Amanda Merchant speaks to the proprietor Laurence Mitchell, formally trained…
The garden at The Lookout sits with its toes in the water on the banks of the stunning Exe Estuary. It’s infact about as close as you can get to coastal gardening without getting wet! You’d do well to spot it from the Lympstone foreshore though, as much of the 2 acre garden hunkers down behind a thick shelter belt of maritime toughies…namely blackthorn & hawthorn, which take much of the scorch out of the prevailing south westerlies that can blast the site with salt laden spray.
However even with the benefit of the windbreak and proximity to the mediating effect of the sea there are few softies in this garden. Much of the planting is designed by its garden designer owner Jackie Michelmore to blend into the English coastal landscape and give that washed up on the beach feel. Banks of hummocky ornamental grasses mimic the Dawlish Warren sand dunes in the distance, while ground hugging mounds of cliff-top dwelling sea pinks add a soft splash of colour to an otherwise minimalist palette. For Jackie, restraint is paramount and no plants fight for attention with the far reaching views. Naturalistic foreground planting serves to frame the views, and ‘windows’ cut in the shelter belt level with the house, direct the eye to points of interest in an otherwise expansive vista. Sections of blackthorn hedge have been carefully cloud pruned to allow the eye to travel beyond the garden, its undulating shapes echoing the rolling Haldon Hills and Powderham’s parkland trees on the far bank.
The use of natural, weathering materials across the site help make it polite on the landscape- a mantra Jackie uses wherever possible when designing gardens. Decking is used for sitting areas & walk ways, wooden sleepers for edging & retaining and even the gravel drive has grass growing up the middle. Both the house & garden are designed to disappear. But fear not! When it comes to finding The Lookout on the two afternoons it opens for charity in June you won’t need a compass…just follow the yellow NGS signs from the A376!