When I was writing The Sea Garden I took pleasure in creating an imaginary garden above the sea on the French island of Porquerolles. The setting is among rocks and Mediterranean pines and scrub, where paths wind down to the sea - or end in precipitous cliffs, or calanques.
The grounds surround an old estate house, grand but decaying, with a honey stucco facade and a pillared terrace at the rear which overlooks the gardens.
The garden needs restoration: old pictures show cypress walks and formal garden rooms but in the present they are overgrown and gloomy. The art of the designer will be to recapture the mood of the original while bringing back light and health to the planting.
Key to one part of the garden is a topiary arch that looks out over the sea, holding a clue to its meaning in the view it frames.
An old bassin, a raised pond edged with stone, lies before the arch. It has been neglected and so tall are the yew hedges all around that the water it holds is a glassy black, not nearly as inviting as this one...
..more like this in atmosphere...
I'd like a tunnel of purple wisteria, too...
..and some datura - or devil's trumpet - that dangerous exotic with poison lurking under its intoxicating night fragrance and its hallucinogenic properties.
The garden will have dark corners and surprises - so that when you emerge from the garden it feels like a release into the lightness and colour of the island.