Property: If you could live anywhere

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The Independent Culture
Rosemary Alexander

Principal of the English Gardening School

For the past five years she has been tenant of

the National Trust property Stoneacre, a 15th-century hall

on the outskirts of Maidstone, Kent

LOCATION

Anywhere, provided it's in unspoilt English countryside within an hour and a half of the English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, where I work. I would prefer the landscape to be rolling. I lived in Essex once and found the landscape very flat.

ESSENTIAL LOCAL AMENITIES

Good motorway connection and a not too distant supermarket.

CHARACTER OF BUILDING

A romantic old-world cottage with many nooks and crannies, but with light and sunny rooms.

PERIOD

Medieval or Tudor or Gothic. The jumble that occurs in a garden when you are an avid plant collector doesn't look out of place against these styles. The cottage should have the minimum of modernisation, apart from plumbing and central heating. I have a horror of things being over-modernised. I am prepared to put up with a bit of discomfort to live in something that looks suited to its period.

CONSTRUCTION

Lath, plaster and stone; or lath, plaster and brick.

BEDROOMS

Three or four. I love having my friends and my children to stay. My bedroom should look out over trees and fields so that I can be woken each morning by birdsong.

BATHROOMS

At least two; mine spacious, with a shower as well as bath.

RECEPTIONS ROOMS

One large-ish with inglenook fireplace and panelling. A large kitchen with dining area. I love entertaining in the kitchen where we can lean against the Aga and be very informal.

ESSENTIAL KITCHEN FEATURES

Lots of space with old dressers, an enormous table that seats from 12

to 16 people, a four-door Aga, a dishwasher and a large enamel sink. Enamel sinks are easier to use than those that are made from modern stainless steel - you don't have to polish them up.

DECORATIVE STYLE

A comfortable accumulation of antique or old furniture and rugs as opposed to carefully co-ordinated colour schemes. I'm a landscape architect by training and I'm very conscious that the house must link with the garden and the interior furnishings must link with the house. I don't have any modern furniture although I love things like modern music systems and food

processors. I wouldn't have any house plants - I think plants should be in the garden - but I would have lots of fresh flowers arranged very naturally.

LUXURIES

A well-stocked wine cellar. A music system piped into the main rooms - I particularly like listening to Verdi. A portable phone that works in the garden, because I spend a lot of time in the garden - probably about two full days per week, more if I can manage. Two dogs to keep me company in the garden would be a real luxury. I live a life where I'm always moving backwards and forwards and abroad quite a lot, so I can't have dogs at the moment and I miss them terribly.

SPECIAL OUTBUILDINGS

A large potting shed and a cold frame. I don't want a greenhouse because I can grow seeds on windowsills in the house. If you have a greenhouse you can become completely besotted, going in in October and not coming out until the end of March] I also don't feel the need for a conservatory because I can grow less hardy plants against the walls of the house.

SIZE OF GARDEN

About an acre, but divided up into areas so that I can experiment with different types of planting - a sort of series of garden rooms. It should have plenty of trees, walls and hedges. It should not be stocked with plants, as I'd do that myself - the trees, walls and hedges providing a back-drop for the planting.

VIEW FROM THE WINDOWS

The garden, trees and countryside beyond, but no other houses.

NEIGHBOURS

None except for the local farmer, who would provide milk, cheese and vegetables.

MOTTO OVER THE DOOR

Remove your muddy wellies all ye who enter here.

WHAT IT WOULD COST

According to Cornerstone Estate Agents, could find her dream house in the Lambourn Downs in Berkshire or the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire. The increasing demand for such property keeps prices high - she should expect little change from pounds 250,000.

's book, 'A Handbook for Garden Designers', is published by Cassell on 21 April ( pounds 18.99). Her home, Stoneacre, is open to the public 2pm-6pm Wed and Sat, between April and October

(Photograph omitted)

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