25 years ago we fell in love with the position and the ‘Hansel & Gretel’ house. The garden, on three tiers, was once a disused quarry that was excavated for sand by horse and cart. The garden was not for the faint-hearted and as young fledglings we thought we could conquer the garden in 6 months. 25 years on we are still getting there!
The garden was a jungle of bracken, brambles, laurels and indigenous trees with 4 specimen rhododendrons so we had our work cut out just to clear the area……..mad max comes to mind!
We brought a removal lorry full of plants with us to much derision from our friends. What we did was to spray all the plants before lifting to stop their growth this little known technique saved us thousands of pounds as the cost of replenishing stock from scratch would have been prohibitive.
From our formal garden previously we now had to adapt from heavy clay to sandy, free draining soil and wild woodland. We soon found by clearing an area and making it tidy just brought more work on ourselves and needed to be more imaginative and creative working with rather than against nature.
To start with the middle garden became the more formal topiary garden which it is now, where the practicality of watering and ease of maintenance close by meant that we could push the boundaries on creativity and experimentation. Noahs Ark round the corner of the house came about as we had to push the bank back to get a car round to the back door for shopping and a turning circle as it was a skill reversing down a winding overgrown drive.
The garden was a wilderness and while we didn’t want any area to look like we had imposed ourselves on it, the simple practicalities of survival in the gardening sense, meant we had to have a plan and not get distracted by what looked like priorities of maintenance issues all around us.
That plan was centred on buying up lost often forgotten and neglected plants trees shrubs often unnamed ie anything you could come up with between October and February and resist buying in the ‘tourist season’.
Our main supply of plants came from the closing down of a nursery at Borde Hill. We had taken a friend there as a treat on ‘two for one’ offer in the paper. Having spotted the 75% discounted plants our trip round the garden resulted in 4 hours picking the plants/trees. Our front lawn looked like a small nursery. Now the dilemma was where would we plant them. One thing about this garden it would just swallow up plants and we would still be left with more places to fill. Part of the problem was after many hours and planting you would frequently come away and wonder what had actually been achieved and moral would hit another low until we decided to attack head on. If you were going to plant 2 or 3 we plant triple or quadruple if you were going to form an edging to hold back a part of the bank we would put sleepers in and make several edgings to create a more complete functional look. Several specimens including the Gleditsia, Acer Brilliantissima were not known until their first bloom but subsequently ‘found their feet’ and look now like have always been there. Studying hundreds of books and magazines and regularly ‘borrowing’ ideas that could translate to various corners of the garden including the land art concept came to the rescue and suddenly after 19 years the jigsaw puzzle seemed to make an eight gardens in one picture, and a plan was born.
Paul and Mary welcome private groups in addition to the open days, to their garden, in aid of The Chestnut Tree House. Please feel free to call on 01798 865 409 or 07562 721 938.