‘When the sun comes up you feel like you’re in heaven’

Award-winning photographer Clive Nichols chooses Pettifers in Oxfordshire as his favourite place to visit. He has been described as ‘Britain’s Best Garden Photographer’ by Canon Photo Plus Magazine.

Pettifers, Oxfordshire

Pettifers, Oxfordshire

Clive Nichols has photographed some of the best gardens in the world.

Clive Nichols has photographed some of the best gardens in the world.

I first visited Pettifers in 2000. On the recommendation of fellow photographer, Jerry Harpur, I contacted Gina Price the owner and she invited me to take a look. Now I live in the same village, which is a gift, as I can go any time and know that I can get great shots.

I was struck by the combination of formality and planting, it was absolutely beautiful.
It slopes downhill to the east and the morning light floods into the bottom of the garden. In midsummer I set my alarm so I am there for sunrise – as early as 4.30am – when the sun back-lights the plants with an incredible orange glow.

Being there in the ‘golden hour’ is a celestial experience;
it doesn’t last for very long, but the adrenalin starts to flow and the hairs on the back of your neck start to stand on end. It is a feeling of being somewhere special and magical that you don’t get very often.

It isn’t that big, I’m guessing only a couple of acres.
The front garden is quite small and unobtrusive, but to the rear is a generous lawn, flanked by two large colourful borders of perennials, bulbs and grasses dropping to the parterre, so there are nice changes in level.

The garden changes throughout the season so there’s always something of interest. There are the snowdrops, then waves and waves of daffodils. There are fritillaries and Anemone blanda, and she is really good with tulips. The box and yew parterre gives structure, especially noticeable in the winter, and Gina and her gardener Polly are constantly updating and tweaking the borders.

Pettifers is where I learnt the most about light and colour. It taught me that the bones of a garden need to be strong, it isn’t just about the planting. And, also, that every element should be to the same high standard, or it detracts from the whole. I took to it straight away and it still excites me now, 20 years later.

Words: Naomi Slade

Pettifers, Lower Wardington, Banbury, Oxford, OX17 1RU
Tel: 01295 750232, Email: virginiaprice@btinternet.com
Open to groups by appointment