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Elm Close Garden

PUBLISHED: 11:54 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 February 2013

Sempervivums tumbling out of a broken pot are an eye-catching feature in the gravel garden

Sempervivums tumbling out of a broken pot are an eye-catching feature in the gravel garden

Elm Close is a true garden for all seasons. Words and pictures by Mandy Bradshaw

Winter is the season that divides gardeners. For some, it is a fallow period, a time to shut the door and forget the garden. But for others, winter offers a wealth of opportunities for colour and interest.



Glenis and Eric Dyer fall firmly into the second group. Their garden at Welford-on-Avon is planted for year-round enjoyment and even on a grey winter's day there is something to lift the spirits. From winter-flowering shrubs to early bulbs, their borders are dotted with splashes of colour.



It is a far cry from the dismal plot they took over 27 years ago. Then, the two-thirds-of-an-acre was home to an overgrown rockery, a small vegetable plot, two enormous willow trees and a long 10ft high privet hedge that divided the garden diagonally.



"It was a major operation to dig it out," recalls Mrs Dyer.



Today, all that remains is the memory of those early inhabitants: one border is laughingly known as 'the willow bed', as the roots of the biggest tree are still buried there.



The garden was not planned but has evolved as the couple's taste in plants has changed from roses and geraniums to hellebores and clematis.



"Gardens have to change with their owners."



Hellebores form the basis of their winter display, with single, double and anemone varieties ranging from pink and white to yellow and deep purple. Helleborus niger is a reliable early performer - "I can always pick some for the Christmas table." - and there are several forms.



"Some bloom early, some later, some have red stems, some stand up, some have particularly large flowers. They vary quite a lot."



Scattered through the hellebore display are bulbs - yellow and purple crocus, golden aconites and about 20 different varieties of snowdrop. There is also Iris stylosa, whose delicate flowers are a particular favourite.



"Why every garden does not have them I don't know."



If bulbs and hellebores form the lowest tier of planting, then the next level is shrubs, particularly those with scent. Daphnes are one of the couple's passions and they are well represented in the garden, planted close to paths so that their scent can be easily enjoyed.



Daphne bholua 'Darjeeling' is often in flower in November and there are several D. bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', including one that is 8ft-tall.



"They are almost thugs," admits Mrs Dyer, "but they're beautiful."



Elsewhere, winter-flowering honeysuckle is underplanted with cyclamen and bulbs and there is viburnum and hamamelis.



Trees, particularly those with interesting bark, make up the final layer of planting. The beautiful white stems of silver birch, grown from seed, lighten one corner and the peeling bark of Acer griseum cries out to be touched. In winter, the tiered form of Cornus controversa 'Variegata' has a simple elegance, while the twisted shape of Corylus avellana 'Contorta' is a delight.



Naturally, evergreens play a leading role, from pittosporum - P. tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson' appears in several areas - to Picea breweriana, the weeping spruce, which stands alone so that its graceful habit can be fully appreciated.



Golden choisya picks up the hues of nearby aconites and in the front of the garden, phormium and variegated golden pampas grass make a striking combination.



"You can always have colour in the garden if you don't insist on it being flowers.



"We all rave over flowers but foliage is the main thing that I buy plants for now. I like different coloured foliage, silvers and blues. In winter, if you haven't got many flowers it doesn't matter, you've still got colour."



Meanwhile, in one corner, soft ferns contrast with the twisted shapes of old tree stumps.



"In summer it is lush and absolutely gorgeous."



Plants are carefully placed to make the maximum impact in the winter months. Pink and white flowered Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is underplanted with dark purple hellebores, while nearby the dark leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' combine well with the marbled leaves of Arum italicum 'Pictum'.



In winter, the bones of a garden are laid bare and good structure can make or break it. Box topiary and hedging is used to make a walk past hellebores and magnolias. Old chimney pots guard one end, while the winding path leads to a small arbour. Later in the year, the pastel tones are replaced by fiery shades with dahlias and cannas.



Another feature that stands out is the sinewy serpentine wall that Mr Dyer, a former builder, constructed to shield the work area from the rest of the garden. On one side are the compost bins and cold frame, although as befits true plantaholics, there is also a manmade peat bed full of azaleas and rhododendrons.



