Inspire your outdoor space with a cloistered Moorish garden

Using enclosed Moorish gardens as inspiration, this London home of glass benefits from its glorious glade.

The chief advantage of living in a house with glass walls is that you are able to enjoy the garden for 365 days of the year, so that garden had better be worth looking at. The glorious green space that connects so seamlessly with The Glasshouse, a stunning modern building set among mature trees in the heart of historic Petersham, does not disappoint.

"I love the garden - it's very peaceful and tranquil. If the weather's fine, we have breakfast, lunch and supper out on the terrace, but because of the enormous windows, you don't need to actually go out to feel you are eating outside," says Judy Gibbons, owner of The Glasshouse, which was designed eight years ago by architect Sir Terry Farrell, and is part of a trio of iconic glass homes he designed in this secluded Richmond enclave.

"My last house was an 1854 Victorian house and the garden there was very different. Here, you are very connected to the garden. In fact, you are surrounded by it." She hired local landscape architect John Sallis Chandler, who designed the garden at her previous Richmond Hill home, to create an outside space worthy of the award-winning house, in which every room has sliding glass walls looking out on to it. A double-height glass pavilion, the perfect space for entertaining, sits at right angles to the main building, within the garden.

To the right designer, the space is a gift, and Sallis Chandler was clearly the right designer. Unexpectedly, he looked not to the future but to the cloistered gardens of the past, where, like The Glasshouse, all the rooms faced the outside space, which is enclosed. Farrell designed the three houses so that the back wall of each provides a high, north-facing wall for the next, maximising on space and providing privacy without sacrificing light. "Though the house is contemporary, our approach to the design wasn't," says Sallis Chandler. "It has echoes of a more formal landscape, and is influenced by cloister designs of the Moorish gardens which had a circular route around the perimeter, shaded niches and areas in the sun, and calmness from a restricted use of colour."

The result is an open, rectangular lawn surrounded by paved limestone walkways and a large limestone terrace for dining, between the lawn and pavilion. There is a strong, geometric structure of clipped, evergreen box, bay and yew. Six low box walls set on either long side of the lawn each hold a mass of pale mint green Hydrangea Annabelle, bringing seasonality to the garden, as well as a white-stemmed Himalayan birch that echoes the silver birches of the surrounding rural landscape. 

Against the far white wall, blocks of clipped yew flank potted hardy palms, and the wall itself is decorated with fan-trained Morello cherries, chosen for their ability to thrive in the shady aspect.

A series of conical standard bay trees creates an imposing avenue between wall and lawn. In the tradition of the ancient Moorish gardens, a simple grapevine-clad cedarwood loggia  provides an intimate shelter at the west-facing end of the garden, with fan-trained figs making striking tracery against the white wall behind.

A hardwood deck, set at intervals with potted  Mediterranean fan palms, runs right along the length of the house, effectively blurring the boundaries of interior and exterior. The real key, though, that has made the garden in complete sync with the house, is that Sallis Chandler took the grid design of the building and imposed it on the landscape outside, so that each section and sightline, including the six equidistant white-stemmed birches in the lawn, replicates the architectural framework of the interior.

Gibbons's favourite place in the garden is the sunny loggia, sitting on the Lutyens bench, among the fig trees. From here, there is a sightline right down the garden, beyond the terrace and through the glass pavilion walls to a more private space with a very different feeling. This is part of the garden, where, at odds with the rest of the formal planting, nature is in control.

At its heart is a mossy, black-lined pebble pool. On one side is a bank of sculptural, stark white arum lilies; on the other side, a carpet of jet-black lilyturf grass. What makes this area hugely atmospheric, however, are  primeval tree ferns growing at random through platforms of shrubby honeysuckle, displaying striking lime-green canopies that remain in full frond through the year, thanks to the microclimate afforded by the native trees beyond the garden. In the centre of the pool, a bowl of perpetually bubbling water, set precisely on the axis of the two sightlines from reception room and loggia, creates concentric ripples, and represents, says Sallis Chandler, the very source of the garden from which everything within emanates.

To commission John Sallis Chandler, visit sallischandler.co.uk; 020 8549 5103.


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