Owners Story: The Modern Pleasure Garden

Owners Story: The Modern Pleasure Garden

Pleasure gardens were beautifully landscaped and planted parks for recreation and entertainment.

The Regency style drama Netflix Bridgerton transports viewers to London’s most famous – Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.

For nearly two centuries, the pleasure gardens were frequented by everyone from royalty to the masses to relax and rejuvenate. Amusements ranged from theatre, opera, concerts, supper booths, art, rides, menageries, fireworks to spaces for socialising – including ‘dark walks’ for amorous encounters.

A vintage drawing depicting Vauxhall's Pleasure Gardens

These tantalising escapes from the mundane are long gone but the idea of creating a contemporary outdoor space dedicated to entertaining and to being entertained is just as thrilling…

Creating the Sense of Going ‘Out’

Paula and Chris set about renovating their town house garden in 2020 in a contemporary style that was ultra-low maintenance.

They enlisted the help of garden designer Tom Gadsby of Structured Growth Garden Designs and Pip at PW Landscapes to bring their vision for a more social space they could enjoy year-round with family and friends to life.

The couple were visiting Malvern Garden Buildings’ Buckinghamshire showsite when they spotted the open-sided Studio Pavilion on display and were taken with the quirky gin bar set up as well as the covered outdoor space.

For a few days every week, Tom is garden-designer-in-residence at the Buckingham showsite, helping customers to make sense of their gardens, incorporate their new garden buildings and get the most out of their outdoor spaces.

The Brief

Entertainment was at the core of the design brief. The idea of the Regency-era pleasure garden was to showcase the landscape with beautiful features and awe-inspiring views. Much like the traditional pleasure gardens, the finished design in Paula and Chris’ garden boasts a water feature with a stream running down the tiered terrace.

Tom and the team worked with the land which was on a gentle slope and kept in mind the types of entertaining Paula and Chris might do. Tom’s approach is to examine the space and aspect of the garden and nurture the ‘spirit of the place’.

As well as being a place of leisure, Tom wanted to make the design of the garden work hard ensuring both the main views and sometimes unexpected views from the house take in the best of the garden.

The garden building sits at perimeter wall of the garden. From the back door of Paula and Chris’s home, the focal point is an existing apple tree, whilst through the French doors of the sitting room they look up a “rill” with the water trickling down from a beautiful Amelanchier lamarkii – Tom’s tree of choice for small gardens.

The Finished Design

The garden is now a modern, crisp and low maintenance haven that has come into its own over the last year:

“We have used it a lot, and has been great during the COVID pandemic, as it has given us a sense of ‘going out’ even when we couldn’t leave our home” Paula tells us.

“We have a TV and a bar in it and comfy seats in the inside and outside areas. This year we have used it for graduation celebrations, a 50th birthday celebration… we also used the outside space when we were allowed to have 6 people mixing, to make Christmas wreaths.

The lads like use the space for gaming and to watch the football.  The girls like to pretend they’re ‘out out’ whilst drinking prosecco and cocktails.  We’ve had Raclette evenings out there, and I have just received a new fondue set for Christmas, so looking forward to trying that out.”

Not Going Out

To create that feeling of going out while staying in and celebrate Dry January why not whip up this delicious non-alcoholic Garden Sour? It’s a Seedlip mocktail made with apple, lemon and herbs.

Ingredients

  • Seedlip Garden 108: 50ml
  • Cloudy Apple Juice: 35ml
  • Fresh Lemon Juice: 1 tbsp
  • Cider Vinegar: 1 tsp
  • Rosemary Sprig: 1
  • Thyme Sprig: 1
  • Sugar Syrup (see page 186 ): 2 tsp
  • Egg White: 1
  • Ice: Cubed
  • Garnish: Rosemary
  • Glass: Coupe

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients to a shaker with ice & shake
  2. Double strain into a coupe glass
  3. Garnish with a rosemary sprig
A frothy mocktail, garnished with a sprig of rosemary sits on an age green book on a wooden table

Prefer a stiff drink for these locked-down weekends in?

For those whose resolve is waning since the New Year, here’s a recipe for the botanical cocktail Honeysuckle 75 to sip in your own Gin Palace.