In the seventh of a 12-part series on designing a large country garden we look at ways to incorporate sporting facilities into a large garden.
THE JOY OF OUTDOOR PURSUITS
The summer holidays have finally arrived, and thoughts are turning to outdoor pursuits. Having your own dedicated sporting facilities brings a whole new dimension and level of enjoyment to your garden and allows for hours of pleasure with friends and family without needing to leave your grounds. Around 95% of our garden design projects will require a new tennis court or swimming pool and of those where a court or pool is already in situ, our challenge is to ensure that they have been expertly sited and considered within the garden setting.
We often site sporting facilities together in the same part of the garden to create an entertainment area or interactive social space that is discreetly hidden from the house but still within easy access. We find tennis courts to be more functional rather than aesthetically pleasing and, like some of our clients, we would prefer not to see them from the house.
Don’t forget about noise too. While the gentle clunk of a mallet on a ball might evoke happy memories of perfect English summers, splashes and screams of childish delight from a swimming pool might be less appealing after a while, so it is good to get the position just right. Here’s our advice for incorporating croquet lawns, tennis courts and swimming pools into a large garden.
CROQUET LAWN DESIGN
Croquet is a quintessentially English pastime and the perfect entertainment for a sunny summer afternoon. It is believed to have its origins in the 17th century and was often played in London’s Pall Mall.
Of all the sporting facilities that we might incorporate into a large country garden a croquet lawn is probably the most adaptable. A flat, formal lawn can accommodate croquet, and even football, in the summer months before being returned to a lush green lawn in winter, with the same preparation and aftercare that a traditional lawn might demand.
Although a full-sized croquet court is almost twice the size of a tennis court, croquet can be enjoyed on any size of lawn by simply scaling the rectangular dimensions to suit the setting and surrounding property. Positioning it close to the house alongside a west facing terrace is ideal for a late afternoon match with afternoon tea for the spectators.
GARDEN TENNIS COURT DESIGN
Depending on the property, location and size of the grounds, you may need to seek planning permission to site a new tennis court and the position may be dictated by the planning granted. Ideally, tennis courts should have a north-south orientation, so players aren’t dazzled by direct sunlight and so that the court is not filled with intermittent shadows. Taking advantage of existing trees to screen unsightly courts could be useful, but it might create too much shade, and this will lead to the court becoming green and mossy. We tend to position the tennis court in a hedged garden ‘room’ or use large, loose shrub planting for screening – an elegant, classic flowering shrub like Philadelphus is ideal. Pleached trees can also be useful to soften the sight of the netting … and to catch the odd rogue ball.
Most of our clients prefer a hard court over grass and for this we would specify a traditional green court as it’s a more subtle addition to the landscape. We would also advise black netting rather than green as it is much less vibrant and will be almost invisible from a distance.
Tennis courts are much bigger than you might imagine, so if space is an issue or if you have a small, urban garden you might choose a grass court and define the space with an instant Hornbeam hedge. Like the aforementioned croquet lawn, a grass court is dual purpose, providing a formal lawn in winter and tennis court in summer. Siting a pavilion next to the tennis court is the final touch to create a convivial entertaining space where you can socialise with friends.
GARDEN SWIMMING POOL DESIGN
Unless the location has a spectacular hillside view that calls for a dramatic infinity pool, we will often create an enclosure for a swimming pool both for safety and for shelter against the wind. Walled gardens make an ideal enclosure. Alternatively, we use plants or hedging to define the space; it creates a welcoming haven with its own microclimate too.
We often opt for simple Mediterranean-style planting around the pool area with olive trees, drifts of scented lavender and terracotta urns to transport you to sunnier climes and mentally make you feel warmer. The advantage of having an enclosed pool area means there will be no conflict of planting style so if we are using Mediterranean planting, for instance, this would not be seen against the rolling hills of an English landscape.
Colour is all important. While the traditional choice for pools is a bright turquoise, we tend to advise darker coloured tiles such as grey or green stone or slate as it feels more natural. This is particularly effective if the pool is sited close to the house as it gives the impression of a formal pond rather than a pool, which is more in keeping.
The final element is a number of well-positioned terraces to offer both shade from the midday sun and warmth in the evening. Creating entertaining areas within the terracing that encompass a pool pavilion and changing facilities as well as kitchen and dining areas around the pool will really extend the life of the pool throughout the year.
Here’s to a sunny summer holiday!
Look out for our journal posts on large garden design covering: