This part of the garden was temporarily used as a small paddock for our daughter’s pony – fortunately a small field came up for sale and the pony was moved into the field and we took over this part of the garden for our vegetables. The ground is light and very easy to dig having been cultivated for hundreds of years – but it was hungry and we applied masses of compost and horse manure to liven it up. Some things grew brilliantly, but others were less successful – sometimes due to the soil or the shade of the trees and sometimes just our own ignorance.
Over the years the garden has been transformed into a mixture of formal and informal planting. A solid stone wall has been built around two sides and in one corner a classic potting shed with old leaded windows and inside a fireplace for the comfort of the gardener. A formal pond is the focal point of this part of the garden, this stands out of the ground giving a seating place from which the wildlife in the pond can be observed. We did have some magnificent koi carp in this pond, but one day they all disappeared and the signs indicated that an otter had enjoyed a very expensive gourmet meal. this was confirmed when a neighbour sent through a picture of the otter eating fish from his pond. So this made us decide to keep both ponds as wildlife conservation areas and let the frogs, newts and other creatures enjoy the habitat rather than introduce exotic species. If you have ever watched the antics of a stickleback guarding his nest – well you just have to imagine what a pleasure that is.
The large pond on the upper terrace is fed by a part-time stream. This was just a gloopy muddy hole when we moved in and was one of the first projects that we undertook. But digging out brown overcooked porridge was a challenge and eventually several years later the whole pond was extended, lined and pumps put in to circulate the water to the boundary of the property allowing us the pleasure of a summer stream as well as the wonderful roaring water of the winter. Despite very heavy downpours, this stream is now always capable of contending with the water that comes from the mountain behind. The stream is lined and a ‘Monet’ inspired bridge spans the boundary entrance of the stream – intended to lead to the upper path that runs around the steep bank above the pond and stream.
This pond has a rich and diverse variety of plants and wildlife. A branch from the oak tree provides a convenient kingfisher park and wild duck (including Mandarins and Carolinas as well as Mallard) use the pond at various times of the year.
Being members of an eccentric organisation ‘The Folly Fellowship’ and having been brought up on the edge of the grounds of Stowe School – the concept of building our own folly was not as crazy as it seemed to some people. Over the years many really magnificent buildings have been demolished and we start collecting and buying stone from these demolition sites. Having aquired a lovely Gothic door surround in stone and some mullioned stone windows we decided to build a ruined chapel. This is fabulous for al fresco dining – the fireplace makes an excellent barbeque or outdoor fireplace for a summer evening and nightlights floating on the pond make a romantic setting for a party.
There was very little in the garden in the way of ornamental shrubs and trees and from the very first few months many species have been added. It is an indication of our age and the time-span that we have spent here when we see a Wisteria grown from a cutting from the original plant in the front of the house – has now clambered right up to the top of the mature beech trees. It is a glorious sight seeing the beech tree festooned in these fabulous blooms.
As I think of the various plants that have been added to the garden – I will list them and perhaps make a map showing where they are. Magical trees such as Pawlonia are now mature enough to bloom. (to be continued)