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White Cottage garden

PUBLISHED: 10:52 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013

Once a dry ditch, the stream garden is a year-round delight

Once a dry ditch, the stream garden is a year-round delight

A garden without rooms can work as White Cottage demonstrates. Words and pictures by Mandy Bradshaw

The idea of garden rooms concealing one part of a plot from another has become so entrenched that finding a more open plan garden is something of a surprise. Yet White Cottage proves that rules are made to be broken and gardens can have distinct areas without high walls or hedges.



When Mel and Jan Bates took on the two-acre site 28 years ago only half was laid out as garden.



"The rest was just rough grass," recalls Jan.



A weeping willow, now a magnificent focal point, was barely a twig and there were cowslips by the dozens - which still appear every spring.



"If we don't mow we have an absolute sea of them."



Having rotavated and levelled the ground, the couple set about providing structure in the form of shrubs and trees, chosen for their interesting foliage or flowers. They are, believes Jan, the backbone of any successful garden.



"Herbaceous is fine but if you just have herbaceous you don't have things to look at in every season."



This is particularly important in winter and spring when her borders are still glowing with colour and interest. Highlights include the coloured stems of dogwoods, blooms on Chaenomeles speciosa 'Apple Blossom', and the tight pink buds of Viburnum carlesii, which will open to scented white flowers.



Trees are also chosen for off-peak interest, such as Prunus nigra, which has delicate pink blossom in spring, Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' with its beautiful ivory blooms, and Acer rubrum 'October Glory', which, as its name suggests, has fiery autumn colour but which also has tiny, feathery flowers early in the year.



One corner is home to a collection of conifers with contrasting forms and colours, while an underplanting of hellebores in plummy tones sets off the pale gleam of a group of silver birch. Hellebores, this time the limey H. foetidus, are used to good effect under the prunus.



"These hellebores give you colour when nothing else does and they are such a bright fresh colour," observes Jan.



Other spring delights include numerous pulmonaria. 'Blue Mist' has pale blue flowers, 'Bowles Red' is salmon red, while the snowy flowers of 'Sissinghurst White' will lighten any border.



As befits a committed gardener -Jan runs a nursery specialising in geraniums - the garden is designed to have interest throughout the year. Naturally, many of the summer stars are geraniums. Macrorrhizum and phaeum varieties are used in shady corners, many grown as much for their beautifully marked foliage as for their sometimes insignificant flowers, while the sunny island beds are home to more flamboyant types, such as 'Dragon Heart', which has deep purple flowers with a dark eye, and 'Jolly Bee' with bright blue flowers and a white eye.



Around the formal pond - set between parallel hornbeam hedges - the colour scheme is pinks and purples. Oriental poppies are a favourite and there are iris, sedum, echinacea, deep purple euphorbia, asters and hemerocallis. Curiously, Rosa 'Seagull', more commonly seen as a rampant climber, is grown as a trimmed bush.



"Somebody gave us some cuttings and I stuck them in to root. That one got missed when I moved them," explains Jan.



A golden variegated box was also the result of a cutting - this time from Pershore where she studied.



Elsewhere there is a hot border of orange and yellow - "I'm not very fond of yellow so I keep it to one area of the garden." - and a contrasting cool border of blue and white, with the odd contrasting touch of red. This area includes silvery Artemisia 'Powis Castle', delphiniums, aconitums, thalictrum, lupins and the richly coloured Dahlia 'Arabian Night'.



The nursery, which has operated alongside the garden for 25 years, stocks around 200 varieties of geraniums, as well as echinacea, pulmonaria and a whole host of other plants. Its development from a few plants to raise funds for an African school to a thriving business can be tracked around the garden. What is now a rockery was the first sales area, while a second sales part later became a circular rose garden. Set around a cartwheel fountain, this is devoted to old-fashioned roses and David Austin varieties in pinks and whites, with climbers, such as 'New Dawn', and clematis on rope swags encircling the space.



More roses are found scrambling through trees: 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' grows through the remains of an old Scots pine; 'Ethel', chosen in memory of Jan's mum, climbs a silver birch; 'Bobby James' has colonised a tree in the neighbouring field.



"It is spectacular when it is in flower."



One of the most successful areas of the garden had an inauspicious start as a dry ditch, though looking at the gently tumbling stream that runs through the garden it is hard to believe it is not natural.



At first the couple built the sides up with logs, but soon decided it appeared too artificial and now use unfashionable but effective peat blocks.



"The nice thing is you can grow things in them so it all looks really natural."



Indeed, the banks are colonised by primroses, moss and ferns while the stream is full of water iris. Hostas, ligularia and astilbe add bulk to the planting as the season progresses, screening the walls of a raised bed that is home to geraniums, lilies and double chionodoxa.



A tiny bridge leads over the water to an area of naturalised bulbs -, anemones, cyclamen, snake's head fritillaries, and narcissi - the latter providing two bursts of flower.



"It was not planned, they were a mixed bag of bulbs," laughs Jan. "Like the best things in nature it just happened."



With a selection of special trees, including Parrotia persica, catalpa and a tulip tree, it is a quiet corner that nevertheless blends well with the rest of the plot.



"The nice thing about the garden is it's got areas, different types of garden, that all flow into each other with no barrier to stop you."



