A Wiltshire garden with form and flair

Exuberant planting bursts forth from an ordered geometric framework of box in thus idyllic country scheme in Wiltshire

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, serenasmithgardendesign@hotmail.co.uk.

Country garden Wiltshire

Clipped box reflects the formal symmetric of East Farm, a thatched 18th-century cottage that has been sympathetically extended.

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 do not 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.

Country garden Wiltshire

By the pool house has been designed to blend in with the farmhouse.

‘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.

Dense plantings of alliums and Rosa mundi adorn the surrounding area.

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 fowers of any kind.

Country garden Wiltshire

Statement terracotta planters filled with Scabies mark an entrance to the formal garden, while roses and alliums add interest to the box framework.

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.

Country garden Wiltshire

A stone whippet stands in a bed of lime-green Alchemilla mollie, Viola cornet and dusky-pink Astrantia major ‘Roma,’ which grow in profusion by the front door.

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.

Country garden Wiltshire

The lawn to the rear if the property is the only original part of the garden, with terracotta urns acting as focal points among the abundant planting.

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.

Country garden Wiltshire

Self-seeded foxgloves thrive in the border beneath an old lime tree.

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.’

Country garden Wiltshire

Seating by espaliered Malus ‘Evereste’ is a favourite spot in the garden.

Photography/ Mark Bolton