Design development The gardens

The project's aim was to provide hospitality for affluent guests, which required high-quality buildings, furniture and equipment in the guestrooms, together with the best of rural cuisine. The aim was to create a homely atmosphere, so that the clients would come back time and time again. This is not the cold, severe and elegant style of a hotel, but an enchanting and vibrant rural hospitality with activities in the garden, and the lively proximity of domestic animals, such as horses, donkeys, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens and geese.

The second phase of the development aimed to provide a wider range of services for guests. There is a group of buildings for company training and conferences, complemented by open air structures, a swimming pool, areas for intimate garden parties, and an open air oven for bread-baking and traditional cooking. A health and fitness centre with a garden as a core element is also under development. The guests will be able to rejuvenate physically and mentally in the Garden of Harmony, designed by Gabor Szucs.

Some gardens demonstrate the designer's will, but do not last; some can only be maintained by regular pruning, forcing plants against their natural habits; but the Garden of Somogy is alive and ever-changing. The designer's personality is expressed in a vivid, lively garden; henceforth the user of the garden will keep this process alive and moving. The plan secures a moment, but it also encodes processes of birth, change and passing. While, in the case of a building, the architecture can give a permanent frame to a shifting way of life, the keeper of a garden constantly reforms it, in keeping with the changing needs of life, and the garden designer can only provide a foundation. It is not just the garden itself that is organic, but also the process through which the garden is planned, created and constructed throughout the course of its existence.

The client, in this case, gave the designer a fairly open brief. She made some stipulations about parking spaces for herself and for her guests, and about open space for family activities. It was also very important to her that the typical flora of the Somogy landscape should be used in the garden. Otherwise she entrusted everything to the designer.

The designer was excited by the diversity and the romantic/picturesque aspects of the area. The new buildings were built on a high terrace, lying next to the main road, with a good view over the rippling hills and the low valley of a stream lined with trees and shrubs. There were no flat areas suitable for use around the buildings, as the sloping hillside

extended all the way to the stream. The original surfaces next to the buildings were inappropriate for the intended garden uses and could not remain. The realisation of the entry, the steps that gave access to the guest-house, the parking places, the barbecue and the furnished garden lounge, was only possible using a series of retaining walls to accommodate height differences. This stepping of the ground originates from the requirements of everyday use, but it melts into the landscape from the most important viewpoints.

A characteristic gate marks the transition between the welcoming area associated with the buildings and the outside world. The gate is the threshold that allows visitors to understand that they have arrived at a new place. People can enter this welcoming area on foot or by car, and when they arrive, they are faced with the Somogy landscape. The driver who speeds along the motorway and turns off the highway and arrives in Bonnya, slowing down a little bit on the hills of Somogy, turns through the gate and stops. It must be a real stop; he must wait for a moment before getting out of the car, looking around, calming down, for here is the true landscape of Somogy.

The creation of this welcoming place was a primary aim of the design. It was necessary to create an old-fashioned system of terraces and embank ments using retaining walls that varied in height from 500mm to 4m. These enabled the designer to enlarge the upper area and to create a fruit garden below, which became the most intimate resting area within the garden, where low walls for sitting were incorporated. The undulating lines of the retaining wall symbolise the outlines of the landscape, but at the same time, like all the curving, dynamic lines in the plan, it is a line full of energy, charged with mental and spiritual ideas, which draws upon the area's ancient culture and popular arts.

Beyond the guest-house, an enclosed area near to the stable forms an open-air lounge for community activities. It includes some characteristic structures, an open-air oven which provides all the functions of a kitchen and a sideboard, and an old restored well, which today has only ornamental value.

In the planting, the principle was to use species that reflected the character of the surrounding landscape, while also symbolising, in a sensitive way, the complex relationship between human beings and place. Next to the house, therefore, there is a great variety of species, including small ornamental bushes and perennials, and also some native species with high ornamental value. As well as some traditional forms of roses, we can find peonies, hydrangeas and yuccas, while the south front garden is planted with herbs typical of a peasant's garden: Mentha, Lavandula, Santolina, Salvia, Thymus and Rosmarinus. Further away from the house, a greater proportion of the more common and native species are planted, including Corylus colurna, Syringa vulgaris, Viburnum opulus, Amygdalus nana, Cotinus coggygria, Sambucus nigra, Euonymus europaeus, Lonicera japonica and Spiraea x vanhouttei.

Perennials are particularly important in such a young garden, where they provide the main ornamental interest. They are planted here in great numbers. There are rich flowerbeds forming a riot of colour around the house and along the main roads; they are planted with Iris, Campanula, Centrantus ruber, Solidago aurea, Rudbeckia, Phlox, Achillea and Lilium. The intensive use of flowerbeds is less and less evident as one moves away from the house and the main picnic areas. There are perennials not only along the garden paths, around the bushes and in certain parts of the grass-covered areas, but also along the roadside and opposite the gate to emphasise arrival. The driveway is lined with a welcoming avenue of maples (Acer campestre) while a pleasant sycamore in a round flowerbed radiates a sense of calm from the centre of the front garden.

The English yew (Taxus baccata), which used to be typical of this landscape, plays an important symbolic role. While the yew is considered the symbol of death in many cultures, it is also regarded as the symbol of life. The ancient Celtic warriors honoured it as a holy tree. The most effective bows were made out of yew and, according to historians of ecology, the huge number of war bows made during medieval times caused the extinction of English yew in many parts of Europe, including Hungary, where only some small yew forests survived in the Transdanubian region. In Hungarian culture the yew carries complex meanings. It is regarded as the root of history and the temple of wisdom, and it helps us to restore and to purify ourselves. Because of these strong associations, it was chosen to create a frame at the main entrance to the guest-house, bringing the 'energy of life' into the building.

The European white elm (Ulmus leavis) is another symbolic tree in Hungary. According to ancient traditions, the elm was the most significant saint's tree and was able to create a connection with the sky, therefore all the most important decisions were made beneath the elm tree. It was therefore essential that this species should be represented in the garden.

On the lower terraces there is a fruit garden planted with the varieties of fruit trees found in traditional peasants' gardens. On the middle terrace the fruit trees are next to the retaining wall and are grown on cordon, utilising the heat stored and re-radiated by the wall to ripen the fruit. This also adds character to the garden. The newly planted trees were advanced nursery stock, nursery-aged to create character and beauty in the shortest possible time.

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