Leigh Clapp visits the picturesque gardens at Meon Place in Soberton
PUBLISHED: 12:44 08 July 2014
Leigh Clapp enjoys the ebullient bloom in the borders and the scent of roses in the picturesque gardens at Meon Place in Soberton
Sarah Paul has been lovingly guiding the garden at Meon Place since 2006. Originally splitting her time with a house in London, for the last four years Meon Place has been home.
The garden has an interesting history; reputedly it was an exceptional early 20th century garden and also well known in the 1930s. “We believe that maybe Gertrude Jekyll had something to do with the garden and one plant remains from that time, the crimson Paeonia peregrina ‘Otto Froebel’,” adds Sarah.
Facing south and with clay over chalk, the gardens were terraced and divided by established hedges with mature trees including a large oak as a focal point on an Italianate walk.
Keen gardener Sarah has put her own stamp on the garden, removing some of the lawn and replacing it with parterres of her own design at the front of the house, which at my visit danced with purple alliums.
“I created a buxus rectangular surround following the contour of the bricked areas and paths. Then centrally in each bed I positioned a Winchester Cathedral rose standard which is highlighted by a carpet of Hidcote lavender; a white hardy fuchsia, verbena and ‘White Swan’ Echinacea appears in summer and in spring, tulips ‘Maureen’ and ‘Queen of the Night’ are interspersed by the alliums.”
The highlight of Meon Place is the formal garden, which was laid out in Edwardian times and Sarah has tweaked and tended. Its clipped form with romantic infill billows with mauve hardy geraniums, spires of white alliums and frothy Alchemilla mollis. The thread of white flowers is carried through to arbours draped in dangling racemes of Wisteria sinensis ‘Alba’, while brighter notes are provided with old-fashioned roses and peonies in the borders.
“Over the years I have lost some of the perennials and I have also moved them around, particularly the geraniums and sedums. I have introduced a tree peony, lilies, a white peony and cannas, but so far most plants in these beds I inherited and have tried as best as I can to maintain them to show them to their full advantage.”
Punctuation is provided by rusted obelisks Sarah has used to replace dilapidated agriframes, and eye-catching columns of cypresses.
“I have always loved gardens. As a young child growing up in Belgium I spent a lot of time in the garden of my mother’s close friend, Nenette who was a keen gardener and had a lovely cottage garden with beautiful old-fashioned roses, alliums and agapanthus. This garden started my interest in garden design. Chateau de Beloeil also made an impression on me with its avenues of hedges and trees.
“Since being in England I love going round Hampshire gardens like Mottisfont and I also love Wisley, Kew and the Chelsea Physic garden.”
Another major change was replacing the dilapidated swimming pool with a contemporary clean-lined natural pool by Clear Water Revival that is heated by an air pump and has a regeneration zone to help with filtration.
Sarah has again used the white alliums here, this time set within the clean lines of neatly clipped buxus parterres, echoing the contemporary linear pool.
“The buxus came from Italy and I had excess which I planted along the meandering path in the meadow, inspired by Christopher Lloyd’s similar use of topiary at Great Dixter.”
Vegetable plots have been established with a central lozenge shaped bed of orange lilies and annual herbs, mirrored then by perennial herbs such as rosemary, mint and sage. Wonderful playing areas were also added for Sarah’s two children, including a delightful cottage and an impressive castle, both commissioned from The Children’s Cottage Company. New projects in the offing, assisted by gardener David Diaper, former gardener in charge at Clandon Park in Surrey, include continuing to make improvements to the meadow, developing a rose cutting garden and building a small pool building.
Informing the look of the garden is Sarah’s avid reading of gardening books, visiting gardens and scouring plant catalogues. Walking in the garden and discussing plants and ideas with David leads to the continuing developments. “My garden style is evolving. I love old fashioned, traditional plants with their shape and scent. I’m strongly influenced by the French and Italian format of gardening but adore English country gardens with their mixture of traditional planting and yet modern geometric use of topiary.”