English Garden Tour

There is only a narrow strip of soil along the frontage of the cottage, where there are hydrangeas and hardy fuchsias, lots of narcissi and bluebells, with Boston Ivy (parthenocissus tricuspidata) clinging to the wall.

At one end of the cottage is pyracantha Red Column while to either side of the front door are clumps of erigeron karvinskianus - very commonly seen in the West Country - and clipped ligustrum to provide a focus in the winter and spring.Tour recreation Behind the cottage, the garden rises up a small hill and extends to about .25 acre. Up the hill, beyond the garden, is pasture; to the south is a small paddock.

Down-sloping Beds

Because the garden is sited on a slope, all the beds are supported on the "down" side by low hamstone walls, most of which are alive with primula vulgaris , aubretia, viola labradorica and campanula poscharskyana. Here and there, winter-flowering heathers trail over the stones.

There are aquilegia (Granny's bonnets) and forget-me-nots all over the garden, as well as bluebells, Jacob's ladder polemonium caerulum), centaurea montana, gladiolus byzantinus, ajuga reptans, crocosmia masonorum, marjoram, eau-de-cologne mint, helleborus foetidus , periwinkles and alchemilla mollis.

The Layout

Approaching from the lane, first is a small square garden, largely in the shade. It is sheltered by a low hedge of viburnum tinus to the south, and by two old larches to the west. Just by the gate is an old well cap, and a clump of snowdrops.

Under the trees there are daffodils, violets, anemones (a. blanda and a. nemerosa), bluebells, erithroniums (Dog's tooth violet) and snowdrops, along with cyclamen coum and c. hederifolia in shades of pink, and iris reticulata.Tour photo Later, in the borders, come foxgloves, day lilies, honesty, feverfew, forget-me-nots, hardy geraniums ( g. phaeum Album) and aconitums; the lovely pale lemon primulas seed themselves here happily.

Brambles and Maples

There is a small Japanese maple here too, and one or two clumps of violet-coloured helleborus orientalis. The trees and brambles beyond the paddock fence have been removed, giving more light, but this is still a difficult site - very dry to the west because of the larches but damp elsewhere because of poor drainage.The lawn was dug up last winter and replaced by a paved area with a square bed in the centre for hostas, arum lilies and more hellebores.

North Facing

To the north side of this garden is the garage wall, where we have trained rosa White Cockade, underplanted with geranium tuberosum, viola labradorica and thalictrum aquilegiifolium. Clematis macropetela Blue Bird and C. viticella Purpurea plena elegans are there too, to clamber up the rose. Escallonia Donard's Seedling with its trailing habit obscures the water butt.

Along the east side of this part of the garden is a raised border supported by a dry stone wall, with white roses, choisya ternata, geranium pratense Mrs Kendall Clark, white japanese anenomes and crocosmia lucifer, backed by a clipped hedge of lonicera nitida. In the shadier parts are plum-coloured helleborus orientalis, Solomon's seal and hostas. Sun lovers Penstemon Huskers Red, with dark foliage, and Scalvia sclarea var. turkestanica, are there too.

Steps and Paths

A flight of stone steps crosses one end of this border; through an arch clothed by clematis tangutica Bill Mackenzie. Just to the right is a newly planted little sloping bed with the herbaceous clematis integrifolia - perfect for alkaline soil - and Rosa Blanc Double de Coubert. This rose has the purest white flowers and delicious scent and will hopefully grow into a substantial shrub. In the meantime, there are primulas, forget-me-nots and geranium phaeum Album.

The arch through the hedge leads on to a small paved area round a rhus. This is a cool, shady spot to relax in when the sun burns too bright.

Foilage

Under the rhus are planted hellebores, pulmonaria Sissinghurst White, dwarf narcissi Jenny, with a white hydrangea, Mme. Mouliere. Aquilegia Woodside, with variegated foliage and blue flowers has been planted here too, along with a cluster of purple-flowered primula auriculas. Nearby are brunnera macrophylla and its variegated cousin Dawsons White, and omphalodes Lilac Mist. These plants all do very well in the shade.Garden artwork To the left is a sunny border, facing east and backed by the clipped hedge, where there are amelanchier canadensis, lavatera, campanula latiloba, campanula lactifolia, the yellow-leaved philadelphus coronaria aurea and osmanthus burkwoodii. A large helleborus foetidus provides a green splash in winter and spring.

Some of the smaller penstemons are here too, along with the ground cover geranium G. thunbergii, codonopsis vinciflora and astrantia major.

