In the garden

It is very much ‘our’ garden – John grows the vegetables and tends the five large compost bins, pruning the roses and keeping the topiary shapes in order and, or course, all the heavy jobs!  I love to do the propagation of plants both of the tender perennials for the garden and also for the plant sales, which are always very popular, not to mention the constant weeding and dead heading.

Octagonal, herons and summer house. Image by Nicola Stocken-TomkinsThe half acre partly walled garden has evolved over several years rather than having been planned in total. A very floriferous garden from May to September with the focal point of the main garden being an octagonal fountain set within a circular lawn and surrounded by flower beds which are mostly filled with herbaceous plants. But when we arrived here, there was virtually nothing in the garden although we do still have the original plum tree and despite losing many branches it still manages to produce some lovely plums. We still have some very old apple trees, one of which provides welcome shade on a summer’s day.  
Shade under the apple tree. Image by Nicola Stocken-Tomkins



As I became aware of the lack of flowers we slowly began to develop the garden and in 1991 we were invited to open our garden under the National Garden Scheme and since then we have had many different projects. The wall was built in 1992 to replace a line of overpowering Cupressus leylandii and this then gave us the opportunity of planting on a south facing wall. Growing on the wall are several Clematis, Itea ilicifolia, Agapanthus, Teucrium frutescens, the constant flowering Geranium, jolly bee and many more. We had an enormous prostate juniper at the end of the lawn and having studied it for a while, I realised that if we removed this, we could then create a winding Wisteria walk, linking the lawn with the terrace, thereby giving a little more interest. Our planting is mostly herbaceous perennials – simply because flowers give so much pleasure and with some careful planning the garden is floriferous from spring to autumn.

The rose walk with clematis. Image by David HarlandEdging the terrace outside the summer house we grow Lavandula grosso, which is the lavender that is widely grown in the South of France for its essence. We grow it as individual plants, not as hedging, as this shows the lavender off to best advantage. Leading from the terrace is a rose walk, with small flowered roses and many Clematis intertwined with them.  To one side is a cool grassy area with some unusual small trees and in spring is covered in snowdrops.


Dahlias in the "hot" border. Image by David Harland




Cross over on to the main lawn and from the arbour you can enjoy an overall view of the garden looking towards the cottage. Most of the planting in the main body of the garden is of soft and gentle hues but this doesn’t mean there are no exciting colours elsewhere. Outside the wall is a bed with succession planting starting with Hellebores, followed in May by lovely blousy Paeonies, which are followed by the yellow and oranges of Hemerocallis, finally bursting in full colour with Cannas, Dahlias, Abutilons, Salvias and many other vibrant shades for late summer.




Thick winter snow over the box hedging, box balls and twist cones. Image by David HarlandA few years ago we realised the importance of structure in the garden and so added some boxballs, lolly pops, twists, cones and low trimmed hedging, all of which looks particularly stunning when covered in snow







The kitchen garden with apple arch. Image by David HarlandThe decorative kitchen garden was created in 2001 where we grow organic vegetables and at its centre is a circular arched iron framework, which was designed and made by John, supporting six apple trees. We decided on raised beds as this area can become water logged especially in winter. From here you can walk past 4 large potted  plants into a small organic orchard where we grow some apple trees, pears and a newly planted quince. After several failed attempts to encourage mistletoe to grow in our apple trees, we are delighted that, finally it has arrived by courtesy of the birds. The paths are mown in a chequerboard pattern and in early summer, Camassias and Cowslips naturalise here. Our soil is alkaline/heavy clay and has required a lot of work to make it friable – we compost as much as possible, which is used along with leaf mould to improve the soil structure.


On open days we offer delicious home made teas and these are served in the shade provided from apple and prunus trees at the front of our cottage or if it is raining, in the stone flagged garden room. There is a large 50 year old Magnolia soulangiana, a border of hydrangeas, a shrubbery and lots of tulips including a small lawn planted with them.  It is not a large garden but it is good to take time to look at some of the more unusual plants, enjoy the fragrance and colour combinations and take a while sitting on one of the many benches, from which you will probably spot something you missed on your first tour.