Garden Visit : Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum

Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum near Coggeshall in Essex are set in more than 200 acres of historic landscape. The Arboretum features a tree collection from all the temperate areas of the world and the highlights of the gardens include The Birkett Long Millennium Walk, designed for structure, colour and scent on the shortest days of the year, plus traditional and contemporary planting and garden design in the 18th century Walled Garden.

The Walled Garden was the part of the grounds that we wanted to get a good look at and is the focus of our attention in this post. The Walled Garden comprises five separate gardens each bordered on three sides by clipped hornbeam hedges and the fourth side bordered by a broad expanse of lawn and borders used as a main walkway and that run alongside one of the main external brick walls of the garden.


The first garden features an earth sculpture and according to the visitor guide this represents a new beginning – the start of the year. A feature of all the landscaping in the garden including the earth sculpture in the first garden, is it encourages the visitor to actively engage with the garden whilst fostering a sense of playfulness.



The paved path leads you into the second garden enclosure. Here the visitor finds a novel use of Choisya ternata – the Mexican Orange Blossom – so often found in the garden in its everyday natural form, here it is used as a low clipped hedge that winds its way through the space whilst at the same time providing different pockets of planting in the spaces between its curves.


The third and central garden is a contrast to the previous space as the curved lines become straight  and the geometry becomes more rectangular. This effect is delivered by the regimented lines of planting of a single plant type (Lavender grosso and Iris ‘Deep Black’ shown in the photos below) and further emphasised by the clipped box and stone table.





The clipped box and stone table is a strong geometric feature in the scheme and also cleverly introduces perspective into the design.


Stone spheres add to the strong geometry in the design and the round shape is repeated by the clipped box spheres and the clipped Santolina used in other parts of the garden.


In the fourth garden the curved lines are resumed but this time represented by hard landscaping. An undulating slate topped stone wall snakes its way through the space and echoes the way the Choisya hedging was used in the second garden.




Finally the continuous thread that has wound its way through all the gardens enters the fifth and final garden ending with a ‘pool’ of slate that almost acts as a full stop to mark the end of the cycle.



On exiting the previous enclosed gardens the visitor is taken past clipped spheres of box and Hebe ‘Rakaiensis’ down towards the open spaces of the surrounding lakes and woodland.


At the time of visiting (late May) the planting in the Walled Garden hadn’t properly got going as it was mainly mid to late summer flowering perennials and grasses. However the clever use of landscaping, clipped hedging and interesting design ideas were enough to provide interest despite the seasonal planting not yet being in full swing.

For further visitor information:

Photo credits: Garden Design Eye


Framed views and focal points

Visual interest in gardens can be accenuated by cleverly framing views and the judicious placement of focal points. A garden where this is expertly executed is Sissinghurst.

A classical statue sits within a perfectly proportioned alcove of clipped evergreen hedges.

Wisteria shrubs visible beyond a clipped yew hedge entice the visitor to explore that part of the garden.

The arching branches and foliage of the nuttery walk form a natural corridor that tempts the visitor to walk through.

An avenue of symmetrically planted limes is a simple but beautiful feature.

A classical statue provides a focal point at one end of the Lime walk and is framed by matching large terracota urns. The scene is perfectly balanced and beautifully proportioned.

A glimpse of the main tower of the castle rising above the high clipped yew hedges encourages the visitor on through the garden.

Classical statues are positioned in such a way as to maximise their effect as focal points.

A feature as simple as a gap in a wall is used as a window into another part of the garden and has the feel of a natural picture frame.

Every garden feature can serve a purpose as a focal point. Here the appeal of a simple wooden bench is accenuated by a pair of classical urns set on either side.

An archway within a wall serves a double purpose by framing another part of the garden.

Birches, low box hedges, clipped yew pillars and a classical statue unite to provide a perfectly balanced and proportioned composition.

A clipped box cube set within a square of clipped box hedges is used here as a natural focal point. Simple yet effective.

The beautiful large urn (above) and classical scultpure (below) demonstrate how a piece of art or sculpture can be used to great effect as a focal point.

For further information about visiting Sissinghurst visit

Photography: copyright Garden Design Eye