With clever use of decking and retaining walls, this lush garden in Bedfordshire shows how you can make a slope an attractive feature
A sloping Kate Gardner and her husband Andrew are not people who do things by halves. When they took over their plot from Andrew’s parents more than 20 years ago it was a steeply sloping old smallholding. “It was almost a junkyard,” says Kate. “Overgrown holly trees surrounded the plot and the soil was unpromising, just Walls and waterfalls add colour and life to steep drops in the garden Left, banks of beds make the most of the sloping gardens. Right, Kate loves the flexibility of pot plants like orange builders’ sand. In places it was only 10cm (4in) deep over large sandstone boulders, so it wasn’t a garden for the faint-hearted!”
Today the garden couldn’t be more different. The couple removed an incredible 40 lorry loads of soil to build their house and, while they were at it, reconfigured the slope. Their generously-sized deck is an object lesson in how to deal with a garden on sandy soil that slopes steeply up from the house. By excavating a large area close to the back of the property, they created a wonderful, useable space to sit and enjoy the garden. The other advantage of this excavation is that when it rains water drains towards this area, giving it a cooler, lusher feel than the rest of the plot. Kate can now grow moisture-loving plants such as astrantias.
The first thing that visitors often remark on is the waterfall, which gives an impressive ‘wow’ factor to the garden. It’s also a clever way of dealing with the really steep drop that was made when the level area by the house was created. A stainless steel cascade creates the illusion of water and gives beautiful reflections even when the water isn’t running. Kate says that if she’s learned one lesson in her two decades at Dragon’s Glen, it’s that you can’t skimp on soil preparation. “As many gardeners know, sandy soil is ‘hungry’ soil, so to help the plants along, we spread between four and eight cubic metres of compost or well-rotted horse manure every autumn.
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