Landscaping a Communal Office Garden in Ashbourne, Derbyshire

It’s always exciting and pleasing when domestic clients enjoy their finished gardens. It is even better when they come back and ask you to design a second property when they move house.

But one of our clients trusted us enough to ask us to come back to design the central public courtyard at their new company headquarters.

In February 2018, we were asked to view a fascinating old building at Ednaston Park, near Ashbourne in the East Midlands. The building was formerly a family estate home and then, in later years, a convent and a nursing home.

Our clients, CWC Group, had acquired the building for conversion into a large corporate headquarters for themselves and some serviced office accommodation.

Designing a communal office garden

The garden site was enclosed on three sides by the building and would be used by staff for breaks and meetings. To the east was a large, grassed area that our clients would eventually transform with office pods for breakout working space and private meetings.

We designed a circular scheme to make for an interesting use of the enclosed area, creating flow and movement through this otherwise static space. The circular design gave us some deep planting areas, and staff and visitors could pace the curved paths while on a call, sit in some peaceful seclusion or contemplate the view over lunch.

We included a water feature to create some gentle noise and to act as a focus from the windows that look over the area. This large stainless steel sphere is very low-maintenance. It brings some reflective qualities, bouncing light around an otherwise shaded area.

The area is fitted with bespoke, curved hardwood benches atop blockwork and rendered walls. The paths feature textural paving, cobbles and gravel surfaces.

We were fortunate that the installation was handled by the client’s building division, which also completely refurbished the interior and façade of the building.

Once the paving and hardscape were complete, we planted the garden.

Creating a community garden feel

The planting here is perhaps not what one would typically expect in a commercial development. We have purposely chosen flowering plants as well as shrubs to give structure.

Here we have used Yew hedging, Hydrangea Limelight, Libertia grandiflora, Veronicastrum Lavendelturm, Molina Bergfreud and Rosa Kew Gardens (which the local rabbit population now leave in peace!)

We took these photos in October 2022, and you can see that there is still much interest in flower colour, leaf shape, and texture.

A well-being garden

The well-being of staff was on the list of requirements from our client, and the softness that grasses and flowers bring to the scheme makes the garden feel very much like a personal space. Feeling like you can leave your busy desk for a few minutes of headspace in a beautiful garden is good for staff morale.

We love the final finish and are told it’s a real talking point with staff and visitors. Few offices can boast such a green setting, and the building itself, sitting in its parkland estate, is a lovely place to work.

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