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The owner of this beautiful half-acre Leicestershire garden aims to keep the colour coming right up until the first frost
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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.”