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articles about the garden
The English Garden July 2017
“The garden at Fairlight End is a very odd piece of ground”, explains Chris. “It slopes hugely, more than 12m from the top to the bottom, and it doesn’t just slope in one direction - it slopes in conflicting directions. It was odd, wonky and windswept, but somehow or other I was attracted to it.”
Has the garden matured as he expected? Chris laughs, “It is a chapter of accidents, and it surprises me all the time. I never think about it in terms of meeting expectations or not, rather I think about whether I’m steering the garden or whether it's steering me. This is the bit that interests me the most. What sort of a place is it trying to become and when should I let it steer me and when should I grab back the steering wheel?”
Gardens Illustrated June 2016
The garden at Fairlight End is perched on a ridge close to where the undulating Sussex Weald begins its steep descent to the sea. The 18th century house is at the highest point in the garden with views down the slope over abundant borders and velvety lawns that are punctuated by clusters of specimen trees and shrubs. Beyond and below are the wildflower meadows and the ponds with a backdrop of the gloriously unspoilt Wealden landscape.
An important collaboration has been that between Chris and Tara Culley, a consultant on plant design who trained at the RHS and worked at Great Dixter. Chris says, “She designed the original herbaceous borders and guided me through their evolution into plantings that are now primarily about shape and movement rather than colour. She has been in sympathy with what I have been doing every step of the way.” Equally important is William Hurton, another Dixter-trained gardener, who works alongside Chris for two days a week .
"After those early years of making mistakes", says Chris, “I now have an idea of the thrust and direction of this garden. It is all about addressing the beautiful countryside beyond and allowing it to come into the garden and have the garden inter-react with the fabulous borrowed views. Each time we make it a little bit wilder, a little bit shaggier, a little bit looser and a little bit more unbuttoned I’m comfortable with the result-it’s where I want to go.”
Homes and Gardens September 2015
The scene manages to be timeless and yet strikingly contemporary. The cherry tree has been kept, but the sloping ground was remodelled and retained by a corten steel wall, while a new decked seating area, created to take advantage of the view, is planted with more than 50 tightly clipped alpine Pinus mugo var. mughus, as an effective alternative to blight-prone box.”
Other parts of the garden have been remodelled too, with steps cutting through herbaceous planting. “I’m not keen on borders that you stand back to admire,” says Chris. “I like to be able to walk through planting.” Even in the more formal areas near the house, straight lines have been eschewed. Existing paths and borders linking the house to the vegetable garden have been replaced by brick-edged gravel paths, which snake through planting backed by clipped and curving yew hedges.
Garten Design Exclusiv (German magazine) 2015
What makes this garden so special, embedded as it is in the beautiful country of southern England? Perhaps it is the wonderful views stretching to the English channel. But above all, it is the sinuous curves of the paths and the planting schemes, which the English garden designer, Ian Kitson, has introduced into the landscape with such care.
In the lengthy search for a suitable property with an appropriate piece of land, people’s preferences frequently change. It was no different for city dwellers Chris and Robin Hutt. Finally, they chose a house called Fairlight End. The size of the plot-more than a hectare- impressed them, as did the three hundred year old house. What however was unforgettable, was the wonderful situation with its mature trees and distant view towards the long chain of hills and valleys of Sussex-and, on a clear day, as far as the English channel.
This situation, and above all the quality of the light-Fairlight-had enchanted the Pre-Raphaelites, who settled in the area a hundred and fifty years ago, in order to give full expression to their creative talents. Several of the trees in the garden-beeches, oaks, hornbeams and a cherry seem to bear witness to this period.