The creation of the garden began fourteen years ago in 2000 with practically a blank canvas to play with: there were the odd self seeded damson trees and a few apple trees dating from 1935, part of an old orchard. (See the before pics) Now there are only two of the original apple trees left – everything else I have planted.
I started with the hard landscaping,laying a brick path leading to and from a centrepiece fountain, surrounding it by low walls enclosing a gravel area followed by a meandering brick edged gravel path leading to the bottom of the garden. There two raised beds were created using railway sleepers.
Two silver birches were given to me and have now reached a gigantic height. During one of my visits to the RHS plant sales in Vincent Square SW1 I purchased ten small willow sticks (no roots!) for £3 from a very persuasive plantsman who assured me that if I just stuck them into the earth they would grow into tall trees (or my money back!). Well, the sticks did in fact grow into very tall trees, and over the years I had to have most of them felled leaving only two which need pruning every few years in any case! So from buying a few sticks for £3 to having to spend hundreds of pounds to have the trees dealt with. A cautionary tale if there ever was one!
The inspiration for the rest of the planting came, as is so often the case, from my mediterranean background, and my trips to the Lebanon, Italy, the South of France and Australia. But I have also been very much influenced by the great gardens of the British Isles, particularly the garden at Tresco in the Isles of Scilly and the “Lost Gardens of Helligham” in Cornwall. There is no doubt that the greatest variety of plants from all over the world are to be found in Britain, and the various British nurseries are great providers of all manner of rare and wonderful things.
So I started sourcing and planting the mediterranean type shrubs and trees as well as other types of plants from other parts of the world, adding to them over the years. In 2009 my garden designer and architect friend Hannah Sindall erected a supporting wooden structure inside my greenhouse in order to plant a living roof on top of it. At first we covered it with “sempervivums”, but they did not thrive and ended up rotting! So now the roof is covered with a variety of “sedums” which have proved to be more effective.
2010 saw the creation of a new raised mixed border. A hundred feet of trellis and rolled logs had to be pre-painted in the house over the winter before being fixed in situ in February. (See pictures) As there is no direct access to the garden except via a 100m alleyway inaccessible to cars, 25 tons of soil had to be delivered and dumped by the road side to be then transported down the alleyway and up the garden path by wheelbarrow. The poor chap whose job it was to bring the soil in clocked up 35kms on his pedometer!
The second mixed border facing the first was created in 2012. It proved not to be that straightforward as it had to incorporate the existing shrubs and trees and their considerable root systems which made digging for the new herbaceous planting very difficult. So after the removal of the grass, a lot of new soil had to be delivered and added.More trips up and down the alleyway with the wheel barrow! And still more soil and compost needs adding to allow the new plants to thrive and make future digging easier.
In 2013 after the demise of some of my star performers, a splendid red “Cordyline”, a magnificent “Ceanothus concha” and a very large Fremontodendron following two severe winters, new shrubs needed to be planted. I chose two amazing “Pseudopanax crassifolius and ferox” and an unusual tree, “Maytenus boaria” as replacements.
I started growing Corokias fifteen years ago, but it’s only a few years ago that I realised that the genus, apart from the main species, “buddleioides”, “macrocarpa” and ”
cotoneaster” comprised a great number of interesting hybrids. That’s when I started collecting them in earnest with a view of applying for a “National Collection”. I had them dotted around the garden, until this year when I decided to gather a number of different varieties together in one border, mixed in with perennials. In time they will form a hedge.
2014 saw the arrival of new exotics.
Painting of Mona’s garden by Louis Turpin
Dismantling of rolled logs supporting the 40m raised bed, and replacing with new granite setts.(See History 2010)