The owner of this beautiful half-acre Leicestershire garden aims to keep the colour coming right up until the first frost
Beneath a jungle of weeds lay the bones of a fine garden in Leicestershire that the owner is restoring and developing
Every part of this exotic, lush green, Dorset paradise created by a pair of Royal Academy artists holds a surprise for visitors.
Imaginative planting within a stylish geometric layout offers a wonderful spectacle in late summer in this Leicestershire garden
Far from the madding crowd in rural Dorset, this quintessential country cottage idyll pays tribute to its owners' labour of love.
Mediterranean plantings, hot beds and exotic specimens are carefully nurtured in this upward-sloping Worcestershire garden
This lush London garden overflows with plants, but it has all been carefully orchestrated by its landscape designer owner
The owner of this garden has changed her philosophy and now works with wildlife, birds and bees to create a harmonious space
This garden in the suburbs of Sheffield is packed with a host of colourful plants that provide evolving, year-round interest.
This three-acre plot has been transformed from a weedy wilderness into a plant paradise by a couple who really enjoy their gardening
This carefully constructed, plant-packed Herefordshire garden welcomes pollinators and is a plot for all seasons
A County Durham garden that battles the elements on an exposed, south-facing site to create a colourful piece of paradise
When Doug and Linda Smith bought Meon Orchard and its 17th century cottage 30 years ago, the garden was a neglected grass
field in which there were just 12 remaining trees. But the potential was enormous. The Smiths wanted a blank canvas on which they could design and construct their dream garden, with many plants you wouldn’t expect to be grown outside. But after the first year,
when they waited patiently, only for no plants of any interest to come up, they started all over again! Their aim was a garden that flowed visually, not broken up into different parts or ‘rooms’. The result is a succession of round lawns with island beds joined up through winding grass paths.
“The paths go off at angles, making you want to explore the garden further,” Doug says. “It makes the garden look larger, too.” The garden is close to the River Meon, which is now accessible as the Smiths have since bought the adjacent 20 acre water meadow, including half a mile along the river frontage, where you can find orchids such as Dactylorhiza incarnata. But as the land is so close to the river, it’s in a frost pocket, so they started their project by planting eucalyptus trees to create a more sheltered area.
“We wanted fast-growing evergreens giving us height,” Doug says. They gradually created beds one at a time and, after a while, they added a conservatory and three greenhouses, enabling them to grow an impressive collection of tender plants, which give the garden a certain flair. Interesting architectural plants such as pseudopanax, oreopanax and podocarpus among tree ferns like Dicksonia Antarctica make sure the garden has year-round interest. A mix of annual plants such as tithonia, the Mexican sunflower, cosmos, cleome, Nicotiana tabacum ‘Burley’, tender shrubs such as lantana, and perennials such as Impatiens tinctoria add intense splashes of colour in summer. Hanging baskets with rhipsalis, geraniums and begonias add further seasonal interest. Doug and Linda dug out a 60cm (2ft) deep ‘stream’, and planted it with hardy water lilies, and they transformed a small swimming pool into a fish pond.
“We’ve also got tropical water lilies, water cannas and colocasia in water filled barrels at the front of the house,” Doug says. They are among a wide range of potted succulents, such as aeonium and echeveria now and narcissus in spring. Opening the garden to the public has been a huge success, and Doug and Linda are very pleased by the (“openmouthed!”) reactions of visitors. Due to the milder climate, Doug and Linda are able to grow tender perennials such as cannas, bananas and dahlias outside, with some winter protection. Other plants, including Trachycarpus fortunei, the Chinese windmill palm, which are hardy in most parts of the UK, fit in perfectly, along with Paulownia tomentosa, the foxglove tree, pruned hard in
early spring for big foliage. As the garden doesn’t have any walls and remains relatively open, even the north-west facing area gets evening sun, and the dahlia collection does well there.
“We planted woodland plants including fatsia, mahonia, roscoea and Pseudopanax laetus in the east-facing part of the garden, which gets most shade,” Doug says. The garden is full of diversity and beauty, but for Doug and Linda it’s equally important to look after the plants carefully and make them available to others. The initial plantings of eucalyptus developed into a National Collection with more than 30 species. They include Eucalyptus nitens, a vigorous tree which can grow up to 90m (300ft) in the wild and has reached an impressive 30m in the Smiths’ garden, and Eucalyptus gregsoniana, Wolgan snow gum, a more compact eucalyptus which grows approximately 4m (13ft) high, offering a fantastic display of creamy white flowers in May. When one of the eucalyptus trees blew over during a bad gale in 2014, Linda and Doug placed four logs in the garden to sit on, and turned the stump upside down to plant it up with sedums and other small plants. They like to experiment. “Don’t read too many books,” Doug says.