"There are all sorts of really nice treasures, things that would not thrive out in the ordinary garden," explains Mrs Dyer.



The south-facing side of the wall is used to grow more tender specimens, including pittosporum, Abutilon megapotamicum, with its bell-like red blooms, and eucryphia. A campsis that was doing rather too well has been removed, as it was damaging the wall. Indeed, the couple are ruthless about making changes.



"If you decide that was a mistake, you just have to harden your heart."



In this way, trees that were not performing well have been taken out and tufa rockery has been scaled down and replaced with gravel and stepping stones.



"We are always titivating."



Many plants are grown in pots - particularly acers with bright new shoots, which are put in borders when they get too big. Others, such as phormiums and sempervivums, are grouped together to give a bigger impact. One broken pot with sempervivums spilling out of it is particularly effective.



Throughout the garden there are supports - wood and metal obelisks, a long pergola, pig netting and even painted builder's re-enforcing rod - all designed to support clematis. There are nearly 400 different varieties and Mrs Dyer, vice-chairman of the British Clematis Society, comments that if you see a support, there must be a clematis.



They are often grown in groups in complementary colours - pale pink 'Caroline', white 'Edith' and dark purple 'Jackmanii'.



"While you're digging one hole if you make it slightly bigger you can put two or three clematis in," advises Mrs Dyer. "But make sure they are the same pruning group.



"If you mix non-pruners with pruners you will give yourself a terrible job for ever. I have learned the hard way and have had to dig some things out."



Elsewhere, old apple and pear trees are used as supports, Clematis cirrhosa var. Balearica festoons a ginkgo and Clematis armandii scrambles across the front of the bungalow.



Along with peonies, hostas and salvias, they make up the bulk of the display later in the year. Yet it is in winter that a gardener's true skill is shown and Mrs Dyer is incredulous that more don't take advantage of the season.



"People seem to think that gardening starts at Easter and finishes after the summer holidays," says Mrs Dyer. "It is so important you don't just write it off in the winter."



Elm Close, Binton Road, Welford-on-Avon, is open for the National Gardens Scheme on April 6 and May 25 from 2pm to 5pm. Admission is 3, children, free.



Mandy Bradshaw


Winter is the season that divides gardeners. For some, it is a fallow period, a time to shut the door and forget the garden. But for others, winter offers a wealth of opportunities for colour and interest.



Glenis and Eric Dyer fall firmly into the second group. Their garden at Welford-on-Avon is planted for year-round enjoyment and even on a grey winter's day there is something to lift the spirits. From winter-flowering shrubs to early bulbs, their borders are dotted with splashes of colour.



It is a far cry from the dismal plot they took over 27 years ago. Then, the two-thirds-of-an-acre was home to an overgrown rockery, a small vegetable plot, two enormous willow trees and a long 10ft high privet hedge that divided the garden diagonally.



"It was a major operation to dig it out," recalls Mrs Dyer.



Today, all that remains is the memory of those early inhabitants: one border is laughingly known as 'the willow bed', as the roots of the biggest tree are still buried there.



The garden was not planned but has evolved as the couple's taste in plants has changed from roses and geraniums to hellebores and clematis.



"Gardens have to change with their owners."



Hellebores form the basis of their winter display, with single, double and anemone varieties ranging from pink and white to yellow and deep purple. Helleborus niger is a reliable early performer - "I can always pick some for the Christmas table." - and there are several forms.



"Some bloom early, some later, some have red stems, some stand up, some have particularly large flowers. They vary quite a lot."



Scattered through the hellebore display are bulbs - yellow and purple crocus, golden aconites and about 20 different varieties of snowdrop. There is also Iris stylosa, whose delicate flowers are a particular favourite.



"Why every garden does not have them I don't know."



If bulbs and hellebores form the lowest tier of planting, then the next level is shrubs, particularly those with scent. Daphnes are one of the couple's passions and they are well represented in the garden, planted close to paths so that their scent can be easily enjoyed.



Daphne bholua 'Darjeeling' is often in flower in November and there are several D. bholua 'Jacqueline Postill', including one that is 8ft-tall.



