When Sarah drives along the lane leading to her home and turns into the driveway, the first thing to greet her is a sight to delight her eyes.
The front garden that has been so skilfully designed is her pride and joy – and she is equally thrilled with the stunning back garden that makes most of the downland scenery surrounding it.
When she and her husband Nick moved into their large cottage-style home in Plumpton, they had a large extension built. The construction works, which lasted a considerable time, inevitably left the gardens front and back completely wrecked.
“We were left with a blank canvas and we literally had no idea where to start,” Sarah says. “I knew a little bit about gardening and looked at a lot of books for ideas, but felt totally overwhelmed.
“When you have invested a lot in getting your house just the way you wanted it, then it would be a shame if the garden wasn’t right as well, but we didn’t know where to start.
“We went to an open gardens day nearby and I particularly liked one garden we visited. The owner told me it had been designed for them by Nigel Philips and she said we should get in touch with him when we were ready.
“I did think initially that a garden designer would only be interested in doing very big gardens and that the expense could be huge, out of our league. But I looked up Nigel and found he did gardens of all sizes, so I called him and asked him to come to look at ours.”
In fact, Lewes-based Nigel has enormous empathy when it comes to gardens of all kinds, large or small. He takes great care in creating designs that relate closely to the wishes of the client and ensures the property and the surrounding landscape are inextricably linked to any design.
This approach proved precisely what Sarah and Nick needed to achieve surroundings which would complement their lovely home and not only encompass all the elements they were looking for but also offer a host of innovative ideas which would never have occurred to them.
“After we spoke on the telephone and Nigel had looked at the garden, he came back to spend a day with us, bringing his drawing board. It was a really nice, enjoyable day – he walked around with us and took lots of photos,” Sarah says.
“The design he came up with was a collaborative effort – he didn’t tell us what we should have, he found out what we wished for and gave us that. We talked about what we wanted which included lots of flowers, fruit trees and vegetables. He suggested removing some things but when I said there were some elements I really wanted to stay, he worked around that.
“He took all the ideas away and drew the design up properly. Nigel has a real flair for interpreting what you want and making it better than you could have imagined. I trusted him completely and liked everything he was suggesting.”
Once all the design details had been agreed, Nigel recommended Nick Milne of Emperor Landscapes to carry out the hard landscaping and work started in the autumn and was finished by Christmas.
Sarah’s husband is coming up to retirement and is keen to start growing vegetables. A slightly unusual element of the design was to site the impressive array of vegetable beds, constructed with a staggering 4,000 bricks, in the front garden.
“I love the way my kitchen looks out over the front and like to see all the lovely things growing there all year round,” Sarah says.
“The herbaceous borders in the back garden are absolutely beautiful
“Nigel essentially created the ideal structure for our garden to evolve, so that it’s an ongoing project. Gardening has become my hobby – I find it very rewarding and it’s been especially so during lockdown. I spend a lot of my time out there, pottering around.
“I’m the head gardener and I give Nick the boring tasks like cutting the grass and watering. But he’s very active and also really appreciates the visual aspect of it. He is coming up to retirement and is keen to grow lots of vegetables. But our gardening isn’t all about hard work, we relax out there and eat a lot of our meals outside.
“The back garden is also wonderful for entertaining. The herbaceous borders in the back garden are absolutely beautiful. We would never have thought of putting the patio where Nigel suggested, taking full advantage of our views of the Downs.
“Getting him in to design the garden for us is the best move we ever made. You know what it can be like in a house where people don’t get a proper architect or designer – they just add bits and pieces but the whole thing doesn’t really flow.
“It could be like that in a garden but if, like us, you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on getting your house right, you don’t want to spoil it by not getting the garden right.
“Nigel was very easy to work with and we could never have come up with the ideas that he did, so for us it was really good value for money.”