BORDER LINES

Caro­line and James Wey­mouth have blurred the bound­aries of their Colour­ful gar­den so it blends seam­lessly into its pas­toral set­ting

Country Homes & Interiors - - CONTENTS - ☎ UP­PER TAN HOUSE, STANS­BATCH, LEOMINSTER HR6 9LJ. VIS­ITS BY AP­POINT­MENT; VISIT UPPERTANHOUSE.COM.

A colour­ful gar­den in Here­ford­shire blends beau­ti­fully with its pas­toral sur­round­ings

At

the end of a nar­row track in Stans­batch, near the Welsh border in Here­ford­shire, stands Up­per Tan House, home to Caro­line and James Wey­mouth, their two dogs Mer­lin and Archie and a gar­den that blends seam­lessly into its pas­toral set­ting be­neath wooded Wap­ley Hill Iron Age fort. Since it was built in around 1600, the hand­some stone house with at­tached barn has been a tan­nery, malt house and even a tem­per­ance hall be­fore be­com­ing a farm­house, and by the time the cou­ple viewed it on a Fe­bru­ary day in 1996, it was a build­ing badly in need of help.

‘Caro­line saw the po­ten­tial,’ says James, who was con­cerned at the amount of work needed on the house, though the gar­den and sur­round­ing land fit­ted the bill ex­actly. ‘We wanted to make a gar­den, and this was south-fac­ing, the right size and had a brook run­ning through it so there was plenty of scope,’ says Caro­line.

‘We moved here from Lon­don and had al­ways gar­dened in cities be­fore so we had to learn how to gar­den in a land­scape,’ says Caro­line. For­tu­nately, we own some of the ad­join­ing land so we can con­trol it to a de­gree.’ The gar­den was largely a blank slate when they ar­rived, though as it had been used to grow vegeta­bles and cut flow­ers over decades, per­haps cen­turies, they in­her­ited a deep, fer­tile top­soil from re­peated ap­pli­ca­tions of ma­nure.

Grad­u­ally, Caro­line formed the idea of ter­rac­ing the south-fac­ing slope in front of the house. ‘I liked the idea of hav­ing a pro­fu­sion of plants tum­bling down the slope so that at cer­tain an­gles you can’t even see the paths.’ Over five years the cou­ple worked their way around the house laying out bor­ders, paths, lawns and a nat­u­ral­is­tic pond un­til it had evolved to its present form and ex­tended its south­ern bound­ary to in­clude the slop­ing meadow

What we love most about this gar­dené ‘The changes that the dif­fer­ent sea­sons bring. You never quite know what you’re go­ing to get next’

on the op­po­site side of the Stans­batch brook, nowa­days host to a spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of wild or­chids in sum­mer.

To­wards the edges of the gar­den, ar­eas of tran­si­tion be­tween gar­den and coun­try­side, Caro­line chooses plants care­fully, favour­ing those with a nat­u­ral feel like helle­bores, ferns and per­si­carias rather than del­phini­ums or dahlias. A few wild plants are al­lowed to en­croach on the lawn, too, an­other way of mesh­ing the gar­den into its en­vi­ron­ment and an echo of the tus­socky meadow be­yond the brook. Steel es­tate fenc­ing that has been al­lowed to rust to a nat­u­ral look lightly traces the edge of the gar­den so that it seems to flow in and out of its sur­round­ings.

One of the down­sides of hav­ing a gar­den so open to its ru­ral set­ting is the oc­ca­sional in­cur­sion of cat­tle, sheep and even the lo­cal hunt. ‘Weeds in­vade be­cause there’s no solid bar­rier. We work hard to keep them out of the main bor­ders, but nearer the edge of the gar­den we might al­low some to stay, es­pe­cially if they’re pretty like red cam­pion, for in­stance,’ ex­plains Caro­line.

The cou­ple have planted hun­dreds of trees on the 20 acres that sur­round the gar­den, in­clud­ing a small or­chard of ap­ples on the north side of the house that fea­tures old lo­cal va­ri­eties such as Stoke Edith Pip­pin and Doc­tor Hares. ‘We chose va­ri­eties that would be ready for eat­ing over a long pe­riod, so in most years we can each eat one of our own ap­ples a day un­til June.’

Di­rectly out­side the kitchen door, a wide grav­elled ter­race hosts an el­e­gant ar­range­ment of pre­dom­i­nantly green and sil­ver fo­liage plants in con­tain­ers, in­clud­ing Melianthus ma­jor, an­cient conifer

and striped Phormium ‘Yel­low Wave’. Big yew

What makes this gar­den so spe­cial... ‘It’s in an idyl­lic cor­ner of Here­ford­shire and we try to blend the gar­den into the magic of its set­ting with care­ful plant choices’

but­tresses edge the ter­race, giv­ing a sense of en­clo­sure while al­low­ing views through to the wider gar­den. Caro­line feels that some clipped forms are needed, even in such a nat­u­ral set­ting, to ‘an­chor the house into the gar­den’.

From the lawn, 18 feet be­low the ter­race, plants ap­pear piled on top of each other in mounds of pur­ple, yel­low, red and vi­o­let, in a glo­ri­ous cel­e­bra­tion of the sea­son. Tow­er­ing peren­ni­als, in­clud­ing wine-red Eu­pa­to­rium mac­u­la­tum (Atrop­ur­pureum Group) ‘Riesen­schirm’ and golden-yel­low Rud­beckia lacini­ata

‘Herb­st­sonne’ flower above bold clumps of Michael­mas daisies, such as com­pact Aster × frikar­tii ‘Wun­der von Stäfa’ and longflow­er­ing Sym­phy­otrichum ‘Prim­rose Path’.

‘I think au­tumn light has a clar­ity about it that can take strong, punchy colours,’ says Caro­line. ‘I par­tic­u­larly love the red

Hes­per­an­tha coc­cinea which came from our Lon­don gar­den and likes the con­di­tions here so much that it’s spread and spread.’

The for­mal veg­etable gar­den be­side the re­stored barn is James’ do­main, an or­derly ar­range­ment of raised beds with clipped box spheres at their cor­ners. Be­cause the gar­den sits in a frost pocket, the grow­ing sea­son is short so James pri­ori­tises va­ri­eties that are hard to come by in shops and things that ben­e­fit from be­ing eaten as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter pick­ing.

In this idyl­lic cor­ner of Here­ford­shire, the cou­ple have proved that if city dwellers are will­ing to be pa­tient and learn from a ru­ral en­vi­ron­ment, they can be­come skil­ful coun­try gar­den­ers.

A gravel path runs be­tween bor­ders over­flow­ing with plants, in­clud­ing Hes­per­an­tha coc­cinea ‘Ma­jor’, asters, hy­drangeas, Eu­pa­to­rium pur­pureum and Ja­panese anemones.

A roofed seat be­side the banks of the Stans­batch brook.

Be­go­nia gran­dis subsp. evan­siana and Gla­di­o­lus murielae in pots on the ter­race.

The Stans­batch brook is fringed with ferns and Darmera peltata.

Hes­per­an­tha coc­cinea ‘Ma­jor’ in­jects a splash of strong colour.

The herb gar­den be­side the green­house is planted with sage, rose­mary, thyme and chives.

The dec­o­ra­tive veg­etable gar­den fea­tures gravel paths, clipped box and pro­duce in­clud­ing climb­ing beans, kale, sweet­corn, salad leaves, squashes and leeks.

A clipped horn­beam stands on a lawn sur­rounded by beds of au­tumn-flow­er­ing plants, in­clud­ing asters and hy­drangeas.

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