The Harris Garden, University of Reading. 20.04.13

When Gloria has a puzzle to solve in her life she disappears into the library at the University of Reading to research and reflect. It is her place of intellectual safety and she slips into the shelves like a slim volume of obscure verse. The Harris Garden at the other end of the campus is her inevitable destination when she needs air and excercise.

The garden was originally designed by the lovely Richard Bisgrove, his sensibility permeates the place. This broad view of the central grassland puts a restful heart into the scheme.

This combination of the fresh green leaves of a daylily and the purple red shoots of Paeonia lactiflora 'Mistral' is wonderful and courageous. It is at its best for a few weeks in April when the herbaceous border is preparing itself. In May the peony will flower, and in July the daylily will follow it. The wonder of the combination is only evident in the spring foliage.

This dry garden sparkles, though it is quite lush compared with those in the eastern counties. A much deeper mulch of stones is needed here to keep weeds under control. In the gardens of the western coast this would rapidly become a moss garden.

There are features of this garden that fill me with nostalgia. Richard Bisgrove was the guiding hand behind one of my very first gardens. As I look down this complex formal alley to the meadow beyond I can hear his gentle voice quietly and efficiently strangling my naive excesses.

These wave cut hedges are set at a height to almost enclose a space and yet maintain the sense of progress. It is a wonder.

I have long been in awe of this circle of conifers. It is a powerful and emphatic statement whispered in a cathedral. It depends on the impeccable judgement of scale and development over time. This is the work of a master presented with the casual nonchalence of a drawing off the cuff.

This little stream is a picturesque enhancement of the idea of a spring rising in a meadow. Seen here at its most perfect, before the lushness of summer growth entirely obscures the element of artifice. It glows in the centre of the site like finding your favourite filling in a box of chocolates. It isn't natural, it is intended to offer delight.

If you have any comments you can e-mail us: