The brief was to transform a steep, sandy hillside in Moscow’s affluent Barvikha suburb into a breathtaking, romantic English country garden. It took a staggering seven years to complete, but garden designers Sally Court and Helen Billetop are now reaping the rewards as their hard work was recognised at the recent, prestigious Society of Garden Designers’ 2013 Garden Design Awards.
London-based Sally and Helen of cgd landscape design had to contend with numerous challenges in the creation of this spectacular garden – which earned them the coveted Gold International Award at the ceremony – such as freezing temperatures, navigating the Russian planning process, liaising with an onsite team who didn’t share a common language and sourcing materials both locally and internationally.
The judges recognised the unique complexities of the scheme commenting: “A very difficult brief successfully implemented to create a sophisticated and accomplished piece of design that is the essence of an English garden. There was a good sequence of spaces and a high standard of execution despite logistical challenges.”
“It’s the cherry on the icing on the cake,” says Sally. “We were just overwhelmed. This award means our peers have recognised the work – and the high quality of the work – that we have put into the garden.”
Recognition by the SGD is just the latest in a string of awards. In 2013, the Barvikha garden won Landscape of the Year and Gold Best Overseas Garden/Landscape at the New Homes Gardens Awards as well as First Place in the Residential Gardens category at the Dom ne Brestskov Landscape Architecture exhibition in Moscow. In 2012, the American Association of Professional Landscape Designers (ALPD) gave a Gold Award for Planting Design and a Merit Award in the Residential Design category.
As expected, the garden – the first of its kind in Moscow – has garnered plenty of interest from the Russian press.
Set in the grounds of a Dacha (a country house), the exuberant 2.5 acre garden contains all the elements one would expect from an English country garden such as a rose garden, a glass house and herb parterre, extensive fruit plantings, a summerhouse, woodland walks, wetland plantings along a drainage stream, a meadow area and massed bulb planting not forgetting the quintessential English herbaceous and shrub borders. Sally and Helen undertook extensive research to find plants that would create the same ambiance as found in our great English gardens but would survive the harsh Moscow climate, where temperatures can plunge to an icy -30° in the winter and soar to +40° in the summer.
Likewise, a creative approach was needed in bringing a truly English feel to the hard-landscaping elements of the garden.
“We are very capable of creating English style using materials found within the country if they are available, but in this case, they weren’t,” says Sally. “So we brought the stone in from Yorkshire, the bricks from Lancashire, the glasshouse from Hampshire and the summerhouse in Somerset. The bespoke fences, trellis and arches were made locally from our designs.”
“By using both local and international materials and combining these we were able to create and garden that had an ethos of an English country garden where you can walk from one small garden area into another, a natural succession of spaces that connect happily with each other; open spaces, secret areas, grassy areas and deep borders, vistas and intimate places.”
As many of the existing pine and birch trees were protected by preservation orders, Sally made sure that promoting the bio-diversity onsite became an integral part of the brief. Insect hotels, bug and bird boxes were made and fixed to the trees and wild flower meadows were sown. In order for that process to continue, the team has been teaching the onsite gardeners how to continue working sympathetically with the environment.
Working from a studio in West London, cgd landscape design has built up an impressive and varied portfolio of projects – ranging from large country estates to city gardens, from courtyards to roof gardens, from family gardens to public parks. Sally and Helen’s gardens have reaped numerous medals at both Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows.