A modern grower

Around Black­land House in Wilt­shire, Arne May­nard has de­signed a se­ries of walled gar­dens filled with plants of the high­est pedi­gree

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Contents - WORDS JANE PERRONE PHO­TO­GRAPHS JA­SON IN­GRAM

Polly Ni­chol­son and flower-grow­ing runs her floristry busi­ness Bayn­tun Flow­ers from her Wilt­shire gar­den, de­signed by Arne May­nard

Find­ing a house for sale with not one but three walled gar­dens could be classed as ex­tremely for­tu­nate. Add to that the bonus of fer­tile, free-drain­ing, al­lu­vial soil be­neath your feet, and it seems Polly Ni­chol­son hit the hor­ti­cul­tural jack­pot when she, her hus­band Ed and their four chil­dren, moved to Black­lands ten years ago.

Polly’s first pri­or­ity was over­see­ing the ren­o­va­tion of the 18th-cen­tury house in Wilt­shire, a task she clearly rel­ished. Then she set about restor­ing the gar­dens, work­ing hand in hand with de­signer Arne May­nard to cre­ate spa­ces that served as both a fam­ily gar­den and a workspace for Bayn­tun Flow­ers, Polly’s ar­ti­san flower-grow­ing and floristry busi­ness. Two of the three walled gar­dens have been re­stored. The third re­mains an un­re­stored yard for now, but Polly’s com­mit­ment and en­thu­si­asm strongly hints that there are fur­ther trans­for­ma­tions ahead.

“We de­cided to do one part of the gar­den at a time, but to stick with one de­signer, be­cause when you chop and change too much you end up not hav­ing a co­he­sive feel,” Polly ex­plains. She knew from the start that she didn’t want any­thing that shouted ‘look at me’, a gar­den that would both echo and frame the beauty of the 120-acre es­tate around it, and the Mal­bor­ough Downs be­yond. “I wanted soft forms and some­thing that linked with the land­scape, so there is a lot of cloud hedg­ing and top­i­ary,” she adds.

In April, it is the gar­den’s breath­tak­ing dis­play of blos­som that first catches the eye. There are curv­ing rows of pleached crab ap­ple Malus ‘Ever­este’, echoed by the es­tab­lished fruit trees that were care­fully in­cor­po­rated into May­nard’s de­sign when the gar­den – now known as the pool gar­den – was re­made. There is a swim­ming pool here, but it has been so care­fully cam­ou­flaged it hardly reg­is­ters with the eye; like­wise the pool house is a pot­ting shed that’s been sym­pa­thet­i­cally ex­tended and con­verted to a new role.

This gar­den has its own mi­cro­cli­mate, a sun trap cre­ated by a tall brick wall that ra­di­ates heat and colour in sum­mer – the per­fect back­drop for tak­ing a dip. But now, in spring, the beds are lit with the con­trast­ing tones of the pink and green tulip ‘Virichic’ and the deep, dark ‘Black Hero’, all set into a patch­work of bee-friendly oreganos ( Ori­g­anum lae­vi­ga­tum ‘Ho­p­leys’ and lime-green Ori­g­anum vul­gare ‘Thum­ble’s Va­ri­ety’) in beds edged with soft mounds of

Daphne x transat­lantica Eter­nal Fra­grance (= ‘Blafra’) and Teu­crium x lu­cidrys.

There’s ev­i­dence of Polly’s clever eye for reusing and re­cy­cling un­ex­pected items and ma­te­ri­als through­out the gar­den, from the grid of gar­den rid­dles on the wall and the roof tiles re­de­ployed to line beds, to the sheep’s knuck­les used to make a dec­o­ra­tive floor­ing for the twig house, which pro­vides shel­ter and shade. Work­ing with a Chelsea award-win­ning gar­den de­signer al­lowed for an­other form of re­cy­cling. A char­ac­ter­ful and pro­duc­tive ‘Con­fer­ence’ pear tree graces the pool gar­den, while in the or­na­men­tal walled gar­den next door, de­light­fully mis­matched box top­i­ary shapes stand sentinel ei­ther side of the sym­met­ri­cal wa­ter fea­ture: all th­ese spec­i­mens came from May­nard’s 2012 Chelsea show gar­den for Lau­rent-Per­rier. The neat struc­ture of the box – kept in rude health by es­tate man­ager and top­i­ary spe­cial­ist Ed Heard – is bal­anced by the haze of plant­ing in the gravel be­low, fea­tur­ing Pul­satilla seed­heads, oreganos and cush­ion spurge ( Eu­phor­bia ep­ithy­moides), which Polly de­scribes as “just the right level of in­va­sive in this con­text”.

Once a ten­nis court, the walled gar­den is pro­duc­tive and or­na­men­tal in equal mea­sure. The Fos­ter & Pear­son green­house is its work­ing heart. One side is for prop­a­gat­ing flow­ers and rais­ing early spring bulbs for the floristry busi­ness, the other for grow­ing toma­toes, chill­ies and flat peaches for the house. Although a sep­a­rate flower field pro­vides space for Polly’s cut-flower-grow­ing busi­ness, she also picks from her own gar­dens. Bayn­tun Flow­ers sup­plies flow­ers whole­sale to se­lect florists in Lon­don and in Wilt­shire, as well as cre­at­ing be­spoke dis­plays for events. Polly is con­stantly ex­per­i­ment­ing with rare, new and un­usual flow­ers and bulbs, as­sisted by her head gar­dener and bril­liant plantswoman Han­nah Gard­ner. “The peo­ple I am sup­ply­ing don’t nec­es­sar­ily want bulk, they just want some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she con­cludes. “And I can do dif­fer­ent be­cause I’ve got amaz­ing soil, the ex­per­tise and this won­der­ful place to do it in.” USE­FUL IN­FOR­MA­TION The gar­den is not gen­er­ally open to the pub­lic aside from oc­ca­sional open days for char­ity. Bayn­tun Flow­ers also runs sea­sonal events. bayn­tun­flow­ers.co.uk

The coach house is flanked by a mag­nif­i­cent Mag­no­lia gran­di­flora. Steel planters on the ter­race are filled with scented Os­man­thus delavayi.

Polly Ni­chol­son gath­ers a se­lec­tion of tulips ‘Cairo’ and ‘Spring Green’. Favourable soil con­di­tions at Black­lands en­able her to grow a vast ar­ray of sought-af­ter flow­ers and fo­liage for florists and for be­spoke dis­plays. Her scented, nat­u­ral­is­tic...

The green­house is the cen­tre­piece of the or­na­men­tal walled gar­den. Box top­i­ary is un­der­planted with Pul­satilla vul­garis, Ori­g­anum and Eu­phor­bia ep­ithy­moides, while the cen­tral rill holds irises ‘Delta But­ter­fly’, ‘Mere­brook Pur­pla’ and ‘Black Game­cock’.

The green­house, de­scribed by Polly as “a won­der­ful light space that keeps the gar­den an­chored”, is used for prop­a­gat­ing plants and grow­ing early spring bulbs for the cut-flower busi­ness in­clud­ing the Dutch Iris ‘Red Em­ber’, I. ‘Eye of Tiger’ and Iris...

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