Paget House, an inspired modern design, near Saxmundham, Suffolk

Last Saturday I combined calling in on my cousin with a visit to an intriguing garden open for the National Garden Scheme. Entrance was by slipping through the back gate into an informal area, and for a moment I wondered if I had come the right way.

The plan eased my mind and was a promise of greater things ahead, and as with so many gardens open for the National Garden Scheme it did not disappoint. The modern house built by the owners some 9 years ago is in the shape of a cross and is very much at the centre of the garden.

This cross shape in effect dictates the layout of the garden marking out four separate but connecting gardens. Walking down across the roughly mown lawn, I come to west side of the house where raised beds are filled with vegetables and flowers.

It is a marvellous idea to place the productive side of the garden so close to the house rather than banishing it to the far reaches of the garden. It must be a real joy and so convenient to be able to just step outside and pick your vegetables,

and to enjoy the scent of those heavenly sweet peas.

I step through the wooden covered walkway which extends out like an arm from the house and cleverly acts as a division.

Here there is a quite different feel. An informal pond is the point of focus, making good use of this northern aspect. A striking sculpture by Paul Richards sits between pond and house. It must be a delight to watch the visiting wildlife from the comfort of an Adirondack chair.

Further away from the pond is a semi-circular border is bursting with colour;

familiar favourites in amongst the bright crocosmia such as this delightful salvia,

and rich hemoracallis.

Away from the house paths lead between mature trees,

and meander through the long grass,

where there are delightful places to sit and chill. It is as though these two decorative deck chairs are having their own dialogue.

The front door of the house is on the east side where the drive sweeps in, and alongside the yew hedge is softened by sections of ornamental grass.

On the other side of the drive is an arbor which leads you into a secret garden,

where a Lutyens bench sits majestically behind a table. The hand sanitiser a small sign of the times.

The planting by the front door is soft and free flowing.

Romneya coulteri, the Californian tree poppy steals the show with petals like finely crumpled tissue paper,

and the pot plants tumble through the front door.

You don’t really appreciate how much this house is on a slope, and now, on the other side of the house and through the door and up the steps, the mood changes again.

A mixed native hedge runs along the boundary on the left hand side and fruit trees grow in this wild meadow,

contrasting with the informal but careful colourful planting next to the house.

Paving and plants wrap comfortably around the house. Familiar favourites which include lavender, gaura, perovskia and verbena.

Agastache ‘Black Adder’, Mexican giant hyssop is particularly at home here.

Each side of the house moves effortlessly out into the garden and each side is subtly divided. The wall is smothered in delightfully scented trachelospermum jasminoides and on through the open door,

I am back where I started in the vegetable area.

It has been a delight to see this garden so thoughtfully designed and such an integral part of the house. Wildlife-friendly, it is a pure pleasure and a moment of freedom for all of us in these strange restricted times.

Each Monday a variety of gardens to visit are uploaded onto the website www. ngs.org.uk So why don’t you find one near you, pre-book a ticket, and Help Support Our Nurses.

——-2020——

The Stuart-Smith trilogy

Thursday 13th June was an exceedingly wet day. This neither deterred nor detracted from a delightful day tour of three gardens in the village of Bedmond in Hertfordshire, owned by various members of the Stuart-Smith family and organised by James Bolton of Border Lines http://border-lines.co.uk/

We began the day at The Barn, Serge Hill, the home of the famous designer Tom Stuart-Smith and his wife Sue. Renowned for his landscape artistry with a fresh mix of naturalism, together with contemporary, I had for some time been interested in seeing his own private garden. In the pouring rain we first of all admired the courtyard garden in front of the Barn, richly planted, there was plenty of colour.

Tom’s landscape design practice has won eight gold medals at Chelsea with three winning ‘Best in Show’. Some of the materials here are recycled from the 2005 Daily Telegraph show garden; you may remember the rust coloured corten steel water tanks surrounded by the red coloured Astrantia major, euphorbias and other perennials.

The fresh new growth of Hakonechloa macra softens the steel and cascades in front of the tank and wall. You can perhaps appreciate how very wet it was from the surface of the water.

Taking cover under the tree I view the native meadow in the foreground. Sown some 25 years ago it is cut for hay in the late summer. Although the sound of the M25 can be heard in the distance, the countryside is green and gently rolling.

Before taking one of the mown paths through the long grass I explore the west side of the Barn where the patio is a delightful area with table and chairs,

and leads onto a verdant lawn with floriferous borders either side. It is hard to imagine that twenty years ago this richly planted area was once an empty wheat field.

Looking back you can see that it is in fact a series of enclosed spaces divided by hedges. These spaces are either packed with plants,

or simply empty, compelling you to walk on through to the path beyond.

Following the path there is mature woodland on one side and meadow on the other. Today I can only imagine that the swimming pond must be enticing on a hot summer’s day.

Turning back towards the Barn and walking across the meadow there is a slight touch of ‘Out of Africa’, well, perhaps if the sun was shining.

The exotic meadow created in 2011 is not yet in flower; the exquisite pink flower heads of Dianthus cruentas are just a taster of what is to come.

I do find a splash of colour by following the mown path away through to the left where a little wooden gate opens up to a display of white iris, foxglove and cornus.

There is sadly no time to linger in the greenhouse, so, a little wet from our ramblings we leave the Barn to walk over the road to Serge Hill.

This is the family home where two generations of Stuart-Smiths have gardened. Roses adorn the pillars of the elegant Edwardian veranda. Tom’s sister is now in charge and explains that she is assisted by a team of Wwoofers; for those not familiar with these guys I suggest you take a look at the website https://wwoof.org.uk/. Kate provides a potted history of the garden and explains how her mother was an avid gardener.

Through the relentless rain we turn our backs on the white Regency house and look out over lawn and parkland beyond.

I follow the meandering gravel path alongside the border brightly billowing with June colour,

and enter the walled garden through the gate curiously positioned at the far corner.

Here too is sumptuous planting; climbers cover the walls, roses and clematis vigorously clamber over arches. Hardly an inch of ground is bare, covered with an enviable assortment of perennials.

Even the paths are sometimes difficult to detect.

This half-acre walled garden is fully working with an abundance of first class vegetables.

It is a relief to shelter in the greenhouse for a while, a hive of industry and fully operational with old fashioned handles still in use.

There is a splendid display of ‘down tools’. I imagined the Wwoofers must be at lunch,

and that is exactly where we head off to, mounting the steps through the climbing rose and crossing the courtyard to the backdoor where we are pleased to shed some of our wet clothes.

Lunch, delicious and most welcome is served in the dining room where it transpires the Wwoofers have left off work to serve us.

After lunch we drive the short distance taking the foxglove-lined track to Pie Corner, the home of Tom and Kate’s brother Jeremy and Bella Stuart-Smith. Bella is also a garden designer and plantswoman and has created the house and garden.

We park in the field below this interesting recently-built house.

Gathering near the tulip tree liriodendron tulipifera we hear about its creation from Bella.

Around the corner the deer appears to be galloping towards us,

viewed from the house she appears to be just passing through.

The swimming pool is situated so close to the house and, hidden from the windows by the clipped box and santolina is very much part of the garden.

Moving round to the side of the house it is a wonderful vista from the terrace through the valley.

On the other side of the house from the swimming pool side stands another pool, not for swimming it dominates the dry garden planted with a mix of herbs and summer flowering perennials. An archway in the hedge invites us through to a less formal area

where we find the pretty vegetable garden.

Another gate leads out into woodland.

This wooded area which rises up behind the house has recently been cleared and replanted, the foxgloves have sprung to life. I follow the paths and

return to this light, contemporary and comfortable house where we enjoy tea and a glorious piece of coffee cake.

These three gardens are open for the National Garden Scheme; The Barn and Serge Hill which open together have already opened this year so make a note not to miss them next year when hopefully the rain will have stopped. Pie Corner is open “By Arrangement” through July, August and September. Visit the website https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/

Horatio’s Garden at Stoke Mandeville

The Garden Gate was open wide for the new Horatio’s Garden at the spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital Horatio’s Garden

IMG_1314 2

Horatio’s Garden is one of the beneficiary charities of The National Garden Scheme, and several of us were privileged to be able, at the official opening last Sunday, to mingle amongst the amazing patients and all the wonderful people involved in the garden’s creation.

IMG_1257

We followed the signs through the hospital corridors and out into the new garden bathed in the afternoon sunshine. Inpatients can be here in the spinal unit for a seriously long time often confined to beds and wheelchairs, so a beautiful outdoor space is of huge benefit. The gradients and surfaces have to be gentle and ultra smooth.   A little bunting added to the gaiety of this great occasion.

IMG_1258

Just as a reminder, I was here back on a snowy day in December, this being the final garden in my Ninety Garden Challenge Stoke Mandeville, Horatio’s Garden. (90).

On the spot where Joe Swift explained his designs to Olivia Chapple, the Founder and Chair of Trustees it was hard for me to imagine how this would look…

IMG_0315

…now it has been transformed into a delightful space where two smiling volunteers welcomed us in.