This plant and scent-filled, colourful ornamental and kitchen garden in Bedfordshire is a shining example of trial and error
Susan and David Sutton’s garden has changed dramatically since they took it over in 2000. A once simple plot that previously belonged to David’s parents,has been transformed into an intricately sectioned out, bustling space, filled with scent, colour and beauty, as well as lots of tasty produce in the veg beds. As soon as they moved into their beautiful Victorian home, a palebricked, classic example of the era, they wanted to get working on the quarter-ofan- acre garden.
“There are lovely pictures of David as a youngster riding his bike on the lawn,” says Susan. “It was a spacious and simple garden, perfect for kids, just with a plain grassy area, fence and a few trees.”
It was, effectively, a blank canvas on which the Suttons could work. Not only has the garden changed a lot since those early days, but it’s also an ever evolving work in progress, with each year bringing new challenges and ideas to carry out. Susan and David threw themselves into designing and planting up the garden 17 years ago, but soon learned that it’s only ever temporary.
“Things change,” she says. “Trees grow and resulting shady spots emerge, plants crowd others, shrubs widen and lots of things need moving.”
For example, their pond became swamped by overhanging trees. “It got sludgy and was always in the shade, so last year we moved it to the other side of the garden in a sunnier spot,” says Susan.
“Often you might think some ideas work on paper, but many don’t in practice – you have to get to know your garden well over time.” They have the perfect mindset of good gardeners – that is, they’re always learning, and are happy to correct mistakes when they arise. To reduce the need for too much change, they undertake projects one at a time, thinking about how best to do things, what works and what doesn’t.
Two or three years ago the weight of the huge rose arches meant the frames collapsed. Undeterred by this, they methodically took down all the frames, laid them on their sides, trimmed away the overgrowth and put the whole structure back up again. But this time they had the inspired idea to interlace the rose varieties so they grew among each other handsomely. Last year saw some changes in the veg garden, too.
“I’ve lifted our herbs into raised beds,” says Susan. “It simply means we don’t have as far to pick them, and they now get a lot of moisture and good quality, crumbly soil. The best part is that our chickens run straight past them now and don’t stop to nibble!” There are lots of different ‘garden rooms’ with varied plant interest. Elsewhere, they’ve created a new, stylish set of triangular beds, each full of coloured and structural shrubs.
In 2003, Robert Marshall and his partner bought a house off-plan on a brand-new estate. Their dream was to create an amazing garden from scratch. They relished the challenge of designing a garden in a relatively small space with lots of unusual plants and interest throughout the seasons. They visited as many garden shows as possible and also took inspiration from several other gardens in the National Garden Scheme, with Barnsdale in nearby Rutland a particular favourite. The result is a garden that’s unexpected.
“You won’t find a traditional lawn, but this gives us more space for plants,” Robert says. Instead, there are herbaceous borders, an aquatic garden, a pergola and quite a bit of paving, although you won’t see a lot of it as it’s covered with container plants! There’s also a small greenhouse so a greater variety of plants can be grown. “I think every garden should have one,” says Robert.
“We grow a range of half-hardy exotics in the glasshouse, such as brugmansia, ginger and tibouchina, to extend the flowering period.” They’re at their best from August to October, when they’re moved out into the garden in containers. Using the same trick, Robert makes sure there’s a stunning displays of plants all year round. There’s plenty of winter and spring interest in the garden and at the moment Cyclamen coum, Daphne bholua Jacqueline Postill’, Daphne pontica, hellebores, aconites, snowdrops, hamamelis, sarcococca and camellias, flowering right up to spring, look really good. Then there are Daphne laureola ‘Margaret Mathew’, pulmonarias and daffodils flowering in February and March, among various ferns, bamboos, Arum italicum Marmoratum’ and Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’. In spring, there are lamiums, flowering currants, tulips and cardamine. As soon as the plants in the ‘winter garden’ in the herbaceous borders have died down, around March, Robert will move in his extensive hosta collection, containing 250 varieties. All hostas, from the miniature ‘Pandora’s Box’ to the giant ‘Empress Wu’, are grown in containers. Plants are placed on the borders, and around them, giving the impression they’re planted.
“When the hostas have died down, we put them at the side of the house or hide them elsewhere, and replace them with other plants that have seasonal interest,” Robert says. When Robert and his partner designed the garden, they started with structural plants.
