Spe­cial space

It’s been a long road from scrap­yard to wheelchair­friendly idyll, but the re­sults speak for them­selves. An­nie Green-Army­tage makes a visit

EDP Norfolk - - Inside - PHO­TOG­RA­PHER: ANNE GREEN-ARMY­TAGE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Left: Cir­cu­lar paving with gravel and bub­ble foun­tain, edged with laven­der. In the fore­ground is a lo­quat tree (Eri­obotrya japon­ica).

A gar­den de­signed for a very spe­cial pur­pose

THE GAR­DEN be­hind Moira Smith’s house in Wen­sum Cres­cent looks as if it has sprung di­rectly from the pages of a de­sign mag­a­zine. Large cir­cu­lar pa­tios are linked by wide paved path­ways and flanked by bor­ders hold­ing a di­verse range of plants with sculptural shapes and fo­liage as well as more tra­di­tional sum­mer colour.

The jewel in the crown is a con­tem­po­rary gar­den room with wide glass doors and a gen­tly curv­ing roof. Nestling in a shel­tered val­ley, Wen­sum Cres­cent takes its name from the river which me­an­ders into the heart of Nor­wich through a sliver of green space carved through built-up sub­urbs.

The small set­tle­ment of houses here were built in the late 1980s over the site of a scrap­yard, and the builders, need­ing to raise lev­els to avoid the dan­ger of flood­ing, im­ported spoil from a lo­cal in­dus­trial es­tate and spread it over the land. “There’s all sorts un­der here,” says Moira. “Bits of cars and lor­ries, he­li­copters, even tanks!”

Moira moved here in 2011 along with her wheel­chair-bound mother. Moira was de­ter­mined to make a gar­den which her mother could en­joy to the full. “The idea was that she could be pushed to one of the pa­tios to sit and talk to me while I worked in the gar­den,” ex­plains Moira. To achieve this took a team ef­fort of mon­u­men­tal pro­por­tions, as the gar­den needed lev­el­ling and re­mod­elling: around 150-200 tons of con­crete and buried scrap were ex­ca­vated us­ing dig­ger and wheel­bar­row, fol­lowed by the in­tro­duc­tion of 30 tons of im­ported top­soil.

A lo­cal gar­den de­sign com­pany was com­mis­sioned to cre­ate an ini­tial plan for the new gar­den, which builder and friend Neil My­hill then trans­lated into re­al­ity. This in­cluded build­ing the gar­den room from scratch, based on Moira’s idea of a beach hut ‘be­cause that’s where my mother and I used to spend our sum­mers.’

Fi­nally Moira lent her green fin­gers to the plant­ing, which, she says, opened her eyes to new pos­si­bil­i­ties. “The plant­ing plan broad­ened my hori­zons. I’ve al­ways had fuch­sias and roses, and bed­ding in the sum­mer, but it ed­u­cated me to look at fo­liage as well, some­thing that will be of in­ter­est all year.” As a con­se­quence un­usual tender plants such as lo­quat (Eri­obotrya japon­ica) and rice-pa­per plant (Te­tra­panax pa­pyrifer) sit along­side her favourite pink and pur­ple flow­ers, which in­clude laven­der, hy­drangea and hebe. “Pinks and pur­ples make me feel happy and con­tented,” she ex­plains. “It’s a bit of an ob­ses­sion. When a lily came up yel­low I had to cut if off!”

Sadly Moira’s mother died in 2013, but not be­fore she had en­joyed the gar­den for a full year. “We could sit in the af­ter­noon and have a cup of tea in the gar­den room, which was lovely,” says Moira. She still sits in the gar­den of­ten, although she ad­mits to be­ing dis­tracted by the odd weed. “I love the gar­den but I’m not a gar­dener,” she in­sists. “I don’t know many of the names.” The plants don’t seem to mind.

Above: View of gar­den from house, look­ing through the paved area to the blue painted gar­den room, cus­tom built by Neil My­hill, com­plete with curved roof. Plants in­clude hardy palm Trachy­car­pus for­tunei, Eri­obotrya japon­ica, Te­tra­panax pa­pyrifer, laven­der

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