Having long yearned for my own wisteria (it’s *so* in the pipeline for Moregeous Mansions), there was really no debate as to whether I’d try to design in this visually beautiful tree to our new Sensory Garden down at Withington Baths. It was fate, plain and simple, to spot a huge Alba last week – we were clearly meant to be together cause no-one else goes to a salvage fair and buys a 9ft tree!
The plans for the garden started last Autumn when, armed with a fabulous grant from Southway Housing, plus support and practical knowledge from the Old Moat Greenies, I started designing the space to be ready for a spring build and a summer launch. As you can see from the image above, there’s tonnes to do and of course like any new garden, not everything will be blooming from Day 1. It’ll take time to get established and for the planting to become its sensory best as no community project has an unlimited budget for fully grown and thus very expensive plants. However the woody herbs, sweet peas, lavender and sunflowers will still look, smell and feel wonderful right from the start.
So, how to create that immediate wow factor? With such an imposing Edwardian backdrop, I decided our garden could definitely take some height in the shape of a stunning pergola with seating underneath, for families, swimmers and gym members to relax under and find some peace in our busy world. The other trustees reigned me in on the whole digging a new Lido pool next to it though, the spoilsports ;)Although I liked the effect of the pergolas I’d seen, something wasn’t quite right. The look of the timber finish next to our red brick front elevation gave a sort of cottage effect not befitting such a grand facade. Many Edwardian gardens used decorative pieces painted white and a quick google sealed the deal on that idea. White it was! I love the carved ends and elegant feel to these garden structures but couldn’t locate one to the size we needed at 5m by 2m. Luckily I came across eDecks who allow you to design your own pergola and they are fabulous. Well priced, with excellent communications and a good system for ordering. It arrives tomorrow and now I just need some volunteers to help paint it….The idea of having a white pergola and keeping everything simple and elegant, at least at the upper heights, also led me to opt for a white wisteria rather than the more traditional purple. As I mentioned earlier, fate stepped in with a beauty last weekend and I can’t wait to get her in the ground. Hopefully she might even flower this summer #fingerscrossedWe’re so lucky to have such a large amount of outside space but it’s been largely underused and not really loved as it should be. To encourage the more mature members of our community to visit the garden, we’re creating a proper pathway in, instead of the bumpy, uneven grass, plus a large paved area for events and gatherings.
With the whites of the pergola, garden greens and the Baths’ slate roof, the perfect choice for flooring is a rich, deep grey. I was inspired by these images below and wanted something not too contemporary but not too rustic. This is classic Edwardian garden design, the combining of a formal feel with more unstructured and relaxed elements too. Local builders merchants and the DIY super sheds didn’t have what I was looking for and I was getting a bit disheartened until I popped into Mandarin Stone and found myself in stone heaven. I adore their interior tiles but hadn’t realised they did such gorgeous external paving. The ones on the left were very elegant but slightly too linear and modern for us, those on the right too regimented in their brick pattern but we were getting there, and the middle ones the perfect cobbles size at 150 x 300.So many decisions, and so many variations! The samples below are half unfinished and half colour intensified and sealed.Seeing images of completed designs using a specific tile often helps crystallise your thinking and it pays to ask suppliers if they have these available. Smart suppliers will have lots of images and most of them are learning quickly that it’s all about the visual. The images of the Classic Black riven slate in a mixed pattern and the Cameronstone tumbled grey cobbles helped me make these my final choices and they quickly found themselves on an order sheet for Withy Baths 🙂We’re going to edge all the paved area with cobbles and have the larger format slate form the pattern within, then colour enhanced and sealed to bring out the rich grey. With help from local builders merchants Ernest Bentleys and the amazing work efforts from superstars Brian and Helen, we’re well on the way to sensory garden success. Watch this space for progress! x