dan pearson studio

Folly Farm


























The place

Folly Farm was originally a 17th century cottage transformed between 1906 and 1912 into an iconic Arts and Crafts era home and landscape by the additions of architect Sir Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. It is widely deemed to be the pair’s most fully-fledged creation. The garden was divided into a series of inward-looking ‘rooms’ separated by yew hedges, including a sunken pool garden, a flower parterre, entrance courtyard, barn courtyard and a Dutch canal.

The brief

As part of an extensive restoration of house and gardens, we were asked to rethink the gardens and surrounding landscape, and develop a site-wide masterplan that would bring the outdoor environment into the 21st century with a commitment to design excellence, horticultural experimentation,  increased biodiversity and fine craftsmanship.

The design

Within the framework of the hedged gardens, we introduced a distinctive contemporary palette of new plantings to each area that reference Jekyll’s naturalistic aesthetic and interest in colour theory, but feature a range of plants unavailable 100 years ago. A new wind garden of ornamental grasses connects the historic gardens to the surrounding landscape, while the walled kitchen garden, previously unemployed, is now a fertile acre of food and flower-producing beds, borders and pergolas. A new entrance driveway brings guests past ancient oaks and a new wildlife lake set in newly instated wildflower meadows. The refurbished watercourse leads to a new sculpture lawn with access from the house provided by new ziggurat steps inspired by the Lutyens originals, all with the aim of integrating the gardens and grounds and establishing an authentically rural sense of place.

Folly Farm in Berkshire has been restored with great pains and immense scholarship, seemingly regardless of cost, by Jonathan and Jennifer Oppenheimer. The house is famous in itself as one of Lutyens’s typical excursions into the Neverland territory he shared with JM Barrie and Randolph Caldecott. I have always loved Lutyens, and believe the secret of his juggling with ideas as modern as his contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright and as old as English vernacular materials, is really his sense of humour.

He loved catslide roofs, fantastic chimney stacks, huge oriel windows and little dormers in improbable places – almost as though he were illustrating a book for children. In the garden his trademark – or one of them – is ingenious changes of level involving curving, sometimes almost circular steps, beautifully made of mixtures of brickwork and carved stone.

Folly Farm has all these things, originally planted by Gertrude Jekyll, no doubt in her intricate palette of colours. Now Dan Pearson has had a go – and the result is, to my mind, a marvellous match for Lutyens’s whimsical grandeur; decisive, original and harmonious. Small ideas or fiddly colour arrangements would be wrong. Colour schemes are brave enough to embrace massive spaces, and often the plants themselves are supersize, too.

Hugh Johnson | Tradescant’s Diary

There are echoes of (Jekyll) in Dan’s long lines of lavender and the chubby leaves of bergenia in the flower parterre. Both were signature plants for Jekyll. But, triumphantly, Dan has given the garden a fresh set of clothes, invigorating it with rich swathes of eupatorium and perovskia, salvias and astrantias, interspersed with explosions of alliums and bright poppies. It is a brilliant achievement. At Folly Farm we see the skill of a very confident designer, assured enough to fit his own work delicately into a historic core, bold enough to add a whole new layer of meaning to the original vision.

Anna Pavord | Gardens Illustrated

The garden that most inspired us was Folly Farm in West Berkshire, where landscape designer Dan Pearson has brought a 21st-century aesthetic to Edwin Lutyens’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, recently revitalized by new owners with extraordinary care and love. Dan softened the brilliant stonework around the house with perennials, annuals, and shrubs in ravishing arrays—a haze of purples and whites in the parterre garden, hot-color drama in the sunken pool garden, stripes of yellow centaurea and lavender in the kitchen garden. He added meadowland, a pond, and a wind garden of grasses as an approach to the house, knitting the grounds with the surrounding countryside.

Page Dickey | Architectural Digest




Peter Inskip

Moxley Architects

2014 Society of Garden Designers Awards | Historic Garden Award

Jason Ingram