The elegant white themed garden at Crowmarsh House, Wateringbury

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 July 2017

The walled courtyard is a picture of formality with a green and white palette

The walled courtyard is a picture of formality with a green and white palette


Take inspiration from the courtyard garden at Crowmarsh House in Wateringbury where Yvonne Marks has planted an elegant white-themed palette

Every part of the space is consideredEvery part of the space is considered

When you have a small space, every part is seen and therefore needs to have careful thought and planning for the best results. Yvonne Marks has a wonderful sense of elegance and has imbued the courtyard at her new-build home with her style.

“I have always loved white flowers. I went to Sissinghurst many years ago and fell in love with the white garden. As we bought our house from new I knew this was the perfect time to make an Italian garden with a blank canvas,” she says.

Yvonne’s great grandfather had come to England from Florence in the 1920s and this heritage, along with trips to Italy, have informed the ambience and look of her garden. “My Mum died in February 2004, never having been to Italy,” says Yvonne.

All elements work with the green and white themeAll elements work with the green and white theme

“We moved to Wateringbury in June that year and I decided to build the garden in her memory. I have a small plaque on the wall which reads ‘This garden is dedicated to a beloved mother, Peggy, 1929 – 2004’.”

The courtyard is totally enclosed with high walls and a fence and is an extension of the house as a true outdoor room. Yvonne drew up a plan that was interpreted by a hard landscaper to do the build side.

“I wanted to create a peaceful and tranquil space,” she explains. As the site had been a garage and workshop for vehicles it was mostly covered with concrete and tarmac, which had to be removed – and there was no top soil.

Sculptural relief and creepers on the high wallsSculptural relief and creepers on the high walls

The ground work took four weeks to complete, while the mature look you see today took about 10 years to fully establish. Planting and detailing is carefully thought through to keep a uniform scheme of greens and white.

Formality from a parterre and topiary is softened with infill, vines cover the walls, seating and a dining area are incorporated in the design and groups of containers and classical sculpture complete the scheme.

Yvonne’s love of flowers and joy for gardening shines through. She explains how it all began: “When my children were small I went to flower-arranging classes at evening school and learnt a lot about plants and flowers. I grew plants for the foliage, flowers for my arrangements and I was hooked.

Seating is importantSeating is important

“I am now a member of the Guild of Church Flower Arrangers and arrange flowers in my local church, St John the Baptist in Wateringbury.”

Although a small space, the palette is bountiful, with white agapanthus, roses, peonies, jasmine and hibiscus set off against an array of foliage choices such as variegated hostas, ivy and euphorbias. Edibles are even incorporated, from a small raised bed of vegetables to a fig adorning a wall and pots of olives.

The development of the garden has not been without challenges. “We planted box hedging in 2004 to create the parterre but in 2014 box blight had devastated it so we had to dig it up and burn it.

Containers and placement of objects draw the eyeContainers and placement of objects draw the eye

“We replanted with Lonicera nitida, a fast-growing privet which has established even better than we hoped. We originally planted 12 pencil confers but have removed six over the years as there was conflict with some of the other planting.”

From the experience of creating a courtyard garden Yvonne has some great advice to offer. “In a courtyard garden green walls look good. Grow as many evergreen climbers as you can, Trachelospermum jasminoides and Clematis armandii are perfect; evergreen and heavily scented.

“Evergreen plants with various flowering seasons make for a long period of interest through the year, and placing a mirror in a dark corner can open up the space as well as maximising sunlight,” she adds.

A small summerhouse, raised veg beds and an entertaining space are incorporatedA small summerhouse, raised veg beds and an entertaining space are incorporated

You can visit this inspiring garden, which opens through the National Garden Scheme, on selected days in summer and by arrangement.

“I opened my garden for the first time six years ago for Parkinson’s UK, as I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008,” explains Yvonne.

“I have also opened for my local church, which desperately needs a new spire. A visitor told me I should open with the NGS.

Rustic watering cans among the foliageRustic watering cans among the foliage

“She knew a member and brought her along to have a look at my garden. She thought it was suitable to be opened for the NGS and she then brought Kent County Organiser Jane Streatfeild along to finalise the procedure.

“I am delighted to be able to raise funds for a charity close to my heart as the NGS donated £100,000 last year to Parkinson’s UK.”

Visitors are clearly enchanted by this little oasis, leaving comments in the visitors’ book such as ‘a jewel of a garden’, ‘such an imaginative and stunning garden’, ‘this is a place to sit and dream with lots to see, you have to keep looking there is just so much to see’ and ‘wonderful hospitality’.

Dainty cyclamenDainty cyclamen

“I enjoy sharing my garden and it makes all the hard work worth it. When I read the comments I wonder whose garden they are talking about; I cannot believe it is mine!” Yvonne smiles.

Get the look

Hydrangea paniculata is our plant of the monthHydrangea paniculata is our plant of the month

• A small space offers a lot of potential

• Treat it as an outdoor living room

• Complement your home by reflecting its architecture and style

Keep an eye on wateringKeep an eye on watering

• Compose a series of mini views or vignettes

• Decide how you’d like to use the space, create separate zones for dining, entertaining, relaxing

• Proportion how much hardscape needed for dining, sitting, versus softscape planting

• Get to know the micro-climates in different sections: hot, dry, shady

• Stick with a colour palette, in furnishings and planting

• Here the classic green and white scheme is delightfully tranquil

• Repeated planting gives harmony and continuity

• If enclosed, use the fence or wall as a backdrop for decorative detailing and add vines to soften

• Make the space look larger with a mirror to double the perceived depth or length

• Group eye-catching containers

• Don’t be afraid to use large things such as big shrubs or a medium-sized tree

• Include lighting to extend entertaining into the evening

• Complete your room with soft furnishings and fun accessories

• Upcycle and recycle bargain finds

• Don’t let the space become overcrowded; if in doubt, leave it out

Plant of the month

Hydrangea paniculata

• Medium-sized to large shrubs

• Panicles of creamy white, cone-shaped flowers

• Often flushed with pink, change colour as mature

Growing notes

• Lighten up a dark spot

• Dappled shade

• Fertile, moist, well-drained soil

• Mulch with organic matter in spring

• Propagate by softwood cuttings in early summer, hardwood cuttings in winter

• Versatile in borders, courtyards and informal gardens

Jobs to be done

• Main tasks this month due to the variable summer weather of dry and wet spells is to continue deadheading faded flowers, watering and weeding

• Consider adding some weather-proof flowers to your garden that cope well with sun or rain, such as achillea, honeysuckle and ligularia

• Top up mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds

• Don’t cut the lawn too short in hot spells as it may scorch

• Clean and top up bird baths as water may be scarce for wildlife

Find out more

Crowmarsh House, Wateringbury ME18 5DU

Open 23 and 24 July, 27 and 28 August, 11am-5pm

Admission £3.50, children free, home-made teas

Visitors also welcome by arrangement June to August

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