38 Chapel Street, Ely

Hurrah, the National Garden Scheme has begun to open some of its gardens. The system has changed a little and I had to go the website to pre-book my ticket online beforehand, which was perfectly easy and I found a small garden in Ely. It is such a long time since I have been anywhere so I was quite excited and having made my online purchase I was not going to let the cold miserable rain put me off.

Ely was void of the usual tourists and after managing to remember how to manoeuvre my Mini into a convenient parking slot I walked up the street towards the Cathedral, the grey clouds were pretty threatening.

It was a windy day and by the time I reached the cathedral it was blue sky.

Number 38 is minutes from the historic centre and as I walked along the residential street I received a warm welcome from the roses. The original plan was to open with a group of other gardens but coronavirus prevented this from happening.

The gate was open with a plant stall in front, and garden owner Julia had been busy raising and selling plants during the lockdown making over £600 for the National Garden Scheme. Julia is a retired nurse and she believes this is her way of helping.

I hurry down the west side of the bungalow, as that sky does not look too good.

A garden on heavy clay and with Ely’s dry climate this is surely a welcome load,

despite the threatening clouds there is a sunny feel to this secluded back garden. Julia and Peter have lived here for three years working hard to restore the garden from a jungle of ivy.

For her 80th birthday, family and friends gave Julia the materials and labour to create a rock garden on a dry piece close to the house.

Here grow all sorts of treasures; a bright horned poppy with glaucous leaves,

the enchanting Dianthus cruentis

and a fishy friend.

Beyond this area is the fountain and the glaucous theme is repeated around the base.

The roses have been truly floriferous this year and here is no exception. Through the arch, I walk into a little fruit area

and come face to face with some ripening greengages. The bungalow was originally built on the site of an old orchard and several fruit trees remain providing an abundance of apples, plums and quince.

Returning through another arch I am back into the main garden where there is an explosion of colour reminiscent of the sixties, those classic summer plants roses, alstroemeria and delphiniums.

Roses planted by previous owners are blooming everywhere mingling with shrubs including the sweet-scented philadelphus.

Over in the corner are the raised beds, the perfect size for vegetables, and close by is the all-essential greenhouse where Julia’s skills raise many a plant.

The garden is well screened being surrounded by mature trees, and several wooden arches provide height and interest. Here it is a perfect support for the pink climbing rose, and the yellow jasmine fruticans is pure joy.

Wafts of honey fragrance fill the air and I know it is not from the jasmine but am unsure where it is coming from until I discover this lovely unusual viburnum japonicum just by the house.

There is a convenient one way system, and along the east side of the house a border has been designed to give form and foliage colour,

with astrantia major popping up below to add to the colour.

Out in the front again where the Judas tree is in full leaf, salvias, geraniums alstroemerias are just a few of the plants in this dry open space.

This small daisy-like perennial Erigeron karvinskianus is so useful for softening those hard areas.

Garden owners are prohibited from providing teas, and it is a blessed relief to those of us who have added centimetres to our waist lines during the lockdown. So I head for home, the recommended distance for visiting is about 20 miles, and I must admit to have slightly exceeded this suggestion, but for those of us living in rural places the requirement might have to be more. However, you must remember that no facilities can be available and on the way home I was glad that my journey was not longer and next time I will remember not to have that second cup of coffee before I set out.

Gardens will be uploaded each week on http://www.ngs.org.uk where you can purchase your tickets. If you cannot get to a garden or do not wish to venture out, why not enjoy one of the NGS video virtual tours?

There has been no greater time when we need to support our nurses, and the all-round benefits of visiting a garden are huge.

——-2020——-