Brocklehurst may be one of the smaller Cotswold gardens I’ve visited but the design principles that underpin it are the same as for far larger plots.
There are changes of mood, secret corners, long vistas and – most important – plenty of places to just sit and enjoy.
It was the deciding factor when Anne Wood first saw the property: “It was the garden that sold the house to me,” she recalls. “It definitely had the bones of a good garden.”
Not that it was in the sort of shape it is today. Ill health meant the previous owners had not been able to devote the time they wanted to it and the quarter of an acre was somewhat overgrown.
Anne spent the first year clearing and learning about her new garden: “You have to live with a garden to what gets the sun and the light, to see how things work,” she advises.
It was obvious to her that Brocklehurst had been carefully laid out, in what she describes as “patchwork style” with hedges dividing it into smaller rooms. Using this as her basis, she has gradually adapted and tweaked the layout to put her own mark on the garden.
At the back of the cottage, she has levelled the ground and extended a Cotswold stone wall to create a large enclosed terrace; an ornate gate, made to her design, gives glimpses of a small kitchen garden beyond.
Around the generous outdoor sofa, she has put scented plants, such as lavender, and herbs including sage and rosemary, while Rosa ‘Paul’s Himalayan Musk’ scrambles over the wall.
Indeed, roses are a feature at Brocklehurst. Most are white or pale pinks, such as ‘Generous Gardener’ and ‘Spirit of Freedom’ but she has put in ‘Teasing Georgia’ against a wall near the entrance. Chosen for its name – her goddaughter is called Georgina – it is the only splash of yellow, a colour Anne dislikes, in the garden but is tolerated for its strong growth, abundant blooms and because it looks fabulous against the Cotswold stone.
The path to the front door used to be box-lined but blight led to its removal and it is now lavender-edged. Again, scent is used by a seat – this time philadelphus whose perfume is ‘trapped’ in the space by hornbean hedges.
Flower borders edge two sides of the lawn in the middle section of the garden. The planting is mixed – roses, geraniums, astrantia and peonies – all protected from Anne’s dogs by low rusted ‘fencing’ that she had made. Split into lengths, it’s easy to move when she needs to weed and acts as a support for the herbaceous as well as a protection.
A long hornbeam hedge used to run across the garden but it’s been shortened to allow the creation of a shady bed and new arches have been cut to allow different routes around the garden.
Tucked away behind hedges, the wildlife garden is shady surprise. There’s a small pond, masses of hellebores and nettles that are left for the butterflies.
In contrast, colour dominates the last of the flower gardens where four ‘mirror’ beds surround a formal, raised pool. Many of the alliums and peonies were already there but the forced removal of box hedging, again due to blight, has allowed Anne to add to the collection and bring in Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’.
Again, there are places to sit – a bench under one of the hornbeam arches and a summerhouse – while ‘badgers’ in the corner are a quirky touch.
“They’re the only badgers you want in your garden,” she says with a smile.
Six years on Anne has achieved much but still has more ideas. A new terrace to give somewhere to sit and look over the flower borders has just been completed and there are plans for a small garden, probably with a Zen influence, in memory of her son, Daniel, who died earlier this year.
• Brocklehurst, at Hawling near Cheltenham, is open for the National Garden Scheme on Sundays July 2 and 9 from 11am to 5pm in conjunction with Littlefield. Combined admission is £8 for adults; children’s entry is free.