Falling for a view

I may be a Yorkshire-woman by birth, but my heart has been in the West Country since I first visited 40 years ago. Living close to the coast has always been a dream, not only for the beauty and the wildness; but also for the opportunity to grow some more unusual plants in the milder coastal conditions. IMG_1343.jpgSo excitement was high in June as I left behind what had been my base for most of my adult life and headed to the South Hams of Devon to set up a new home and garden design business. What is more, for the first time in my life I owned a garden bigger than a postage stamp! One third of an acre of garden, orchard and woodland perched high above the Avon Valley near Kingsbridge. The sensational views across the valley which put us on birds-eye level and make me sometimes feel I am living in a tree-house, also come with a very steeply sloping garden in places. IMG_1356.jpg

The garden finishes just beyond the lonesome Pine in this photo, most of which is hidden as the slope drops off quickly beyond the Rose hedge which is just coming into flower in this photo taken the week after we arrived.IMG_1142.jpg

We started with the veggie garden which had been rather neglected.DSC_0132.jpgLevelling an area to build a greenhouse and shed, and turning over the soil ready for creating a fruit and veg garden as soon as possible

IMG_1158.jpgIMG_1253.jpgNote the water butts and the compost bins, crucial elements of sustainable gardening. I are committed to gardening organically and always encourage my clients to do the same. Other improvements have included building new steps to the main lawn using sleepers and slate chippings

.IMG_1323.jpgIMG_1365.jpgThe borders either side will become a tapestry of ferns, Hellebores, and other textural woodland perennials. Here are a mixture ready to be planted.IMG_4520.jpg

We have also started to renovate the mini orchard by mowing paths through the rough grass and planting apples, pears and plums. Wild flower plugs and spring bulbs for naturalisation will also go in this autumn.IMG_1327.jpg

The moist, mild west country climate is perfect for Hydrangeas and here are a few that have graced the garden for the last 3 months. I think I might just have fallen in love with their generosity of flower as they tumble down the slopes; some a little blowsy, others very elegant. They will need a little extra pruning in spring to bring them back under control as you can see!IMG_1207.jpgIMG_1206.jpgIMG_1205.jpgRoses also seem to thrive in the conditions here. The previous owner of our house trained these Ramblers beautifully over a low fence.IMG_1148.jpgI purposely did not deadhead the Roses as they faded as I knew we would have an amazing show of hips too if I left them alone.  And we have.

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The joy of my new garden is the mixture of habitats and conditions, each suiting different types of plants and planting styles, and the wonderful countryside surrounding us. Creating a garden which acknowledges all of this and sits comfortably as a foreground to the view is going to be a lot of fun. Oh, and here is my neighbour, Fudge. He keeps an eye on what I am up to over the fence!

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Cornish inspiration

One way to shorten a long winter is to head south to Cornwall in early March. Around the south coast the milder winter temperatures means that you will find garden and wild plants in sheltered spots that are weeks ahead of those further north. We did this last year staying in a lovely bolt hole for two on the Rame peninsula just the Cornwall side of the Tamar. Wier cottage was right beside the river estuary and had an enchanting garden at the front.DSC_0032DSC_0030I loved the path created from an informal mix of slate and cobbles.DSC_0027And the bulbs planted on top of the wall.

I had read about Cornwall’s daffodil farms but had never seen them. We found this field on the peninsula.DSC_0067DSC_0066It really took my breath away.

Even in March there were gardens to visit. Large ones like Cotehele

DSC_0009DSC_0011which is an exceptionally atmospheric Tudor house owned by the National Trust. We also visited Ince Castle which was open for the NGS. It faces south on the River Lynher in a very special position and is a private house surrounded by fabulous formal and woodland gardens. Camellias and Magnolias flowering everywhere DSC_0040 and quirky features to catch the imagination.DSC_0058

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including a porthole window in the wall to view the river and an intricate shell grotto.

Walks along the coast also revealed natural inspirationDSC_0018 DSC_0015I love cornish hedges which are natural stone boundaries infilled with earth and capped with turf. Plants can seed themselves  between the stones and a fabulous living boundary is created. DSC_0019 DSC_0019

Wanders through lovely villages such as Noss Mayo (back over the border in Devon) and Kingsand also provided design inspiration DSC_0016 DSC_0010 DSC_0013

I can’t think of a better place for a pint than The ship Inn at Noss Mayo at the end of a long, blustery walk along the coast and the pub has some impressive carpentry in the riverside garden. Is it a seat or a wall!!DSC_0017

Detailing of the lighting also excellent.DSC_0014 DSC_0015Love the workmanship here and eye for detail.

Curving terraces

Steady progress is being made on the latest of our designs to be built. This is a large country house in a north Bedfordshire village. the ground slopes steeply up and away beside and behind the house and our clients found the views of the grass banks uninspiring. They were also hard to mow and maintain.

We designed sweeping curved terraces retained by stone-faced walls and sleepers. Some terraces will be planted and some will be turfed.

DSC_0112 DSC_0110The construction has been a complex business, made more difficult by the seemingly endless rain last year! A large pond has been dug within the final sweeping curve of the retaining wall. the edges will be planted informally and a large curved deck will appear to hover over the water.

DSC_0114Last November we were at last able to plant out the first area to be completed. This is a steep bank that sits above the stone terraces and was formally an area of weedy turf. We have used a limited palette of perennials which will sweep across the slope in large swathes. This kind of approach is needed for impact when large areas of border are involved.

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Here we are on planting day!

We are hoping that the build will complete in spring and I will post updates as we progress.