The Path, Continued....

Aster Archangel, with its dainty white flowers strikes a pose in late summer at the farthest end of this border, by another flight of steps. The path continues through a border up the hill. To the left are small beds bounded by hamstone, which hold more white pulmonarias, sweet rocket, London Pride and geranium phaeum (Mourning widow and Album). This is my alkaline-shady-damp version of a rock garden, where polygonatum hookerii and veronica peduncularis replace the more usual alpines.

The last of these beds has been extended into the lawn and gets rather more sun; here there is a sarcocca hookeriana digma and low-growing geraniums (G. sanguineum striatum, G. macrorrhizum), penstemon Katherine de Mar, and sweet woodruff (galium odoratum). At the end is a pretty pink dierama pendulum. Dotted about are dianthus deltoides (Maiden Pink), campanula persicifolia (white and blue forms), a euphorbia dulcis Chameleon (red/purple leaves and stems) and dicentra spectabilis (Bleeding Heart, or Dutchman's Breeches).

Borders

To the right of the path, in deeper shade, are senecio Sunshine, a variegated buddleia (I really must move this into the sun...), a flowering currant and another rhus.Tour original This border is bounded by a hedge of escallonia, pyracantha and viburnum, with broom, cotoneaster and jasminum nudiflorum in there too.
All through this border are alchemilla mollis, or Lady's Mantle, and shasta daisies. Turning to the left at the top of the path, there is a narrow border with a pheasant bush (leycesteria formosa) and snowberry (symphoricarpus) underplanted with Sweet Williams, cerinthe major purpurascens,more hardy geraniums (G. endressii, G. pylzowianum and G. thunbergii), English lavender, and I think I put a clump of pale pink peonies there. This border faces due west.

Further along are scabiosa knautia macedonica, artemesia ludoviciana var. latiloba with its felted grey-white leaves, penstemon Port Wine, crocosmia Lucifer and hebe Midsummer Beauty, backed by forsythia and weigela florida. A clump (well, a thicket) of spiraea douglasii needs a careful eye to stop it spreading too far. At the end of the border, a choisya ternata obscures the compost bins.

Close to the Kitchen

Behind this border runs the main vegetable plot, which is raised about 3ft. It faces west and slopes a little towards the south. At the southernmost corner is a further small bed, for asparagus. This plot provides half the total area for vegetables, the other half being close to the kitchen. The vegetable plots are planned for a four-year rotation: four major groups of vegetables (roots, brassicas, legumes and alliums) are planted in separate beds and rotated each year to avoid any build-up of soil-borne diseases. Other vegetables, courgettes, tomatoes, sweetcorn, spinach and salad leaves, are grown wherever there is space - usually among the brassicas. Aubergines, peppers and chillies are grown in the greenhouse, in containers.

There is just enough room in this area of the garden for a garden tidy and compost bins.Garden image Tucked away at the back is a stone privy, now used for storing logs for the winter fires.

The Vegetable Plot 

In the main part of the garden beyond the vegetable plot is a south facing border backed by a 6ft hedge; the plan here is to plant a herbaceous border including hollyhocks, delphiniums, agapanthus, some of the bluer hardy geraniums and lavender. White highlights are intended too: phystostegia virginiana Crown of Snow and ox-eye daisies.

Plants here so far are geranium Claridge Druce, spiraea japonica Anthony Waterer, geum rivalis, verbena bonariensis, lychnis, aster novi-belgii, and penstemon Midnight. Clematis Rouge Cardinal, with velvety plum flowers, may yet scramble over the hedge, but it has to fight with a honesuckle.

Fruit!

Soft fruits - strawberries, black and redcurrants, gooseberries and red and white raspberries - grow in a fruit cage, in a sheltered south-facing corner. The currant bushes are trained as double cordons, to maximise production. I call this my "summer pudding" bed. Below the vegetable plot is the first of four island beds, with Malus Royalty (I think), ceanothus x. burkwoodii, sedum spectabile and sysirinchium striatum. Other plants here are iris germanica, alstroemeria, peonies, aquilegia and alchemilla mollis.

The front of this bed has recently been extended and planted with erysimum Bowles Mauce, mauve rocket, white sidalcea, thalictrum delavayi, dahlia Bishop of Llandaff, more hardy geraniums, and a vivid peony, with several pale lychnis (L.Garden figure occulata Angels Blush and Alba). The island bed close by the fruit cage has robinia pseudoacacia Frisea towering over ceanothus, choisya ternata Sundance, weigela florida, a blackcurrant bush (just for the blackbirds) and a clump of flowering quince (chaenomeles japonica) should be coming out soon to make way for a lovely variegated hydrangea currently in a pot.

