Those who live in the countryside know that many farmers regard gardening with a mixture of bewilderment and contempt. Not only are they very busy (up at 5am and hard at work until nightfall), but most simply donot see the point. It is too finicky and does not produce much that you can eat or sell.
Farmers’ wives, however, have always found a corner for a favourite rose, even if they do not have as much time to devote to that corner as they would like. All of this makes the garden unusual for its scale and beauty.
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Garden orientation South-facing garden of an 18th-century thatched farmhouse in Wiltshire.
Soil Initially extremely poor and chalky, but tonnes of spent mushroom compost were used to enrich the beds when they were created in 2010.
Special features Espaliered crab-apple trees, which feature in a favourite part of the garden and sport dense white blossom in the spring.
Garden designer Serena Smith.
'It is our forever house,' she says of the thatched, 18th-century farmhouse, 'and I really wanted a garden that I could love.' So what was once a car park, where tractors rolled back and forth, has been transformed into a strikingly beautiful design that seduces all who see it.
The owner moved to East Farm, which had been in her husband’s family for a century, without knowing or caring much about its garden. Fifteen years ago, however, the couple had it landscaped in a functional way (they needed access for tractors and horseboxes) but, as the time passed, the owner became dissatisfied.
'I am not a gardener, but I know what looks right,' says the owner who runs her own business selling bespoke Christmas decorations, 'so I began collecting images from magazines that depicted the style I wanted to create.'
Then, five years ago, she called in designer Serena Smith who amassed the owners cuttings and came up with a plan that successfully married the formality of a geometric framework of clipped box hedging to the informal planting that she wanted. There was just one final request: there were to be no red or yellow flowers of any kind.
The massed plantings of perennials within the box now feature astrantia, geraniums, that favourite of fower arrangers Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle), and a wide variety of alliums, including A. giganteum and the astonishing variety A. cristophii, which looks like a frework in suspended animation.
All along, she has been aided by her gardener Ed Leatham, who keeps things looking as she likes them. Her statues of stone whippets (she has the real thing as well) appear to emerge from the flowers, while planted stone urns and lichen-covered mushroom-shaped staddle stones (a traditional means of supporting granaries or haylofts) act as focal points.
Roses have always been a favourite so there are many old or scented varieties, such as ‘William Lobb’, ‘Cardinal de Richelieu’ and ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’, in white, pink, and the raspberry ripple of Rosa mundi.
At the heart of the garden, where the couple relax with an evening drink, is a tranquil area enclosed by espaliered Malus ‘Evereste’ (crab apple). These once-overlooked trees have recently found favour again with designers, and here are trained in tiers to show them at their best. 'They were my treat,' says the owner, 'and, although they were expensive, when we sit out here now and see the blossom we know it was worth it.'
Photography/ Mark Bolton