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Gatehouse Garden: A Dramatic Black Backdrop for a White Wildflower Meadow

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Gatehouse Garden: A Dramatic Black Backdrop for a White Wildflower Meadow

October 23, 2019

In London’s Stoke Common Nature Reserve, a gatehouse built in the early 1990s sits on three bucolic acres, surrounded by woodlands of ferns, pines, and rhododendrons.

Extensively remodeled, the five-bedroom home now has a burnt-wood extension, which acts as a dramatic black backdrop for an entryway courtyard garden. Taking cultural cues from the charred Japanese-style addition, which was created using traditional shou shugi ban techniques, London-based landscape architect Stefano Marinaz created a marvelously airy meadow garden, relying on a simple color palette of whites and pinks.

When Marinaz designed the landscape, he chose elements to connect the historic house with the new wing (clad in carbonized cedar boards) and the surrounding woodlands. Beyond the house, which is framed by the formal geometry of a pleached row of crab apple trees, is a hint of the wilderness beyond. A mown path lures visitors through an opening into the hedgerow to discover a forested fairyland beyond.

Photography by Rosangela Photography, courtesy of Stefano Marinaz Landscape Architecture.

Pleached crab apple trees, a formal touch, screen the gatehouse entry. Imported from Belgium, the loading=
Above: Pleached crab apple trees, a formal touch, screen the gatehouse entry. Imported from Belgium, the 12-year-old crab apple trees bloom with tiny pinkish-white flowers in spring.

For tips on how to plant malleable young trees in a very straight row and then train them to create a geometric screen, see Landscaping 101: Pleached Trees.

White alliums create an airy backdrop for Rosa glauca. For a similar pink shrub rose with dark-plum-colored leaves, consider Rosa glauca; $.95 from High Country Roses.
Above: White alliums create an airy backdrop for Rosa glauca. For a similar pink shrub rose with dark-plum-colored leaves, consider Rosa glauca; $16.95 from High Country Roses.
As the seasons progress, grasses and meadow flowers take over. Long, tall fronds of culver&#8
Above: As the seasons progress, grasses and meadow flowers take over. Long, tall fronds of culver’s root look like explosions of delicate white fireworks. For a similar unbranched variety, consider Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album,’ which is £14.50 for three plants from Sarah Raven. For US gardeners, Veronicastrum virginicum ‘Album’ is $8.75 per plant from Digging Dog Nursery.

For more, see Must-Have Flower: All About Veronicastrum.

For a similar white astrantia, consider Astrantia major &#8
Above: For a similar white astrantia, consider Astrantia major ‘White Giant’; $15.95 each from White Flower Farm.

The wildflower meadow was sown from seed. For similar seed mixes, see Sarah Raven Wild Flower Meadow Mix Seeds; from £7.50 to £34.95 depending on quantity and packaging. For US gardeners, see a variety of Wildflower Seed Mixtures from American Meadows.

Purply-pink Allium sphaerocephalon, known as drumstick allium, is a member of the garlic family and grows from bulbs. Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs ship for fall planting; $9. for  at White Flower Farm.
Above: Purply-pink Allium sphaerocephalon, known as drumstick allium, is a member of the garlic family and grows from bulbs. Allium sphaerocephalon bulbs ship for fall planting; $9.25 for 25 at White Flower Farm.
Visible behind the white snowballs of Allium &#8
Above: Visible behind the white snowballs of Allium ‘Mount Everest,’ a hedge of hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus) hides the driveway and parking area.
At the base of the crab apple trees is planted Sarcococca x confusa (confused sweet box), which blooms with small fragrant flowers in winter months.
Above: At the base of the crab apple trees is planted Sarcococca x confusa (confused sweet box), which blooms with small fragrant flowers in winter months.
For a similar fragrant shrub, consider Sarcococca hookeriana var. &#8
Above: For a similar fragrant shrub, consider Sarcococca hookeriana var. ‘Humilis‘; $11.99 for a quart-size pot from Lazy S’s Farm Nursery.
 Yew hedges (Taxus baccata) pruned into undulating waves beckon visitors to follow the mown path into the woodland beyond.
Above: Yew hedges (Taxus baccata) pruned into undulating waves beckon visitors to follow the mown path into the woodland beyond.
New walkways look as if they&#8
Above: New walkways look as if they’ve always been part of the forest.

Marinaz enhanced the original plantings by adding magnolia trees, witch hazel, and dogwoods at strategic points along the path.

Dappled sunlight penetrates the tree canopy.
Above: Dappled sunlight penetrates the tree canopy.

For maximum curb appeal, a garden should complement the architecture and style of a house. For tips, see our Hardscapes 101 guides, including our Exteriors & Facades 101 design guide and Fences & Gates 101: A Design Guide. See more ways to create a meadow garden with Japanese-style overtones:

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