Let me introduce to you Alison's garden. She is our next door neighbour living at the bottom of our track. As we extend the gardens here at Maes Mawr, I'm looking for inspiration around us and Alisons garden is naturally a great place to start.
Created over the 20 years she has lived here it has been built out of not only necessity but because of a deep passion for gardening and plants. Her garden has evolved to fit with her needs and with the ever growing selection of plants she has managed to aquire. There are good design basics within the garden that she has used and many that we can all take something from. She has battled pests, squirrels, rabbits, the odd invasion of cows, a few vanishing plants and a husband who made her panic when he offered to do some 'strimming' to create this garden of hers.
Alison lives in a cream, double fronted welsh cottage, with tiny windows, all painted a soft green. It's classic colours blend beautifully with the trees and countryside around it. There is a small walled garden surrounding the front of the house, with an arch and front path leading to the front door which is no longer used. Her driveway and garden extend further out and down to the left towards the stables and store house, separated from the house by a secluded, narrow passage way.
This area to the front is used for the greenhouse, and the vegetable garden. An area split into 4 raised beds with a seating area in the middle that is covered and has climbers growing over the top. She is not self sufficient and will never claim to be. She just enjoys growing the plants and obviously eating the produce afterwards. Her vegetable garden is small and well organised, and her little plot would fit into most peoples gardens. Her large greenhouse bursts at the seems every year with a huge array of plants. This year we did very well for tomatoes, tree tomatoes and numerous tree seedlings that she weeded out from her garden. In return I shared Cosmos, and brassica plants. The true sense of allotment gardening and sharing embodied between two plant obsessed individuals.
The stables are now used as storage sheds, and offer homes for birds. The area is protected by large mature trees balancing on the boundary stone walls. Bulbs are planted in the grass edges, and flowers are allowed to self seed around the edges.
Taking a walk through the passage way, underneath a large Magnolia tree leads you to the back garden. Everything, and I mean everything has been planted by Alison, which includes that stunning white Snow Gum Eucalyptus. Crossing the garden is a drainage ditch which carries excess water away from the garden in winter, her garden sitting towards the bottom of a Welsh mountain. Alison sees a planting opportunity in everything, and she hasn't missed this one. Planting plants that love clay soil, and don't mind sitting in water such as the Zantedeschia, Calla lilies, she has several varieties. Mixing them with candelabra primulas, ferns, some of which are rare purchased from a specialist grower. The plants are allowed to self seed into the grass edges blurring the edges between border and lawn.
To cross this ditch running the full width of the garden there are bridges. One large slate bridge, just by the Calla lilies above takes you to the main lawn area in the middle of the garden.
The garden is enclosed, the boundaries planted with trees, shrubs and plenty of herbaceous plants. The countryside beyond is framed underneath branches. Border edges are soft, sometimes plants escape and are allowed to roam about.
Sometimes she wishes she'd heeded advice when told 'Now this plant can be invasive'. But over the years she has greedily planted anything to fill up space, so anything invasive was looked on with great delight. Not so much these days, as she finds her chocolate vine gradually taking over not only the ground but the plants it's climbing through.
The house has a soft green painted conservatory on the back of the house, naturally a home for the more delicate plants. A solid railway sleeper deck leads you outside, where Alison likes to put her more delicate Agaves and succulent collection. From there you see the bridge across the ditch, newly put in this year and planted with new clematis.
The shady end of the garden is not formal, edges blend into the grass. Moss is allowed and deep shade offers great space for large leaved Hostas. I'm sure these look so good as the high number of birds in the garden probably gorge themselves on slugs and snails. There are bird boxes dotted about, bird feeders and the ones I love are the clear Perspex type: those you stick on the windows to the house.
There is no overriding colour scheme to speak of. Alison plants what she likes and where they will grow. I love the welsh poppy brightly contrasting with the blue of the Centaurea montana. A plant I was thrilled to find in our own garden. She has such an array of plants that there is always something in flower, and she also chooses plants for scent. A recently in flower Rhododendron was just stunning, pale cream yellow flowers and a delicate and sweet scent has inspired me to look at this genus of plants for my own little woodland.
You'll often see a new purchase, bought smaller and more cheaply so she can buy more plants, obviously! Potted up like little treasures such as the Hosta 'Fire and Ice'. I've always wanted one myself.
The design of the garden has ebbed and flowed, borders were created to hide and block a caravan years also where she lived when renting the house out to holiday makers. Borders around trees and shrubs grew. Her current thinking is to create a new border by joining two big beds together, she keeps talking about getting the hose pipe out to mark them out. Her style is relaxed and perfectly in keeping with her home and surrounding country side.
So those design features you could take? No matter how big or small your garden compressing space through walkways and having space open out can create real drama and a sense of arrival. Using borders that cross the garden and block views to the end are great ways to take yourself on a journey, or give yourself somewhere to hide away out of sight. Perhaps its the children you'd like to hide away in their own little play space.
Use pots to buy plants more cheaply and grow on, in the mean time those plants can be a focal point or a touch of detail. Be creative with your pots if you like, and always search ebay for garden pots if you like a good bargain.
Above all don't get lost in details, work on the structure, get your paths right, your access, and don't be afraid to plant a tree or two. Use what you can from beyond your boundary, borrowing views or trees from a neighbouring plot and linking them into your garden with plants in your own garden.
Everything is possible, you don't have to be an expert, or know everything to start. Give it a go.
If you feel really stuck for ideas give me a call. Paradise Found Garden Design is up and running in my new office. A cute little window painted blue looking out of my own welsh cottage across the top field. I'm offering a much more practical service, no expensive fees, or travel costs, yet still the same level of service and support for you as you or a contractor creates your ideal outdoor space.
2017-2018 Is going to be exciting for us too as we create our new garden, and border designs to inspire you in your own garden.