A secluded oasis of brilliance!

This wonderful seven-acre garden set in rural Suffolk is testament to one plantsman’s dream of bringing joy and inspiration to its visitors

Annie’s top four gardening tips

  1. On dry soil it’s important to give plants the best possible start in life and preparation is essential. Soak the root-ball well before planting and incorporate plenty of compost into the soil, then water that, too. Then, after planting, give it a good drink and mulch.

  2. We plant in autumn whenever possible as it gives things a chance to settle in and get away. This means that they will be far more resilient if we get a hot, dry spring or summer the following year. 

  3. Remember that the Chelsea Chop – cutting plants back by as much as half in late May – is a really good way of increasing the number of flowers and stopping the plant from flopping. It works particularly well with sedums.

  4. Always take a good look at your plants and garden before you jump in and prune or start digging. There can be all sorts of things hiding in the undergrowth that you don’t see at first

A garden wonderland

A fabulous intrigue of secret spaces has been created from overgrown trees and a huge lawn

Teresa Lovick and Andrew Stephen’s early autumn jobs

1.       I’ll deadhead and feed the dahlias. That will help to keep them going well into October and November.

2.       We keep mowing the lawns to keep things really tidy.

3.       I will cut back, but not too vigorously. I leave some seed heads to encourage insects - in an area of intensive agriculture, we’re a safe haven for them.

Teresa’s top four for colour

A garden based on curves and circles

They’re designed to help this gorgeously colourful Essex patch transition effortlessly from area to area and room to room

Avril and Roger Cole-Jones’ top gardening tips

  • Always deadhead plants, including tulips and daffodils. In fact, deadhead everything, because if you kid a plant that it hasn’t set seeds it’ll carry on. This includes cosmos and even Californian poppies.

  • Try and live with rose diseases, as it’s too expensive to keep spraying with a fungicide. We strip off badly affected leaves – new leaves tend to come out clean.

  • When you’re buying plants in summer, pot them up, grow them on and then plant them out into the ground in autumn. You’ll find they will establish much better, especially in hot weather and in dry soils.

  • Mulching is very important, especially on dry soils. We compost everything we can to make our own mulch – but it’s never enough!

Avril and Roger Cole-Jones’ favourite plants

Saturated with colour

Surrounding this Bedford town house are borders overflowing with a melee of cottage garden annuals and perennials, which are the handiwork of Reverend Chris Damp

Chris’s tips for informal planting

• Grow as many plants as you can from seed – I have hundreds of seedlings potted up in spring ready to squeeze into any gaps. I sell on my spares at garden openings or give them to friends.

• To create plant-packed borders, I squeeze plants together a bit closer than I should so that they all mingle tightly.

• Don’t worry about precision planting according to colour, height or form. Just pop them in and wait and see what happens. Nature has a way of creating a dazzling display however plants are placed.

• If something isn’t working, you can dig it out, cut it back or move it. My displays are a moveable feast and I swap things around at the end of the season. 

Four favourite ‘sunshine’ flowers
Click the images to learn more about these favourites…

Poet's inspiration

This small, secluded retreat centre set in the Cambridgeshire countryside is an unforgettable place of peace, quiet and beauty

Head Gardener Jane Page’s gardening tips:

  • Have your “coffee time” in the garden. Wander around and pinch out the growing tips of longer shoots on many shrubs to encourage sideshoots that give denser, better structure. Good ones include hebes, osmanthus, hollies and many more, but obviously not just before flowering!

  • When hardy geraniums start getting unruly, chop then right back, feed and water and they produce new foliage and more flowers.

  • Poorly performing roses can be moved when dormant and may do better in their new spot. Root prune damaged and overlong roots to encourage finer, feeding roots, add Rootgrow mycorrhizal fungi, feed, water – and hope.

  • Don’t Chelsea Chop overgrown and sprawling sedums, common when they’re grown in very fertile soil, but lift them with a spade, cut back any long roots and put them straight back.

Jane’s Floral Favourites

Click the images to learn why these plants are amongst Caroline’s favourites…

A precise urban haven

This well-manicured paradise in south London features dense formal planting with a ‘decidedly bouffant’ look!

Owner Caroline Annesley’s gardening tips:

  • Don't worry about doing things at the wrong time of year. I was comforted by Christopher Lloyd's view that it usually doesn't matter, so if you feel like it, do it.

  • Go out at night with a torch and get rid of slugs by cutting in half with secateurs – disgusting but effective and less disgusting than crushing them underfoot.

  • I believe in feeding the soil. Lots of organic matter helps break up the clay and improves drainage, especially in winter.

Caroline’s floral favourites 

Click the images to learn why these plants are amongst Caroline’s favourites…