Southern belle: Anna Pavord is bowled over by an ultra-modern, ingeniously landscaped plot

Helen Marsden is opening her garden in Dulwich Village tomorrow - and its quite the best thing of its kind our gardening correspondent has seen

I suppose if you do it every day, the ride out from London Bridge station to Dulwich loses its appeal. But the line, perched high on its embankment, gives you a terrific bird's-eye view down into the high streets and back yards of South Bermondsey and Peckham Rye, the buildings in late spring fudged by a frothy foreground of elderflower blossom and wild pink roses growing either side of the line.

Stepping out at North Dulwich station, enclosed in its cutting, with small hart's tongue ferns and ivy-leaved toadflax growing out of its high brick walls, you find a plant and pot nursery balanced, it seems, almost on the roof of the opposite platform.

But the greater surprise lies a little further away in Dulwich Village, where Helen Marsden is opening her garden tomorrow. Don't miss it. It is spectacular, superbly designed, uncompromisingly modern, quite the best thing of its kind that I have seen.

The house itself gives nothing away: a late Edwardian façade, red brick, set back from the road. But a grid of box balls in the corner of the front garden, set in gravel round a fine multi-stemmed katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), gives a hint of what is to come.

I came into the garden from the house, the ideal way to appreciate how cleverly the one has been integrated with the other. Tomorrow, visitors will come in round the side of the house. Be firm. Turn immediately left and start your journey by the sliding doors of the glass extension that unites inside and out. Then you understand that, having been so radically modern in her treatment of the inside of the property, Helen had no alternative but to continue in the same mode outside.

For London, this is an unusually wide and generous plot – almost an acre – and the width is exaggerated by the handsome slate-lined pool set across the back of the glass extension. But you'll be looking at the two walls behind the pool, the lower one painted in brilliant fuchsia pink, the higher one behind in a slightly paler shade. If you are an admirer of the Mexican landscape architect, Luis Barragán, you'll know where that idea came from. Under our softer light and in the leafy setting of suburban London, you might not expect the translation to work. But it does – spectacularly well.

The walls, the pool, the terrace immediately outside the glass extension, are the work of the architect Helen used to transform the house. For a while, the rest of the garden remained untouched, as she tried to get planning permission to build another house in the grounds. That didn't happen, and now she is glad it didn't. The garden has become the most important part of the whole place.

For the design, she called in the landscape architect, Christopher Bradley-Hole. It was a brilliant choice. He has cleverly carved the sloping site into a series of wide, generous landings, each linked by an equally wide wooden step. A broad path of Breedon gravel leads up the centre, with raised wooden beds on either side, four pairs of them, handsomely constructed, one entirely devoted to asparagus, another to strawberries, others growing cabbages and sprouting broccoli, raspberries and herbs. "It's the greatest luxury," says Helen. "Just coming out here and picking stuff for supper."

The grid of box balls in the corner of the front garden The grid of box balls in the corner of the front garden (Richard Mildenhall)
The garden is dominated by a huge oak tree, with branches so wide it touches the boundaries on either side. It's just slightly off-centre, but Bradley-Hole turns this into a benefit rather than a problem, as his design leads your eye cleanly past the tree up to the leafy screen at the top of the garden. It doesn't block the long view and he uses it as a reason to reduce the width of the path for the rest of the journey up the garden. To the left, the area under the tree is gravelled and planted with a grid of box balls, nine by seven, harmonious, pleasing, and a clever way to deal with a potentially difficult area.

On the right are big square blocks of yew, the flat tops in the process of being sculpted. On the left, after the tree, are a parallel pair of borders, glowing quietly now in muted shades of purple and cream: alliums of course, Geranium phaeum, thistle-headed knautia, elegant stands of the tall grass, Stipa gigantea, all set among explosions of bronze fennel.

It's a wonderfully exciting garden, but calm too, part of the calmness coming from the quietly homogenous way the boundaries have been treated. Hornbeam hedges are used on both sides, taking over from slatted wooden panels, the slats rather narrow and running horizontally rather than vertically. On the right, between the boundary and the blocks of yew, a line of carefully-trimmed limes marches up the side of the garden, making a series of fine tall cones.

By the time you get to the top of the slope, you've had plenty of opportunity to take in all this. But nothing prepares you for the fact that at this point, the plot turns left in a sharp dogleg, revealing a new area as big as the one you've just moved through. Ahead is a beautifully tended lawn, bounded on both sides by hornbeam. At the end is a raised wooden deck, backed by the same horizontally-slatted panels that are used on the side boundaries. It is cool, calm and elegant. It has also, in the past, been a place for Helen's five children to play football.

Narrow paths lead through the hedges, giving glimpses of a grassy orchard squeezed in on the left-hand bank. On the far side, the hedges conceal another surprise, a path that winds through a little wood, bluebells, teasels and wild garlic under hawthorn and sloes. At the end is a hidden area, remarkably pleasing, with garden shed and compost bins. "Is there anything you would have done differently," I asked Helen, who has now lived with the garden for four years. "Not a thing," she replied. Nor would I.

Fairfield, 9 Dulwich Village, London SE21 7BU, is open tomorrow (2-5pm), £3.50, children free

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PPC Co-Ordinator – Permanent - West Sussex – £24-£30k

£24000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Are you a Marketin...

Senior Asset Manager

£70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...

IT Support Analyst (2nd Line Support) - City, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare: Ashdown Group: IT Support Ana...

KS1 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: KS1 Teaching Specialist Leic...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor