The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire — the home of Charles and Caroline Coaker —show off a clean, green structure balanced by romantic billowy planting. Non Morris takes a look at this beautifully judged garden; photographs by Val Corbett for Country Life.

The kitchen window of Everdon Hall looks out over a spreading magnolia tree that marks the visitor’s arrival to the house. When Charles and Caroline Coaker took on the ‘almost derelict’ house 25 years ago, renovations were delayed by planning issues, so they decided to start on the garden before they moved in and to enjoy the opportunity offered by an almost blank canvas: a few mature trees and an abandoned walled garden.

The Coakers asked garden designer Angel Collins to help them, starting with the walled garden, which had the advantage of being far enough away from the house not to clash with building works. Mrs Collins has returned at regular intervals over the years to develop other parts of the 4½-acre garden that gently encircles the house with views onto glorious parkland. ‘This is really why we fell in love with this place — everywhere you look, there are views to rolling hills,’ says Mrs Coaker.

Malus hupehensis in the Walled Garden emerge from a low circle of clipped box and a mound of Hebe rakaiensis. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

The new owner of Everdon Hall had a good idea of the style she had in mind: ‘I wanted the garden to be comfortable and soft, almost Italian. I love green; I wouldn’t mind if there was nothing else.’ Her brief for the key elements of the walled garden was even clearer. ‘I wanted a tennis court and a swimming pool to entice the children to the new house, but I didn’t want a kitchen garden. Nowadays, they are all terrible foodies, but when they were young all they would eat were frozen peas!’

Mrs Collins added clever, serpentine hedges of clipped beech and yew to screen gently the tennis court, break up the straight lines and create a series of welcoming, intimate spaces. An arched doorway leads to a grass path, flanked by clipped weeping silver pear trees that emerge from swathes of soft meadow-like grass dotted with bobbing allium heads, pheasant’s-eye narcissus and blue camassia.

A series of arches trained with white roses and Euphorbia charachia. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

At the far end, there is a wonderful ‘orchard’ of clipped and unclipped crab apples, underplanted with low circular platforms of box or sculptural mounds of Hebe rakaiensis. The crab apples include Malus transitoria, which is left unclipped to spread its cloud of white blossom in May.

These are followed by tiny fruit, which sit like yellow pearls along its outstretched branches. The very pretty M. hupehensis, with red fruit and excellent autumn colour, is gently shaped into rounded heads. Nearby, cushions of box and beehives of yew provide a wonderful architectural contrast to scented drifts of lavender, catmint and the clear pale blue of Iris ‘Jane Phillips’.

Looking into the Walled Garden. Box balls, Miscanthus gracillimus and Macleaya cordata soften the brick. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

There are roses everywhere. In the walled garden, the pink-flushed, creamy-white pom-poms of climber Rosa ‘Félicité Perpétue’ is trained behind the scented R. ‘Snowdon’ and, opposite, there is an entire wall of the wonderful single white R. ‘Cooperi’, which has glossy semi-evergreen foliage that looks good most of the year. The dry soil beneath is simply and effectively planted with a mass of Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, followed by Macleaya cordata, the blue-grey, almost fig-like leaves of which will stand well into autumn.

Straggly island beds of roses were rationalised and turned into a bespoke Rose Garden, where they joined blooms such as ‘John Clare’, ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and Mrs Coaker’s favourite English rose Eglantyne, all grown in simple, wooden-framed raised beds underplanted with catmint, geranium and gorgeous sheaves of irises — the reliable pale-blue ‘Jane Phillips’ and the dusky purple-black ‘Sable’.

The brick path at the back of the house, with box cubes, olive-oil jars and Calamintha nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’, leads to a dining terrace. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

Near the house, around the last of a series of dining terraces, are mounds of Rosa Wind-rush an unusual free-flowering semi-double of palest yellow with distinctive yellow stamens. This is planted in an easy combination with Sisyrinchium striatum, white valerian, rosemary and other herbs in a rounded bed that echoes the shape of a bay window.

The soft planting contrasts well with the smart terracotta olive-oil jars nestling in box cubes, which flank a brick path in between lacy, aromatic mounds of pale Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta ‘Blue Cloud’. At right angles to the path is a pleached-lime avenue that leads the eye out into the parkland beyond.

The pleached lime avenue, softened by hundreds of alliums and Miscanthus gracillimus, leads the eye to a David Harber sundial. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

In the front garden, Mrs Collins has broken up the generous lawn with four broad beds laid out with clipped yew, box and standard Portuguese laurel. This generous use of architectural, often evergreen planting as a backdrop to a full and romantic palette of bulbs, perennials and grasses for spring and summer is key to Mrs Collins’s approach.

Here, in the front border, she uses the rich-blue Geranium ‘Orion’, the frothy lime-green Alchemilla mollis and three pale hydrangeas: the green-white H. arborescens ‘Annabelle’, the lime fading to cream H. paniculata ‘Limelight’ and clean-white H. macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillière’, which ages to a gentle pink. Stars of the show, however, are the majestic dancing mounds of golden oats, Stipa gigantea, the arching stems of which can reach 8ft.

: In the front borders, standard Prunus lusitanica and yew cones provide all-year structure, infilled with Stipa gigantea and Geranium ‘Orion’.. The gardens at Everdon Hall, Northamptonshire. ©Val Corbett for Country Life

Beyond the borders, a gate leads to the new Arboretum. This former cricket pitch, which still has a low-slung pavilion at one corner, is now a special place where a restrained number of choice trees — it was Mr Coaker’s idea to select mostly oaks — have been planted. The central ‘square’ of the old cricket pitch is marked out with lime trees, but, otherwise, this has become a thoughtful, semi-formal space with mown paths through long grass.