White Cottage, Stock Green, near Inkberrow, is open for the National Gardens Scheme on April 5 from 2-5pm, May 30 and 31 from 10am to 5pm, and by appointment all year, call 01386 792414. Admission is adults 2.50, concessions 2, children free. Cranesbill Nursery runs a mail order service and visits are by appointment only. For more information, visit www.cranesbillnursery.com


The idea of garden rooms concealing one part of a plot from another has become so entrenched that finding a more open plan garden is something of a surprise. Yet White Cottage proves that rules are made to be broken and gardens can have distinct areas without high walls or hedges.



When Mel and Jan Bates took on the two-acre site 28 years ago only half was laid out as garden.



"The rest was just rough grass," recalls Jan.



A weeping willow, now a magnificent focal point, was barely a twig and there were cowslips by the dozens - which still appear every spring.



"If we don't mow we have an absolute sea of them."



Having rotavated and levelled the ground, the couple set about providing structure in the form of shrubs and trees, chosen for their interesting foliage or flowers. They are, believes Jan, the backbone of any successful garden.



"Herbaceous is fine but if you just have herbaceous you don't have things to look at in every season."



This is particularly important in winter and spring when her borders are still glowing with colour and interest. Highlights include the coloured stems of dogwoods, blooms on Chaenomeles speciosa 'Apple Blossom', and the tight pink buds of Viburnum carlesii, which will open to scented white flowers.



Trees are also chosen for off-peak interest, such as Prunus nigra, which has delicate pink blossom in spring, Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' with its beautiful ivory blooms, and Acer rubrum 'October Glory', which, as its name suggests, has fiery autumn colour but which also has tiny, feathery flowers early in the year.



One corner is home to a collection of conifers with contrasting forms and colours, while an underplanting of hellebores in plummy tones sets off the pale gleam of a group of silver birch. Hellebores, this time the limey H. foetidus, are used to good effect under the prunus.



"These hellebores give you colour when nothing else does and they are such a bright fresh colour," observes Jan.



Other spring delights include numerous pulmonaria. 'Blue Mist' has pale blue flowers, 'Bowles Red' is salmon red, while the snowy flowers of 'Sissinghurst White' will lighten any border.



As befits a committed gardener -Jan runs a nursery specialising in geraniums - the garden is designed to have interest throughout the year. Naturally, many of the summer stars are geraniums. Macrorrhizum and phaeum varieties are used in shady corners, many grown as much for their beautifully marked foliage as for their sometimes insignificant flowers, while the sunny island beds are home to more flamboyant types, such as 'Dragon Heart', which has deep purple flowers with a dark eye, and 'Jolly Bee' with bright blue flowers and a white eye.



Around the formal pond - set between parallel hornbeam hedges - the colour scheme is pinks and purples. Oriental poppies are a favourite and there are iris, sedum, echinacea, deep purple euphorbia, asters and hemerocallis. Curiously, Rosa 'Seagull', more commonly seen as a rampant climber, is grown as a trimmed bush.



"Somebody gave us some cuttings and I stuck them in to root. That one got missed when I moved them," explains Jan.



A golden variegated box was also the result of a cutting - this time from Pershore where she studied.



Elsewhere there is a hot border of orange and yellow - "I'm not very fond of yellow so I keep it to one area of the garden." - and a contrasting cool border of blue and white, with the odd contrasting touch of red. This area includes silvery Artemisia 'Powis Castle', delphiniums, aconitums, thalictrum, lupins and the richly coloured Dahlia 'Arabian Night'.



The nursery, which has operated alongside the garden for 25 years, stocks around 200 varieties of geraniums, as well as echinacea, pulmonaria and a whole host of other plants. Its development from a few plants to raise funds for an African school to a thriving business can be tracked around the garden. What is now a rockery was the first sales area, while a second sales part later became a circular rose garden. Set around a cartwheel fountain, this is devoted to old-fashioned roses and David Austin varieties in pinks and whites, with climbers, such as 'New Dawn', and clematis on rope swags encircling the space.



More roses are found scrambling through trees: 'Paul's Himalayan Musk' grows through the remains of an old Scots pine; 'Ethel', chosen in memory of Jan's mum, climbs a silver birch; 'Bobby James' has colonised a tree in the neighbouring field.



"It is spectacular when it is in flower."



One of the most successful areas of the garden had an inauspicious start as a dry ditch, though looking at the gently tumbling stream that runs through the garden it is hard to believe it is not natural.



At first the couple built the sides up with logs, but soon decided it appeared too artificial and now use unfashionable but effective peat blocks.



"The nice thing is you can grow things in them so it all looks really natural."



Indeed, the banks are colonised by primroses, moss and ferns while the stream is full of water iris. Hostas, ligularia and astilbe add bulk to the planting as the season progresses, screening the walls of a raised bed that is home to geraniums, lilies and double chionodoxa.



A tiny bridge leads over the water to an area of naturalised bulbs -, anemones, cyclamen, snake's head fritillaries, and narcissi - the latter providing two bursts of flower.



"It was not planned, they were a mixed bag of bulbs," laughs Jan. "Like the best things in nature it just happened."



With a selection of special trees, including Parrotia persica, catalpa and a tulip tree, it is a quiet corner that nevertheless blends well with the rest of the plot.



"The nice thing about the garden is it's got areas, different types of garden, that all flow into each other with no barrier to stop you."



White Cottage, Stock Green, near Inkberrow, is open for the National Gardens Scheme on April 5 from 2-5pm, May 30 and 31 from 10am to 5pm, and by appointment all year, call 01386 792414. Admission is adults 2.50, concessions 2, children free. Cranesbill Nursery runs a mail order service and visits are by appointment only. For more information, visit www.cranesbillnursery.com


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