An English country garden with a gently rolling rhythm of planting

Welcoming the challenge of designing a garden for a thatched newbuild in the Cotswolds, Marcus Barnett created a series of terraces and paths that complement the undulating planting and carefully selected trees

Marcus explains that his choice of multi-stem specimens near the house provide the usual benefits of trees – vertical accents, dappled shade and links to the wider landscape – without dwarfing those using the garden, ‘Multi-stems make you feel comfortable and cosseted.’ They also offer sculptural qualities, especially when lit at night and in winter, when their branch structures are fully revealed. Throughout the garden, they are used to frame views across and down the planting beneath their canopies.

Each of the Japanese pagoda trees (Styphnolobium japonicum) was selected for its habit at Ebben Nurseries in the Netherlands, so that the canopy starts at head height and does not restrict views across the garden from the first-floor windows of the house. Its multi-stem form restricts the vertical growth, so the trees will only require light pruning to keep them at their required heights.

Beyond the ornamental garden, Marcus has placed a number of taller river birches (Betula nigra), with stem tones that complement the house’s thatch, to blur the transition between the intimacy of the garden and the wider landscape. His plant choices include several similar to the wildflowers and grasses in the fields and woods beyond the garden. Drifts of Thalictrum delavayi ‘Album’ and T. ‘Splendide White’ suggest the frothiness of cow parsley, while Achillea ‘Credo’ and A. ‘Terracotta’ share the flat-topped flower heads – magnets for beneficial insects – of their wild counterpart common yarrow.

The steel-edged pool next to the dining terrace was designed by Marcus to bring the sky and the landscape into the heart of the garden through reflections. At one end, a Malus ‘Evereste’ creates an elegant focal point, its multi-stem form allowing views across the garden.

Mimi Connolly

One of the key elements that allows the garden to connect so seamlessly to the landscape is Marcus’s soft boundary of three grasses – Calamagrostis brachytricha, Molinia caerulea ‘Heidebraut’ and Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – which winds round the ornamental planting in a series of organic-shaped beds. Multiple breaks between these beds provide opportunities for focal points beyond – the owners’ collection of sculptures or a single, shapely tree or group of trees. In mid-summer, paths are cut through the wildflower meadow when it is in full bloom, extending the journey through the garden for a few weeks. The grasses in the boundary beds are robust enough to cope with prevailing winds and stand firm in winter, providing a beautiful band of tawny and golden stems.

Marcus’s preference for plants that flower into autumn, such as asters, penstemon, agastache, Erigeron karvinskianus and gaura, and those that ‘die well’, such as Phlomis russeliana, Rudbeckia subtomentosa ‘Little Henry’ and Veronicastrum virginicum f. roseum ‘Pink Glow’, has resulted in a palette well suited to this garden, which is overlooked by several full-height glazed rooms. In early spring, once the dried stems have been cut down, bulbs take over in the ornamental beds, along with the fresh green of grasses, such as Hakonechloa macra and Sesleria autumnalis, and spring perennials, including aquilegias and epimediums. Then, the summer-flowering perennials and grasses slowly take off, creating the rich tapestry of shapes, textures and soft colours that the owners delight in.

Marcus Barnett Studio: