THE JOURNAL FOR THE SOCIETY OF GARDEN DESIGNERS

Sturgeon reworks Beningbrough

Andy Sturgeon. Photo: Allan Pollok-Morris


Andy Sturgeon tells Zia Allaway about his Yorkshire project


WHAT WAS THE BRIEF FOR THIS COMMISSION?

The main purpose of the masterplan for the new gardens at Beningbrough Hall in Yorkshire is to increase visitor numbers and refresh and renew the existing designs. But unlike many properties owned by the National Trust, this is not simply a renovation project, as there is very little written or archaeological evidence to show what the original gardens looked like.

This makes the project really exciting for me, as it gives lots of scope to do something new, while respecting the 300-year history of the Hall. The National Trust is also a very forward-thinking organisation and it’s been a joy working with the management team and Beningbrough’s head gardener Sam Shipman.


WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE GARDENS?

We have developed a 10-year vision for the design work, which is split into a 14 signature projects. These include a Mediterranean Garden, Walled Garden, American Garden and Courtyard Garden, each of which will have a distinctive character and planting style. And while we are introducing a new framework for the gardens, we also plan to retain many of the mature trees, shrubs and plants.

For example, in the Walled Garden I am keeping the espaliered fruit trees and beautiful pear archway that runs down the centre, but will be introducing circular clipped hedges to give it a more contemporary feel, as well as fruit and vegetable crops that will be used in the cafe.



HOW MUCH WORK HAS BEEN DONE TO DATE?

The first project was the planting of 300,000 bulbs along the new ha-ha walk. Hundreds of volunteers helped to plant them, including women from a hen party – I have no idea how Sam persuaded them to do it!

Currently, the construction of the Pergola Walkway is underway and should be completed later this spring. This south-facing site was previously used as a service area, then in the 1970s it was laid with lawn and borders, but it felt more like a waiting room than a garden to be explored.

The new design will create a tranquil space, with dappled shade beneath a wisteria-clad pergola, small seating areas and a calm planting palette. The Mediterranean garden will follow on from this, and we will then work through each of the remaining areas, year by year.


To see more of Andy’s work, go to www.andysturgeon.com