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How Laurel Truscott made Outside sing

Shapes, senses, colour

(9 minute read)

Rustling grass, drifting lavender, the buzz of bees and flutter of butterflies. Summer’s balmy sun and infinite blue marks a stark contrast to the conditions landscape architect Laurel Truscott faced in January, when she set to work on site, realising her designs for Outside.

But far from being deterred, Laurel embraced the challenge. Using her skills and experience, passion for biodiversity and multisensory approach, she has transformed the space into a sanctuary of seasonal scents, shapes and colours.

As Outside officially opens its doors, Laurel takes us and photographer Jeremy Phillips on a wander around the grounds – reflecting on the process, what she loves about the gardens right now, and her hopes for how they’ll grow.

Laurel Truscott landscape architect at Another Place

When we started, it was very wet and wintery, which meant we had to be quite adaptable and flexible, responding to challenges as they came up. I had all these planting plans and ideas and then, as is the nature with these projects, we had to think on our feet a bit. But we all worked really hard and it’s been fun seeing it take shape.

It’s gone from a bit of a quagmire to this beautifully contoured space with sweeps of grasses and shaped hedges and vertical planes with trees. It’s wonderful seeing how far it’s come.

On a project like this, it really helps to think 2D as well as 3D. That way you focus on the shapes you’re creating, ensuring it all works on paper, before getting on site and working with the topography to form the areas of planting, and bringing the 2D design to life.

All the plants are still quite small at the moment, but soon they’ll start growing, flowering and changing through the seasons to create this beautiful, colourful, sensory experience year-round.

We’ve picked lots of blues and yellows to encourage the bees, and sown perennial and annual wildflowers to create waves of colour this year and next. We’re really thinking about the seasons through the year and how it will cycle for maximum impact.

As well as the visual look of the space, it was important to me to incorporate other senses. Wherever there’s an intersection of paths, or you cross from one threshold into another, we’ve planted gorgeous scents to elevate the experience.

We have the daphne and mahonias in the winter, with their wonderful vibrant woodland scent, and spring into the summer with lavender and rosemary around the Glasshouse and down the steps. Outside each of the shepherd huts, we have scented flowers that will give a waft whenever guests open their doors, and we’ve also planted Sarcococca and scented rhododendrons.

Then there are the sounds; the rustle of grasses, the swish against your body as you walk through the wildflower meadow. It’s all part of the design.

I’m always keen to minimise waste. We’ve transplanted plants we’ve dug up to use elsewhere on the site, so we aren’t losing them. For example, we found these lovely yew domes which we’ve replanted across the site and some of them have really flourished in their new spots. I love doing that in a garden, giving plants a new lease of life rather than throwing them away.

Guests have been really interested in what we’re doing. The other day I was plug-planting some wildflowers into parts of the lawn – which we’re developing as an ornamental wildflower area – and guests were coming up and asking questions. Many of them are keen to replicate planting combinations/approaches in their own gardens.

It’s been lovely chatting to people, as they’re so eager to find out more about biodiversity and attracting wildlife into their own gardens. And I’ve loved seeing and hearing their reactions as they’ve watched the site transform. It’s been a really rewarding project.

Another Place Outside seating

Sitting spot under the old gnarled Rhododendron, which was discovered amongst a mass of shrubs and brambles. The Rhododendron flowers are a riot of delightfully bright pink in Spring with large matt evergreen green leaves atop a sculptural trunk throughout the rest of the year. Ferns (Polystichum setiferum) unfurl from the gaps between large, rounded, re-sited stone boulders. We’ve positioned one of the shepherd huts so that when you open the doors, you’re greeted by this incredible tree. It’s a magical spot; like a secret space all to itself.

Another Place gardens

Informal swathes of grasses (including Deschampsia, Pennisetum and Miscanthus) provide continuity across the gardens. Here, the newly emerging Deschampsia cespitosa ‘Goldtau’ bears densely tufting evergreen foliage from which tall feathery flowerheads of silvery purple will appear in summer, eventually turning to a shimmering golden cloud in winter.

Another Place shepherd huts

Curving paths, circular terraces and private lawns with individual planting themes, including Ferns, evergreen shade-loving Camellias and bright pink Primulas. The dazzlingly white stems and delicately branching habit of Betula utilis var. ‘Jacquemontii’ forms a linking theme throughout the gardens.

Another Place Acer

Group of beautifully elegant Acers, planted in the 1950s, provide a dramatic setting for these shepherd huts.

Shepherd hut at dusk

Nocturnal joyous seclusion under the sculptural Rhododendron tree. In winter, a heavenly fragrance will emerge from the pinky white clusters of flowers on the evergreen Daphne (D. bhloua ‘Jacqueline Postil’), planted next to the entrance to the shepherd hut.

Shepherd hut seating area

Screened sitting area with views across the gardens to the lake and fells. Hebe topiaria balls will grow to form soft mounding ‘accents’ where edges and materials meet. Where a group of Mahonia media ‘Winter Sun’ are planted adjacent to the shepherd hut entrance, the bright yellow flowering spikes will provide a heavenly scent throughout the winter months.

Inside the Glasshouse

Inside the Glasshouse. Pots of herbs include Thyme, Sage, Mint, Rosemary and Oregano. Outside, mounds of scented Lavender and Rosemary edge the terrace.

Outside at Another Place

Wide mown paths through the gorgeous big wildflower meadow linking the gardens and Ullswater Lake.

Another Place Treehouse at dusk

Treehouse peeping out from amongst the surrounding mature trees at dusk. Drifts of red and yellow Kniphofia caught by the lights.

Treehouse at Another Place

Treehouse nestling amongst the mature trees. View from the meadow.

View from the entrance to the Treehouse

View from the entrance to the treehouse across the boatyard, lake and fells.

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