"They are almost thugs," admits Mrs Dyer, "but they're beautiful."



Elsewhere, winter-flowering honeysuckle is underplanted with cyclamen and bulbs and there is viburnum and hamamelis.



Trees, particularly those with interesting bark, make up the final layer of planting. The beautiful white stems of silver birch, grown from seed, lighten one corner and the peeling bark of Acer griseum cries out to be touched. In winter, the tiered form of Cornus controversa 'Variegata' has a simple elegance, while the twisted shape of Corylus avellana 'Contorta' is a delight.



Naturally, evergreens play a leading role, from pittosporum - P. tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson' appears in several areas - to Picea breweriana, the weeping spruce, which stands alone so that its graceful habit can be fully appreciated.



Golden choisya picks up the hues of nearby aconites and in the front of the garden, phormium and variegated golden pampas grass make a striking combination.



"You can always have colour in the garden if you don't insist on it being flowers.



"We all rave over flowers but foliage is the main thing that I buy plants for now. I like different coloured foliage, silvers and blues. In winter, if you haven't got many flowers it doesn't matter, you've still got colour."



Meanwhile, in one corner, soft ferns contrast with the twisted shapes of old tree stumps.



"In summer it is lush and absolutely gorgeous."



Plants are carefully placed to make the maximum impact in the winter months. Pink and white flowered Daphne bholua 'Jacqueline Postill' is underplanted with dark purple hellebores, while nearby the dark leaves of Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' combine well with the marbled leaves of Arum italicum 'Pictum'.



In winter, the bones of a garden are laid bare and good structure can make or break it. Box topiary and hedging is used to make a walk past hellebores and magnolias. Old chimney pots guard one end, while the winding path leads to a small arbour. Later in the year, the pastel tones are replaced by fiery shades with dahlias and cannas.



Another feature that stands out is the sinewy serpentine wall that Mr Dyer, a former builder, constructed to shield the work area from the rest of the garden. On one side are the compost bins and cold frame, although as befits true plantaholics, there is also a manmade peat bed full of azaleas and rhododendrons.



"There are all sorts of really nice treasures, things that would not thrive out in the ordinary garden," explains Mrs Dyer.



The south-facing side of the wall is used to grow more tender specimens, including pittosporum, Abutilon megapotamicum, with its bell-like red blooms, and eucryphia. A campsis that was doing rather too well has been removed, as it was damaging the wall. Indeed, the couple are ruthless about making changes.



"If you decide that was a mistake, you just have to harden your heart."



In this way, trees that were not performing well have been taken out and tufa rockery has been scaled down and replaced with gravel and stepping stones.



"We are always titivating."



Many plants are grown in pots - particularly acers with bright new shoots, which are put in borders when they get too big. Others, such as phormiums and sempervivums, are grouped together to give a bigger impact. One broken pot with sempervivums spilling out of it is particularly effective.



Throughout the garden there are supports - wood and metal obelisks, a long pergola, pig netting and even painted builder's re-enforcing rod - all designed to support clematis. There are nearly 400 different varieties and Mrs Dyer, vice-chairman of the British Clematis Society, comments that if you see a support, there must be a clematis.



They are often grown in groups in complementary colours - pale pink 'Caroline', white 'Edith' and dark purple 'Jackmanii'.



"While you're digging one hole if you make it slightly bigger you can put two or three clematis in," advises Mrs Dyer. "But make sure they are the same pruning group.



"If you mix non-pruners with pruners you will give yourself a terrible job for ever. I have learned the hard way and have had to dig some things out."



Elsewhere, old apple and pear trees are used as supports, Clematis cirrhosa var. Balearica festoons a ginkgo and Clematis armandii scrambles across the front of the bungalow.



Along with peonies, hostas and salvias, they make up the bulk of the display later in the year. Yet it is in winter that a gardener's true skill is shown and Mrs Dyer is incredulous that more don't take advantage of the season.



"People seem to think that gardening starts at Easter and finishes after the summer holidays," says Mrs Dyer. "It is so important you don't just write it off in the winter."



Elm Close, Binton Road, Welford-on-Avon, is open for the National Gardens Scheme on April 6 and May 25 from 2pm to 5pm. Admission is 3, children, free.



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