Box Open Gardens 2016

Restraint, revamping and retro

For self-confessed ‘plantaholics’ Wendy Rochefort and Andrew Dawes show remarkable restraint in their garden, part of Box Open Gardens. There are colour-themed borders, others that follow a single style of planting and the sort of sensible spacing of things that few of us achieve.

They are nearly five years into a major overhaul of what was a once-loved but neglected plot and already the difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs is impressive.

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The hot border is already a mass of colour

Whereas they took over mainly lawn, a few overgrown borders and some trees, now it is flower-filled garden with plenty of places to sit and enjoy the countryside view.

Unlike many in Box, their site is not steeply sloping; most run either uphill or down away from the main road that runs like a spine through the pretty Cotswold village. As a result, they have had to rely on plants rather than terracing to create different areas and break up the space.

The first of these areas is the patio near the house. A rotten pergola has been replaced and the original wisteria retrained.

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Osteospermum remind them of Cornish holidays

“It was in a terrible mess,” recalls Andrew. “I kept some of the longer branches and cut and retrained it.”

The brutal treatment has obviously worked as the pergola is festooned with hanging lilac flower tresses. When these fade, Clematis ‘Mary Rose’, rescued from a pot where it was ailing, and a grape vine will take over the display.

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Scarlet Lamprocapnos spectabilis in the hot border

Below, the garden’s only major change in level is bridged with a rockery. This is an existing feature but with revamped planting: masses of osteospermum – evoking memories of the couple’s trips to Cornwall – helianthemum, the cerise Byzantine gladiolus and clumps of snow-in-summer, Cerastium tomentosum.

I remark that it is a strangely old-fashioned flower, reminiscent of the sixties, and one that I rarely see in gardens.

Wendy admits that her first instinct was to take it out “but I like the flowers and the grey foliage”. Perhaps, we wonder, it’s due for a comeback.

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Is Cerastium tomentosum due for a comeback?

Unlike many amateur gardeners, the pair planned before starting on the garden.

“We decided we wanted more flower beds,” explains Wendy, “and not just straight flower beds.”

Using pieces of plastic pipe, they laid out where new beds would go, working out the overall look before getting rid of the grass and starting to plant.

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Herbs are grown in an old wash pail

One of the main beds is the ‘hot border’, which reaches a crescendo in late summer with masses of dahlias in what Wendy describes as “clashing colours”.

In early summer, Viola ‘Avril Lawson’ is covered with masses of purple flowers and there is also Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’, Geranium ‘Patricia’ and red Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ just beginning to flower.

Further down, the colour scheme is cool with grasses surrounding the ‘gin and tonic bench’. Cornflowers, perovskia, ammi and Dianthus carthusianorum are used to inject extra colour.

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Grasses are used to soften a path

Alongside is the blue, white and yellow bed with big drifts of Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ – another plant that is coming back into fashion – polemonium, Achillea ‘Moonshine’, salvias and agapanthus.

The heart of the garden is dominated by a spring-fed pond and the ‘textures bed’ where foliage colour and shape are the main consideration. Under the shelter of an original silver pear, there is heuchera, bergenia, euphorbia, ferns and dierama, which are beginning to self-seed.

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An urn is used as a focal point in the textures bed

There are still many projects ongoing in the garden, including making a weigela hedge and terracing an area at the back. Plenty of opportunity then for more plant-buying trips.

“We can’t resist buying plants,” admits Wendy. “We come back with the car looking like a mobile greenhouse.”

 Seventeen gardens will take part in Box Open Gardens, near Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire, on Sunday June 12 from noon to 6pm. There will be a sculpture trail, cream teas, classic cars display, plants for sale and Nailsworth Silver Band. Entry is £6 with profits going to Box Village Hall and Longfield Hospice. For more details, visit Box Open Gardens

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