“It was music to my ears,” recounts landscape designer Matthew Bromley of the commission to create a European-inspired garden for a family’s vacation home. “I’m influenced by French and English garden traditions, and these clients wanted a space that would recall time spent under enchanting pergolas in the south of France.” Visions of dappled shade, lush vines and an elegant table led the way as Bromley set about transforming an unused area behind the guest cottage. The resulting hybridized layout of outdoor dining room and raised fruit cages would make even Louis XIV, himself a proponent of the potager garden, take note.
“The dining area needed to be large enough to host summer lunches and evening cocktail parties, but it was also important to make the space feel intimate,” Bromley continues. He opted for an iron structure topped with a woven canopy of native willow wattle. Furnishings include a zinc-topped trestle table paired with long benches to maintain a casual vibe and a Gustavian-inspired sideboard of Bromley’s design to keep all the accoutrements of entertaining at hand. He then added clipped boxwood globes, climbing hydrangeas and myrtle topiaries, as well as potted lavender and rosemary “for garnish or simply a hint of fragrance.”
Just beyond the pergola are the raised planters, designed to double as an area where guests can wander during parties. “They’re traditionally known as fruit cages and have been used in Europe for centuries to keep birds from stealing berries—I repurposed the concept here to keep chipmunks from eating the vegetables.” Made of cedar, their design features side doors that swing open for easy harvesting.
Moving outside of these more controlled areas, Bromley let a spirit of “benign neglect” take over, with grape ivy growing over the cottage and riotous vitex shrubs edging the pergola’s enclosing stone wall. “It suggests the garden has been here forever,” he notes. “Those sorts of sensory changes and layered textures are at the heart of all my designs.” The crunch-crunch sound of gravel underfoot heightens the sense of excitement, too. “It’s incredibly rewarding to embark on a project like this,” Bromley says. “We’ve created a space where you feel truly transported to another part of the world.”