Belmont House, East Sussex
THIRTY years ago, the designer Anthony Paul created a pond and bridge for a client in Sussex and planted it with bold exotics, such as gunnera and yucca, adding strong colour punches with 10ft stands of bright yellow inula and the smaller yellow heart-leaved ox-eye daisy, Telekia speciosa. It was a striking installation, designed to be viewed across the lawn from the front of the house.
The years passed as Mr Paul built a career from his home in Dorking, Surrey, designing gardens across the world from France and Switzerland to Australia and America and gaining a reputation as someone with an artist’s eye who understood plants. These he used to paint the landscape with sweeping blocks of single plantings, working with an eye to the natural surroundings. At La Jeg in Provence, for example (COUNTRY LIFE, August 7, 2019), he evoked the local lavender fields by planting symmetrical rows of evergreens inside the garden. In a garden he made in his native New Zealand, the use of aloes and succulents planted into gravel echoed the wild flora.
Water became another signature component, as did the confident placement of contemporary sculpture. The latter was inspired by his wife, Hannah Peschar, for whom he brilliantly landscaped the garden at their Dorking home to create a backdrop for her important collection of modern sculpture.
Then, one day in 2012, the telephone rang. It was the Sussex client asking if Mr Paul could return: the garden was in need of some help. ‘The distribution of plants across the garden had not been properly considered and didn’t really suit the house, whereas the large walled garden had the potential to be more than a few vegetable beds and fruit trees.’
It was a commission he was delighted to take on. On a clear day, one can see the North Downs from the upper floors of Belmont House, which sits in a lovely open location not far from Lewes. With seven acres, there were ample opportunities for drama.
There were some practical considerations to deal with, such as hiding the tennis court behind a pleached hornbeam screen and making a new courtyard at the back of the house, with smart wooden planters filled with Elaeagnus ebbingei half standard trees. The visitor now approaches the property along an avenue of magnolia, arriving at a low circleof manicured box and a neighbouring wedge of box sliced crossways on the diagonal. Already, we know we are in safe hands.
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September 16, 2020