Six betula ‘Grayswood Ghost’, two fastigate hornbeams, a Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Frisia’ and a cercis planted in the ground as well as hedging, ensure the site is sheltered. “We made a list of our favourite plants and started plant hunting,” Robert explains. “It’s a pleasure to track down plants to create a garden rich in diversity. Hopefully, we can inspire other people with
Trees, hedges and tall plants give you height in your garden, which you need for structure. Don’t be afraid of trees if you have a small garden – try slow growing ones. I’m an advocate of hard surfaces in a small garden, because you can fill the space with container plants with seasonal interest. Create different habitats with a pond, trees and open areas. A small glasshouse will give you the opportunity to grow a wider variety of plants and extend the flowering period in the garden.
We have a clay soil, and even though we’ve enriched it over the years with mulch, it limits the range of plants you can grow. With container plants, however, you can cheat and create suitable conditions for different plants. With the different habitats you create, you’ll invite in variations of birdlife, such as woodpeckers, blue tits, great tits, sparrows and blackbirds.”
A look into a classically English Shropshire garden
In winter, Wollerton Garden is a subdued mix of greens, oranges and browns, holding its own with a collection of sleek, neatly clipped and well-tended yew topiary, russet hornbeam hedges and an alley of mature limes. Vertical new summer growth on the limes turns bright red in winter, shining in the seasonal sunshine. These expertly trimmed stalwart trees stand sentinel, guarding the beds of evergreen foliage, seed heads and grass stems, left in place until a new wave of early spring growth from snowdrops bursts forth.
The garden isn’t open in winter – just between April and September – but to see its wintry nooks and crannies is an insight into what can be done to keep your garden alive at this time of year. It was a chance occurrence in the early 1980s that led Lesley Jenkins to reignite her love for Wollerton, a 16th century house with adjoining sloping garden. That is, her parents lived there for a short while years before, her mother being a keen gardener. When Lesley was teaching nearby, a country lane diversion meant she had to make an unexpected trip past the house, where she noticed a ‘for sale’ sign. “It was pure serendipity,” says Lesley. “I’d always loved the place and felt drawn back. What greeted us when we moved in wasn’t the prettiest of pictures, though.”
The garden was a wild and overgrown spot, a large field that had gone to seed. It evenhad cows grazing at the end of it! A real task was ahead of Lesley and her husband John in transforming its fortunes, but one they took on with relish. “Both our mothers were wonderful gardeners, so we picked up some knowledge and enthusiasm from them. We’re not formally trained in gardening, though,” says Lesley.
It’s encouragement to us all that the Jenkins are amateurs, and yet the blank canvas they bought has been moulded by them over the years into a gleaming example of a beautiful, classic, yet forward thinking English garden. “We’re both rather passionate plants people really, and also have a bit of an eye for design, so that helps,” she says. After a short period of small island beds and lawn areas for their children’s cricket games, they set to work on how they really wanted their garden to be. Armed with baler twine, they measured out wall and bed space, and the formal garden nearest the house was born.
The wider garden is a contrasting feast of more informal planting and less strict structure, which is a treat to amble around. They were advised to open the garden for charity, then eventually as a business some years ago, which has thrived since. “The site is really lovely, and has a wonderful spirit to it, which I wanted to adhere to from the start by bringing back some of its magic,” says Lesley. Her background in theatre design led to a theatrical element being brought in – hot beds of summer perennials such as dahlias, heleniums and crocosmia with roses and fuchsias, set among banana trees. She is a fan of perennial plants, whereas John loves shrubs and trees, so he went to town with a mini arboretum of, among others, rowan, euonymus and a black walnut tree that looms large now.
“He was like a child in a sweet shop! That area needs a good sort out as it has too many overly large trees,” she says. In fact, Lesley prefers the ‘less is more’ ethos these days. Her tastes have changed and she has a clear idea of what she wants, all helped along by head gardener Phil Smith. “We’re not afraid of chopping and changing, taking walls out or adding new plants, which keeps everything fresh and evolving,” says Lesley.
There are some classic areas like the rose and sundial garden, the old garden and yew walk – not sparse but all bustling with colour and life. Novel twists among the precisely-clipped formal bushes are long areas of grass left for buzzing bees, a shady, fern-clad spot among the trees, a woodland croft walk and a riot of reds and oranges from achillea, dahlias and crocosmia, all among lime grasses in the Lanhydrock garden. Muted minimal areas soften the journey as you walk through greenery and grasses. While Lesley loves using colour as an art form in the garden, she is aware of the need for simplistic beauty. In fact, one of her favourite plants is Primula vulgaris, our native creamy-yellow common-or garden primrose, for its quiet spring charms. She has banks of them, which have self-seeded over 30 years to create a sea of scented blooms each year.
