Caroline and James Weymouth have blurred the boundaries of their Colourful garden so it blends seamlessly into its pastoral setting
A colourful garden in Herefordshire blends beautifully with its pastoral surroundings
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.