Bristol Harbourside was a Millennium landmark project. Balston & Company was the landscape consultant to the Concept Planning Group, a consortium of three local architects, Ferguson Mann, The Alec French Partnership and Bruges Tozer. They located all the new buildings and designed the urban spatial context.
The scheme was designed to accommodate a number of urban activities, and to form a focal area in a very rundown part of central Bristol embraced by the Floating Harbour.
A public art works programme formed a major part of the commission. Eight major works within the squares and spaces included ‘Zenith’, a light sculpture by David Ward, and ‘Aquarina’, a water terrace sculpture by William Pye.
It is considered to be a considerable success in terms of urban regeneration and landscape planning, and was winner of the Civic Trust National Award for Urban Design and the RTPI Award for Planning in the Public Realm.
Centenary Garden, Exbury
Contemporary in style, the Centenary Garden contains subtle nods to the Rothschild family history and has been planted with a particular focus on mid to late summer. It was planted two years ago in an old tennis court, almost at the centre of Exbury Gardens, and was carefully hidden from public view whilst it grew and matured. Now open to visitors, its scores of beautiful shrubs, climbers and perennials are in full bloom, providing a peaceful and fragrant spot for the public to explore.
The garden is a contemporary, intimate space, focusing on late flowering summer perennials, interwoven between a strong vertical planted structure, with the existing yew hedging proving an evergreen backdrop. The central area is sunken, enhancing the three dimensional space, with the Rothschild 5 Arrows coat of arms in black Caledonian slate set into York stone paving. At the far end of the garden is a curved timber bench surrounded by cloud-pruned evergreen azaleas, a modern salute to the core history of the Gardens. Just over 2,000 plants have been used. Key structural plants include Gingko – running through the main planting beds; Heptacodium micanoides – the pair of multi-stemmed trees in the far end bed; Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ – en masse at the far end around the Heptacodium; Rhus typhina ‘Tiger eyes’ – contrasting with the existing Yew in the north-west corner, and Miscanthus ‘Graziella’ – running in swathes between the Gingkos.
Chelsea Flower Show (2013)
The East Village show garden, designed by Michael Balston and Marie-Louise Agius, and sponsored by Delancey, won a Gold Medal at the 2013 RHS Centenary Chelsea Flower Show.
Named after the first residential legacy to result from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the East Village Garden brought the East to the West with a magnificent garden to celebrate the birth of London’s newest neighbourhood.
Taking inspiration directly from the history, form and ethos of East Village, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding Lea Valley area, it celebrated the creation and delivery of London’s ‘Legacy Promise’– a neighbourhood which offers the best of city living but with the luxury of vast amounts of open space and spacious private balconies for all its residents.
The garden had an urban feel, characterised by materials including timber, glass and steel which resonated with the contemporary design and construction of the East Village neighbourhood. It was surrounded by an abstract ‘urban wall’ to create the sense of a city. However, the garden was also heavily plant orientated, filled with drifts of herbaceous plants, shrub borders and mature trees. This created the juxtaposition of ‘urban’ and ‘green’, which reflected the ethos of London’s newest neighbourhood.
It was based around a series of leaf shaped areas including lawns, a body of water and planting beds through which ran a long, sinuous path. The form not only reflected the curvaceous private and public gardens in East Village but on a wider scale, referenced the new landscape of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park with its long winding river, meandering banks, wetlands, paths and the curving architecture of the Stadium, Velodrome and Aquatics Centre.
At the rear of the garden was a curved seat within a rising glass back. Contemporary in material and form, it echoed the enclosed vertical glass balconies that are attached to many of the apartments in East Village.
Along the long side was located a chevron shaped deck that extended into the garden giving visitors the impression of being in the garden. Using a glass balustrade, steel uprights and a curved timber roof, the balconies were reminiscent of those at East Village.
The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of horticultural excellence that each year sets the agenda for horticulturists and gardeners across the globe. The 2013 show was even more special as it marked the centenary of the Flower Show on the Chelsea site, first held in 1913.
This site is focused around the development of agricultural barns. There was very little mature planting in the vicinity and so a programme of woodland planting was a priority in order to provide screening and shelter.
An existing attenuation pond was transformed through significant drainage works, re-shaping, and contouring to create a stunning fixed level pond with a jetty and small island. Shrub & tree planting was kept to a minimum, so that the large wildflower meadows with mown paths take the eye toward the wider ‘borrowed’ landscape of the surrounding woodland and fields.
A major country house fallen into disrepair. The Grove has been re-invented as a first class country house hotel with conference facilities, leisure club and a major golf course.
The Practice was invited to restore and redesign the large dilapidated gardens. Picking up on the original 18th and 19th Century layouts, we have incorporated new axial paths across the re-created formal gardens. This has been overlaid with a network of sinuous paths, a stepped canal, a massive herbaceous border and a wide variety of smaller gardens.
A four acre walled garden has been redesigned to include a restored greenhouse, a swimming pool, tennis courts, croquet lawn and potager.
This site for this project was originally a farm that had been very poorly maintained. There were considerable planning hoops to jump through which resulted in the house being set at a much lower level than the original property. As such, the challenge was set as to how to site it within the landscape whilst adhering to very tight controls on its location. The site has extraordinary views across the Test Valley and as such, the setting borrows much of the landscape beyond.
This is one of the most exciting sites ever tackled by Balston Agius.
High on rocky cliffs on the coast north of Dublin, it has breathtaking views over Dublin Bay and on to the Wicklow mountains.
