Design showcase: Acres Wild

Acres Wild is an award-winning garden design practice run by Debbie Roberts and Ian Smith. They enjoy creating bold structures softened with naturalistic planting. Their portfolio is varied, ranging from windswept gardens to lush oases. And here are three of their most stunning designs.

1. Views and vistas

The brief: Provide an appropriate ‘contemporary country’ setting for this new barn conversion in Hampshire. The design needed to enhance the views of the South Downs while also protecting the site from exposure. The owners wanted plenty of space for outdoor living and entertaining in a bold, simple, robust and easy to maintain garden. The garden was divided into six distinct but interconnected garden spaces, including a drive and courtyard, a private garden between the kitchen and granary, an orchard, a games lawn and party terrace, an avenue garden and a 50m-long pond.

The materials: Indian sandstone with brick detailing for general surfaces complimented the local architecture. A deck over the pond was crafted from western red cedar for a natural, warm look.

The plants: Box, beech and holly for hedging and division, holm oaks for evergreen screening with cherries, rowans, and whitebeams for avenues, border and feature trees. Each area has its own palette of plants to compliment its individual character. Lavender and barley ‘field’ provide summer interest to the south of the house, while willows and dogwoods create winter effect behind the pond with swathes of ornamental grasses and tall perennials providing contrasting colour, texture and movement throughout the year.

2. Lush and luxuriant

The brief: The owners of this property in East Sussex wanted a total transformation for their garden. Previously, the site had consisted of a few beds dotted around the lawn, but Acres Wild were commissioned to create a lush, tropical garden around the house, with more naturalistic woodland planting blending the edges of the site.

The materials: Ian and Debbie created a large pond with a deck overhanging it, which was designed to blend in amongst the lush-leaved planting, rather than be a feature in itself.

The plants: We’re talking big-leaved, dramatic, exotic plants here, such as Phormium tenax, Gunnera tinctora, Trachycarpus fortunei, Paulownia tormentosa and Cercis canadensis ‘Tormentosa’.

3. Wild and windswept

The brief: The owners of this windswept South Downs garden needed encouraging to venture onto their plot. They wanted a ‘wild’ garden of informal walks, focal points and sheltered places to sit. Oh, and they wanted a low-maintenance garden too.

The materials: An oak-framed gazebo provides the focal point for the design, and its shape reflects those of the house and a Norman church in the village below. Hard landscaping was kept to a minimum, and remained robust, natural and local to enhance the elemental character of the site. Acres Wild used Cotswold chippings for the paths, Sussex brick pavers, and random Purbeck paving for surfaces.

The plants: The designers stuck to a shimmering, sea-washed and windswept theme for the garden. For shelter, they planted Whitebeam (Sorbus aria), fastigiate Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus fastigiata), Irish Yew (Taxus baccata fastigiata) and sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides). For structure and colour, Buddleia, Caryopteris, Senecio, Phlomis, Hebe, Rosemary, and Russian sage (Perovskia). The coastal theme was highlighted by grasses such as Cordateria ‘Gold Band’ and Stipa gigantea, S.arundinacea and S.tenuissima, and fennel, sage, sea hollies (Eryngium), white valerian and sea campion.

These designs are truly marvellous, and if you want to find out more about this fabulous design practice, visit the Acres Wild website.

All images copyright Ian Smith, Acres Wild. All rights reserved.

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