A misty winter morning, Bodnant Winter Garden looks dramatic against the backdrop of the mountains of North Wales. Three years ago, the ambitious project of creating a winter garden from an old Edwardian rockery was finally achieved. “This was an area which had been a bit neglectedbefore, but now it’s the reason that Bodnant Garden remains open in winter, too. It just gives visitors an extra reason to visit the garden, although there’s lots of winter interest in the rest of the garden as well,” head gardener John Rippin explains. At only half an acre, the winter garden is relatively small in comparison to the whole garden, which covers 80 acres, but as John says: “It’s quality, not quantity that counts.” At this time of year, the Winter Garden is a vibrant combination of the shining bark of betulas and acers, the brightly-coloured stems of dogwoods, brambles and phyllostachys and the smooth grasses. “On a frosty day when the sun is shining, the garden is transformed into a magical winter landscape,” John says. The gleaming colours of irises, cyclamen and galanthus are set off against the dark bark. “The bark mulch is our secret,” John adds.
A good quality composted pine bark stops the ground from drying out in summer and protects the roots during winter. As it’s slow to break down, it provides nutrients for the plants for years. The local acidic clay soil allows the garden to grow a wide range of ericaceous plants such as azaleas, camellias and the beautiful Bodnant. rhododendron hybrids, which you’ll find nowhere else, and the flowers of hydrangeas are turning blue due to the acidity in the soil. John and his team of 23 gardeners make the most out of the garden being situated on an old rockery. “The ups and downs of the rockery allows us to grow a variety of plants,” John says. Bulbs such as the Iris reticulata varieties and the galanthus especially benefit from being planted in sheltered pockets, plus the irises and cyclamen get a free draining soil.
After Christmas, Galanthus nivalis, Galanthus elwesii, Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ as well as some unusual varieties like ‘Grumpy’ look splendid, as well as the irises, cyclamen and daffodils. Sweetly-scented plants are dotted all around the garden – the fragrant witch hazels with their spidery flowers, the pinkish and white flowers of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ which open in January and February, and sarcococcas, which are not only in the Winter Garden but all over Bodnant Garden. There’s a sarcococca in the reception area that welcomes visitors into the garden with its beautiful scent. “The garden starts to look really good now that the structured planting is established,” John explains. However, he’s not the type to rest on his laurels: “We want to keep getting the garden better and better, and find new ways to improve it,” he says. It’s a never-ending journey, learning from problems and finding solutions.
In the beginning, the salix were eaten by rabbits, so they were replaced by dogwood, and the mice liked the crocus bulbs, so they’ve been replaced by other bulbs. There are exciting plans for the garden, too, with the extension of the snowdrop path leading into the old park and the opening of Furnace Meadow, with a variety of wild flowers to see. The Winter Garden has a contemporary style, which blends in harmoniously with the rest of Bodnant Garden, which dates back to the late 19th century and, since 1949, has been cared for by the National Trust.
A plot designed to be a wildlife wonderland
Most of us are now aware of the plight of bees that are in decline due to a combination of human and environmental factors. But this is far from the case at Old Allangrange in the Scottish Highlands. Here, wildlife of all sorts, but particularly bees, are very much welcome and planting is aimed at encouraging and supporting them. “Our garden at Old Allangrange on the Black Isle has been providing a home for birds, small mammals, bees and other invertebrates for nearly 20 years,” says owner JJ Gladwin. And thanks to JJ’s company, Black Isle Garden Design, this assistance is spreading throughout the locality. “We work towards halting and reversing the decline in local bee populations by encouraging people to create bee-friendly garden habitats. We transform dull spaces and make them more attractive for people and wildlife,” explains JJ. “Bees deserve our support and we ensure every garden we plant is designed with nectar and and pollen-rich, bee-friendly plants, and are managed using healthy, organic principles to help give bees a brighter future.”
The 17th century, lime-washed house at Old Allangrange, the colour of ripening barley when the sun shines on it, is the backdrop to this “formal-ish” garden. Formal in its structure, based on topiary, parterres, a lime walk, formal garden, herb garden, mound and orchard. Informal, in that plants are allowed to “get on with it”, to self-seed and grow where they want to. Wildflowers and even wildlife-beneficial weeds are encouraged to flourish to provide food and shelter for the wildlife. When asked what has influenced her planting styles, JJ replies, the garden designers and plantspeople Piet Oudolf, Mien Ruys, Gertrude Jekyll as well as Peter Rabbit!
The garden uses sculpted hedges and topiary to play with perspectives and to either hide or expose the spectacular views. “When we moved here, there was no garden, just some fine trees. I wanted a garden in front of the house, not a car park. So we put in a formal design of box hedging using the Saltire (the Flag of Scotland) that appears on the doors in the house as a starting point, and then split them again to make eight parterres,” says JJ. This remains the heart of the garden and everything else, in some way, refers back to it to ensure cohesion, though there are many other elements to the rest of the garden, each with their own strong and individual atmosphere.