A new house subject to stringent planning constraints was designed for the site by Barratt Lloyd Davis and Associates.
Working in close collaboration with the client and architects, a new garden was designed to complement the house and cope with the difficulties of a steep slope subject to frequent gales.
We were glad to be able to take advantage of this unusually warm location to grow plants which elsewhere in Britain and Ireland are of marginal hardiness.
A small, split level London Garden, with a brief to create an intimate space that you could enjoy without the feeling of being overlooked. With the garden so small, and with a strong contemporary glass window seat in the kitchen, we needed to design something which created an illusion that the external space is an extension of the internal space. A tall, honed, black basalt water wall, centred on the kitchen and lit from below, will form the centre piece of the garden on the main axis through the kitchen. The planting focuses on textures, foliage and year round interest.
This small London garden was dominated by a large pair of Dawn Redwoods whose root systems engulfed the garden; there was an imposing high retaining wall at the bottom level and a struggling lawn.
The clients were building a contemporary glass and steel annexe to their basement kitchen, as well as a ground floor office that would lead directly out into the garden. We created a dining terrace at an intermediate level which helped overcome the awkward level change and which became an extension of the living space inside.
A dramatic gnarled, ancient Olive tree was planted as a focal point in the centre of the garden, flanked in the background by a pair of Himalayan Birches, replacing the Dawn Redwoods. Their ghostly white bark contrasts with the deep green colour of the rear wall. A green and white planting scheme with blue accents was designed. Climbing white roses and blue passion flowers were planted to cover a new bespoke boundary wall trellis.
Maggie’s Centre, Leeds
Balston Agius were delighted to be asked to collaborate with Thomas Heatherwick in the production of a design for the new Maggie’s Centre in Leeds.
The external design is generated from the topography, building form, access and views as well as roof usage. The external environment sets out to be in sympathy with the organic form of buildings. It seeks to provide both physical and psychological shelter. A development of low-key woodland will be welcoming, grounding and will celebrate the cycle of the seasons. It creates a familiar natural ambience with no intellectual challenge. Furthermore, it helps re-establish a lost landscape even though at a miniature scale.
At present the site is a tiny island of green, sterilised by mowing and located within a comprehensive blanket of building. But with the enriching ecology of woodland as a prime generator of the overall design, and with new planting at both ground level and roof, the site becomes an oasis in the concrete desert.
Our association with the owners of this garden has been a long and happy one. It has spanned two private gardens and two hotel gardens with works continuing down the years; creating this garden has truly been a joint effort.
The clients work hard in the garden themselves, and their contribution in terms of ideas has complemented and reinforced our own. It is a model relationship that we believe has produced the best possible result which is reflected in the overall harmony and beauty of the place.
With an emphasis on late summer display, it is one of the last gardens of the season in Oxfordshire to feature in the National Gardens Scheme.
This garden overlooking the Blackmoor Vale in Somerset, is perched on the side of a steep escarpment with sumptuous views.
As well as a new veranda and extensive terraces below, the brief required a large octagonal conservatory attached to the house, and an indoor swimming pool half buried into the hillside below. These were all designed and detailed by Michael Balston.
A tennis court was installed near the swimming pool and a ha-ha constructed that separated the garden from the fields below.
The old kitchen garden was redesigned and replanted. A new state-of-the-art lean-to greenhouse was designed and built on the back of the garages.
At the bottom of the hill there was an opportunity to create an extensive lake with an island, a classical pavilion, and extensive tree planting – all in all a demanding and an exciting scheme.
The gardens at Manor Farmhouse, Patney, were both a working laboratory and a showcase for Michael Balston’s work, and have been widely featured in the gardening press. They were developed over the 28 years for which it was his family home, and have been an essential aid in learning the practicalities of garden design, planting and management.
Soil, aspect, view and micro-climates have been exploited to the full. A vast range of plants is grown in a coherent layout that delights throughout the year. Both traditional and modern materials have been used, imparting a distinct character to each area.
Designed to a firm rationale that is sympathetic to the genius of the place, the garden is an inspiration to clients, visitors and staff alike and continues to evolve.
Here we have the garden of a previous employee, valued for her skill in planting design which is evident in these photographs.
An informal network of paths in brick and local stone meanders through the garden. A rotating summerhouse provides a sheltered place to sit and watch the fish in the pool below. The star attraction in the garden remains the planting.
After the extensive and varied garden at Manor Farmhouse, Patney, Michael’s new garden at Alton Barnes brings the challenge of the small space (less than half an acre) and the desire to include a wide range of interesting plants.
It has also had to go through an unexpected evolution of fitting in a wedding with consequent moving of mature pleached limes and much brick-laying. The development of the garden continues in 2014 – although the flood waters of January and February have caused inevitable delays.
This project was an exciting garden scheme for a new house near Box that replaces a group of redundant farm buildings. Lying on the side of a steep hill, there are magnificent views to the south which inform the design.
The three dimensional geometry is highly complex, requiring considerable terracing. However, this has been achieved with minimal disruption to the beautiful existing landscape. A dramatic watercourse has been created, consisting of a series of pools and a canal which passes the house before discharging into a large circular mirror pool.
The project comprises the building of a large new country house to replace an existing farm complex. It is situated on the south-westerly facing slopes of the Yorkshire Wolds with magnificent views over the River Humber.
The house has a classic plan but within a modern form and the garden responds to suit. With complicated level changes to resolve, it makes use of water extensively in pools and cascades. It includes a series of gardens at different levels with a varied range of horticulture. There is an extensive kitchen garden.