Decorative Touches

Under the shrubs are plum-coloured helleborus orientalis, daffodils, variegated periwinkle (vinca major variegata) and sysirinchium striatum, while at the front are verbascum Sunset Shades, a few garden pinks (dianthus Dainty Dame and Gran's Favourite), the tiny sysirinchium montanum and veronica teucrium. Kitaiebla vitifolia, which reaches 7ft in late summer and has mallow-like white flowers, is matched in scale by nicotiana sylvestris, grown each year from seed. The third island bed is in the middle of the lawn. It has hardy plumbago ceratostigma willmottianum, caryopteris x. clandonensis, geraniums - G. patense Plenum violaceum and G. maculatum - and lots of eau-de-Cologne mint. There's also a lovely rose - Constance Spry, I think - an old-fashioned rose with soft pink blooms and haunting fragrance.

Underplanting in this bed is largely campanula persicifolia, aquilegia vulgaris and asters, with ajuga reptans Atropurpurea and bergenia cordifolia. In the sunnier spots there are half-hardy salvias (S. patens Cambridge Blue) and physostegia virginiana. The right hand half of this bed was dug out completely and where there was photinia, now there's a pond. There are Aponogeton distachyos, Menyanthes trifoliata (water buckbean) and a small white water-lily in the water, with Pontederia cordata (blue pickerell), Iris laevigata and a variegated Acorus gramineus in baskets which stand on ledges beneath the water line.

Garden graphic

There's a tiny bog garden bed too, with tradescantia Isis, white ragged robin (lychnis flos-coculi) and white astilbes; hemerocallis Stella d'Oro and Wine Cup, species lobelia, water forget-me-nots and primula japonica Postford White.

The Island Beds

The last of the island beds, which gets full sun, has buddleia alternifolia, which I am trying to convert into a "standard"; there's abelia x. grandiflora here too, diascia, lobelia and aubretia trailing over the supporting stones during the summer. Underplanting is geranium endressii and creeping Jenny (lysimachia nummularia Aurea), with lychnis chalcedonica flore-plena (the Maltese Cross) making a bold finish in one corner. A few purple-foliage plants have been added: Sedum maximum Atropurpureum, Lysimachia atropurpurea, Dahlia Bednall Beauty and the oriental poppy Patty's Plum.

Near the back of the cottage is a small paved area with a hebe canterburiensis, lots of nigella in the summer and clematis Comtesse de Bouchaud trained onto the hedge. There are also osteospermum trailing over a low wall, lavandula angustifolia and lots of origanum and apple mint. This is the spot for a glass of Pimm's on a sunny evening!

Lilies

Pots of regal and Madonna lilies, agapanthus and acidanthera are brought here at different times in the summer at their peak. From this paved area runs a path towards the south, which bisects a wide border.Garden original The area to the left (east) of the path has rosa glauca, a large rosemary and pittosporum crassifolium for its bones, with geranium x. magnificum, sidalcea and schizostylis coccinea. Along the path, on both sides, are alchemilla mollis, origanum vulgare (the common marjoram and its yellow-leaved form, o.v. Aureum) and thalictrum.

To the right of the path the soil is very compacted and the dreaded ground elder has taken hold. Shrubs include berberis thunbergii and osmanthus delavayi, santolina and helichrysum, with oriental poppies, scabious, astrantia and anthemis tinctoria amongst the perennials. From the sunny paved area runs a flight of wide stone steps, down to a tiny paved area where clematis montana Elizabeth makes a wonderful display in late spring. A path runs left towards the greenhouse and garage, and right towards the kitchen garden.

Path to the Cottage

Along the path to the left is a thin strip of soil against the cottage wall where there are a fruiting quince (cydonia chinensis) with jasminium beesianum climbing through it, and the dainty pink and white-flowered climbing rose American Pillar. To the right is a tangled arch of honeysuckle which hides a water supply pipe.

Another path from the sunny paved area runs north, through a rustic arch supporting clematis alpina Pink Flamingo and C. Bees Jubilee on one side, with the chocolate vine akebia quinata and climbing rose Scarlet Fire on the other. The path leads to two small kitchen garden beds where there are bay, parsley and sorrel. Finally, just by the kitchen door, is a clump of white lilac.




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