John Makepeace’s garden of grasses, Dorset

I had a bit of a busman’s holiday last Sunday, visiting the eminent furniture maker John Makepeace’s garden in Beaminster.


It’s always interesting seeing how a craftsman in one medium transfers ideas and concepts into another, and the Makepeace garden is no exception.  I suppose it’s no surprise that there are few straight lines, given that John is influenced by organic forms and the natural characteristics of the wood that he transforms into furniture.


However, the curves that he has introduced are bold and unfussy – essential to balance the exuberance of the grasses – and encompass both horizontal and vertical planes.  Too often gardeners look only to the plan, without capitalising on the fact that creating a garden is creating a 3-dimensional, sculptural space.


In the Makepeace garden, the horizontal line of the sweeping Purbeck stone and slate terrace intersects with the curve of the sunken pond beneath it, and this in turn is crossed by the arch of the bridge.  But even here, the horizontals are not rigid but are themselves curved – there are shallow wooden steps up onto the bridge which then sweeps down into the summerhouse – a double whammy of a curve as it is reflected in the pond.  A stroke of genius!  Added to this, and accentuating this beautiful line, the underside of the bridge is painted a bright pink – picking up the soft pink tones of the Molinia Transparent grass and providing just enough colour to complement without competing against the composition.


Against these horizontal lines, strong verticals are provided by the stone circular studio and the massed use of the very vertical grass Calamagrostis Karl Foerster, seen above with the pale Poa labillardieri in front, and the almost invisible form (until you see it move) of Stipa gigantea that lines the path in front of the wall that encloses this small garden.


The studio itself is a delight; a large round sofa that invites a long sprawl where you are cocooned with reflections in both glass and water – and just for fun, a Tony Heywood jewelled sculpture on the wall behind.  It’s here that you really appreciate the beauty of grasses; their contrasts in form and texture, their varied movement from stiff to so airy you almost can’t see them, and their ability to capture the light.  Pass me a cream tea, please John, I think I’m here to stay.


John Makepeace
Tony Heywood