Opening this coming Sunday, the 10th September is an engaging cottage garden situated in the village of Stebbing in Essex. I was fortunate to be able to visit a few weeks ago and you reach the property down a short narrow lane off the main road. The driveway itself is very much part of the garden and a ‘Narnian’ lamp post stands prominently,
and amongst pots of flowers a good old-fashioned petrol pump is on hand.
Looking down on the drive from the steep bank and are two stained glass windows, and a pond encircled by pots of hosta.
It is the sound of water I can hear, but not from this pond, so I head for the opening in the hedge just to the right of the house.
The sound is coming from water trickling down copper leaves into a lily pond. Inspired by the Willow Tree Fountain at Chatsworth this version is made by garden owner Pete.
The lawn slopes gently down past a border packed with colour, and a newly-built greenhouse can be seen waiting for some autumnal activity.
In the flower bed some more permanent ornamental flowers add a rustic charm.
A path leads down to the bottom of the garden, where it is wild, wooded and a touch wet.
Stepping carefully around the bog garden,we find a circular wind chime hanging silently from the trees above.
I move along a brick path ‘Tiggywinkle-edged’ with old fashioned flat-irons,
and an assortment of gardening tools curiously growing out of the soil.
A low wall is the ultimate in recycling; the fun, you understand, was not just in the making.
Climbing up the hill through the small Silver Birch copse I discover that the sheet glass from the old greenhouse has also been reprocessed and is now an impressive ornament.
From here you can look back down on the ‘Roman’ temple and for a moment I feel as if this is an 18th century landscape.
Further up the hill, for this ground is certainly not flat, is the beach garden decked with its own hut, and chairs just waiting for those sunbathers; it is a delightful space even if a little shaded now from the maturing trees.
The transition into different areas is subtle and at every step there is either a sculpture, or a surprise, even a view, like this one through a decorative arbor.
This windfall seems to have rolled down from the top orchard and come to rest in the flowerbed.
From a height behind the house we can look down on the drive where the flag flutters gently in the evening breeze. When the grandchildren come the Australian flag is hoisted to make them feel at home.
The archway through the hedge of hornbeam beckons us on,
and here I find a charming little cottage, once the place where the beekeeper stored his harvested honey.
We walk on through the orchard, mindful of giant apples,
and really high up in the branches is a tree house.
The second greenhouse, shrouded by shrubs, marks the top of the garden.
From the orchard I look down on another area of water, calming and wild I realise that it is a natural swimming pool.
and, finding the gate I enter the pool side.
Beautiful and inviting in the evening light. No chemicals are needed here, for the reeds along the sides are the filter system.
The changing room hut is as welcoming as the pool, but I have no swimsuit and so follow the path which leads back down to the drive.
This time I go to the left of the house, passed a benign dragon delicately dribbling water.
The bank rises steeply behind the house and provides a back drop containing a variety of shrubs to a raised bricked bed. A ghostly head peers out from the foliage.
It is indeed the head gardener keeping his wits about him.
The terrace extends the house into the garden, and is decorated with pots packed with agapanthus, eucomis, geraniums and begonias; it is an attractive place to sit and soak in the splendour of the one and a half acre garden. The owners have worked hard to create such a splendid garden filled with a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees. The diverse areas contain sculpture, ornament and outbuildings and most of all there is a touch of humour.
Finally, just visible under a “kiftsgate” rose is a 1933 Lagonda ready to roll out on a mystery journey.