignores the obvious geometric aesthetic of the architecture although there is a sympathetic relationship in the detail use of traditional materials.

The garden has transformed the clients living experience. They take every opportunity to be in the garden and have embraced both the unexpected attention the garden receives and committed to exceptional maintenance. They have also set up their own garden website: www.follersmanor.co.uk

The garden was also built by Ian Kitson acting as a registered contractor and using a superb core team of craftsmen he has worked with for over 20 years.

Julie Toll was responsible for all the herbaceous displays and detail plant selections: www.julietoll.co.uk

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