A sense of intimacy and enclosure is essential to any garden, and mine was now overlooked by myriad windows. The beeches would help long-term, but I needed a more immediate solution. There were also serious problems with scale: because the new wall was so very tall and so very close, everything in my garden was thrown out of proportion. I designed a three-metre-high pergola [not visible in the photographs as it had to be temporarily dismantled to fix a crumbling house foundation] to run the length of the garden, alongside the beech and cedar hedge. At 3.5 metres high, the pergola is taller than the standard 2.5 metres so it could compete with the scale of the wall next door. At first it overwhelmed my garden, but maturing plantings softened the effect. The sturdy construction of the pergola allowed me to plant it heavily with vigorous vines such as Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans syn. Bigonia radicans). Rambling roses-'Albéric Barbier', 'Rambling Rector', 'Aimée Vibert', 'Félicité Perpétue'-chosen for their scent and rampant growth, compete with the vines in a race to the top of the pergola. The roses only bloom in early summer, so I also grow annual vines such as morning glory (Ipomoea tricolor), moonflower (I. alba syn. Calonyction aculeatum) and hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus syn. Dolichos lablab) through them. In a relatively short time these plants will climb to the top of the pergola and cascade down, filling in its roof and screening the garden from prying eyes.
My original garden was developed along the east side of the property to take advantage of the afternoon sun. While previously I worked with the borrowed view from next door, now my goal was to divert attention away from it. The northwest corner of the backyard had been the children's play area for years, but they had outgrown the swing set. I began eyeing the area, pacing it out and measuring, wondering what kind of garden I could make there. Then inspiration struck: I could create a second stream that would cut diagonally across the garden, dividing the space. I could have mixed beds behind the stream, framing it and establishing a new focal point. Pure genius!
I set to work digging the trench in a lovely arc toward the existing pond. Just then my husband wandered out with a cup of tea, nodded in approval and asked whether I had discovered a way to make water run uphill. I had overlooked the fact that our property rises about 18 degrees from its west to east boundaries, so the stream would have to run uphill in order to flow into the pond. So much for genius!
Not one to let technicalities get in the way, I eventually made a series of locks-mini-waterfalls that gradually step the water up to the required level to allow it to flow into the pond ("Uphill Battle"). The sound of water trickling and cascading over the stones that form the locks provides a soothing distraction from urban noise. In the original garden, the outdoor seating area was a private, peaceful suntrap just outside the kitchen door. Now it was in full view of the windows next door. Also, and perhaps worst of all, the neighbour's noisy air conditioner was just on the other side of the fence, adjacent to our patio.