IMG_1263.jpg

What a cold miserable building site it was then, diggers removed 2,500 tons of earth…

IMG_0084

…now it looks as if the garden has always been here.

IMG_1259.jpg

Part of the garden stretches along a covered walkway which obtrusively dominated the site and where visitors and patients enter the main hospital from the car park…

DSCF7131

now you are blissfully unaware of the busy flow of hospital life as a simple wooden fence gives privacy, and the border and stone wall give all year round interest.

IMG_1277.jpg

Right now it is the asters that provide a splash of colour;

IMG_1268

and the elegant seed heads of the miscanthus provide texture as they sway gently in the breeze.

IMG_1362.jpg

The team of workers who constructed the garden ranged in number from 5 to 15 each day, and have now been replaced by some 48 volunteers who work under the guidance of head gardener Jacqui Martin-Lof. At no wish of offending the many head gardeners I have met, she surely is the most elegant.

IMG_1347

I am reminded that back in December the only feature I could just make out under the blanket of snow was the shape of the pond…

IMG_0100

…today it is a delightful place to sit, reflect and listen to the soothing sound of flowing water.

IMG_1349.jpg

On one side of the pond is a curved wall with an artful window opening.

IMG_1370.jpg

Mary Berry, who has opened her garden in Buckinghamshire for over 20 years and is President of the NGS came today to open Horatio’s Garden.

IMG_1293

Olivia Chapple, Mary Berry and George Plumptre

Speeches were made, and Olivia Chapple who spoke passionately and without a single note, engagingly gave thanks to the many, many people involved. We all felt such huge admiration for an amazing lady who is the driving force behind this dynamic charity.

IMG_1468.jpg

Swifty told us that if it had not been for Olivia’s determination the unsightly hospital generator would have unfortunately remained as the centre piece of the garden.

We were then entertained by Magnus Chapple who sang a song he had composed. There were plenty of places to sit and even the smooth bonded resin was comfortable enough for some.

IMG_1342

Mary Berry cut the ribbon and declared the garden officially open.

IMG_1274

With a big green knife she also cut the cake which was then taken round by cheerful volunteers.

IMG_1298

Tea flowed from the garden room, a delightful wooden and glass building where patients and families will be able to enjoy the space and light without feeling they are in hospital.

IMG_1326 2.jpg

A young gingko biloba already past the height of the roof is determined to reach that blue sky.

IMG_1282.jpg

Down on the ground in the flower beds there is a healthy selection of herbs and the waft of mint is prolific today.

IMG_1361.jpg

This lovely guy picks a sprig of rosemary; he says it is so much better than the air freshner used on the ward.

IMG_1387

Access for wheelchairs is usually so limiting but here they are the norm and can be wheeled effortlessly straight out from ward to garden,

IMG_1374.jpg

where there is plenty of room for a trio to meet.

IMG_1363 2.jpg

Wheelchairs come in all shapes and sizes, upright, gyrating and well you could say, almost dancing.

IMG_1367.jpg

Three great designers enjoy a moment together, Swifty sporting the dahlia ‘Horatio’ pinned to his lapel, is joined by Cleve West who designed the first Horatio’s Garden at Salisbury Hospital, and James Alexander-Sinclair who designed the subsequent Horatio’s Garden at the Scottish National Spinal Unit in Glasgow.

Earlier I had caught sight of Bunny Guinness, but she must have hurried away to complete her designs for the next Horatio’s Garden that she is creating at Oswestry.

IMG_1372.jpg

Every garden needs a good greenhouse and Horatio’s Garden in no exception.

IMG_1304.jpg

Accessible and specially equipped, it will be used as part of the therapy programme,

IMG_1305.jpg

where plants for the garden will be propagated as well as herbs, salads and fruits which the patients can enjoy themselves.

IMG_1306.jpg

I am reminded again of how it looked before (incidentally the turquoise box behind the fencing in the centre is that generator)…

DSCF7129.jpg

Ample space for a couple of large hospital beds.  It was delightful to see these patients enjoying the fresh air and the warm sun on their faces.

IMG_1336.jpg

We have enjoyed the gaiety of the afternoon and can see that much thought has gone into the design of this garden. Planned to encourage wildlife and provide colour and texture throughout the year, it must be a sanctuary for those patients facing hugely difficult and life-changing times.

IMG_1382.jpg

And we must not forget the inspiration behind this extraordinary charity, Horatio Chapple whose short life has given so much and another reason why some of us open our own gardens.

IMG_1266.jpg

 

——-9/18——-