Ur­ban gar­den in Sale

Green­ery and odd­i­ties

Cheshire Life - - Inside - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: Linda Viney

Awin­dow opens up to re­veal a gar­den full of sur­prises of tex­ture and colour through the side gate of Gor­don Cooke’s Vic­to­rian House in Sale, near Al­trin­cham.

As a pot­ter, teacher and de­signer for 40 years, he makes stoneware planters, sculp­tures and ob­jects in con­crete. His artis­tic skills shine through­out the gar­den which also dou­bles up as a dis­play cabi­net for his work, from stat­uesque mono­liths to smaller pots filled with a com­pli­men­tary choice of plants.

‘I be­lieve pot­tery will leave a le­gacy long af­ter I am gone, whereas plants won’t,’ Gor­don ex­plained. ‘Whether pots or arte­facts get bro­ken, bits of them may be dis­cov­ered by ar­chae­ol­o­gists years hence. I do ad­mit a few plants have sur­vived through mil­len­nia like the Cy­cads.’

His fa­ther farmed on the Tat­ton es­tate and was a good grower though nei­ther he nor his wife were gar­den­ers. Gor­don de­signed, cre­ated and looked af­ter their gar­den there learn­ing about plants as he went along. He then went off to art col­lege and made a liv­ing do­ing land­scape de­sign but loved han­dling clay mak­ing pots in his spare time. This gar­den shows off both these skills as does the work he has had com­mis­sions for in Walk­den Park.

When Gor­don and his part­ner

Ian Chap­man moved into this house in 1986 the gar­den was a wilder­ness full of Horse­tail (Equise­tum ar­vense), of­ten called mare’s tail, it is an in­va­sive, deep-rooted peren­nial weed that spreads, it re­quires a great deal of dili­gence to get rid of, re­mov­ing it the minute it ap­pears. Thank­fully it has now been erad­i­cated, but it did take about seven years. Their pa­tience has been re­warded: it is now a stun­ning gar­den with vis­tas ap­pear­ing as you wind your way around. Orig­i­nally it had been a kitchen gar­den with an or­chard of mainly ap­ple and pear trees, now it is a show­case for Gor­don’s de­sign­ing skills both with plants and sculp­ture.

He is keen to re­cy­cle when­ever pos­si­ble and a path has been laid us­ing an eclec­tic mix of tiles from the house and edg­ing and fea­tures from bricks and slate. A new ad­di­tion this year has been a bug ho­tel along one side of the per­gola. It has a ‘ win­dow’ cut-out which gives a vista of the gar­den be­yond. It is cer­tainly a stylish, well though-out place for the crea­tures.

It is never long be­fore you run out of space when de­sign­ing a gar­den, so when the house next door came up for sale they im­me­di­ately de­cided to buy it giv­ing them room to ex­tend the gar­den by re­mov­ing the di­vid­ing fence. The house it­self was ren­o­vated and is let.

Struc­ture comes from the top­i­ary shaped trees and neatly clipped cop­per beech which stands like a wall form­ing a back­drop to one of Gor­don’s sculp­tures. One of the clipped holly trees sadly died but in­stead of tak­ing it down it has been left, as the for­ma­tion of the branches gives an un­usual in­sight into the bare frame­work of a holly as it is ev­er­green and there­fore doesn’t lose its leaves.

Waterlilies in the rill re­flect in

“In an­other area mono­lith sculp­tures rise out of the plant­ing”

the wa­ter while a mir­ror placed in the hedge of­fers the il­lu­sion of a much longer rill and a sculp­ture in the rill adds ex­tra in­ter­est. In an­other area dra­matic mono­lith sculp­ture rises up out of the plant­ing and the leaves of a phormium along­side com­pli­ment the tri­an­gu­lar shape.

The build­ings have cre­ated a mi­cro­cli­mate pro­vid­ing ideal shel­ter for Gor­don’s col­lec­tion of half hardy and ten­der plant­ing, some of which are rare.

The col­lec­tion has been gath­ered over the years, plants seem to thrive on the sandy soil though they do need feed­ing and com­post has been added over the years pro­vid­ing ideal con­di­tions. A ba­nana has to be over­win­tered but cer­tainly adds a trop­i­cal state­ment.

A planted roof over the grotto with a cave cre­at­ing a se­cret hidey hole is a quiet se­cluded area to re­lax in dur­ing the evening and en­joy a view of the gar­den. It is com­plete with run­ning drink­ing wa­ter sup­plied from an old tap over a sink, one of the many re­cy­cled arte­facts found in this place. The mo­saic ceil­ing how­ever to me is the main fea­ture, nat­u­rally cre­ated by Gor­don as are some of the

ce­ramic pots planted mainly with sem­per­vivums and suc­cu­lents. Ad­ja­cent steps lead to a raised area where again you can sit, this time look­ing down over the gar­den.

One of the ad­van­tages of the dry hot sum­mer has been the lack of slugs which to Gor­don’s de­light has meant the kniphofia has given a good show as it is nor­mally a tasty dish for these pests.

Lilies stood proud and a de­light­ful bright blue pen­ste­mon peered out from the plants, grasses swayed in the breeze to add soften and an oak leafed hy­drangea added drama.

There is a var­ied col­lec­tion of herba­ceous plants and a wis­te­ria and sev­eral clema­tis are trained round and over fea­tures to add an­other di­men­sion. Gor­don cer­tainly has a keen eye for as we went round he car­ried a pair of gar­den shears ready to trim off any stray branches he spot­ted. Weeds? There were none.

Hid­den from view is a green­house and when I peered into it, toma­toes were be­gin­ning to form and ripen.

As the light changes so does the gar­den and as shad­ows are cast on his pots and sculp­tures they also cap­ture a dif­fer­ent beauty as well as hue. Artists will come and paint in the gar­den as it gives them in­spi­ra­tion and his ce­ramic stu­dents come out from his work­shop/stu­dio to pick ideas of shape and form. As a show­case you couldn’t want for any­thing more, for a pot on a shelf has one look but along with na­ture wears a dif­fer­ent dress. The sun lounge is also used to dis­play art work and pots while the walls in their house are awash with Ian’s paint­ings.

Gor­don’s first pub­lic com­mis­sion was a large five me­tre di­rec­tional ‘Com­pass Point’ in Walk­den Gar­dens along­side Jeanette Ap­ple­ton’s peb­ble mo­saics. Funded by the Es­mee Fair­burn Foun­da­tion and man­aged by the Friends of Walk­den Gar­dens, it forms a fo­cal point in the gar­dens and has been fol­lowed by ‘Miss Cord­ing­ley’s Gar­den’ when they ac­quired a new space. A stoneware and set spi­ral which con­cludes a grass foot­path has also been added funded by ‘Green­ing Greater Manch­ester’. I can see now what Gor­don means by leav­ing a last­ing le­gacy.

The gar­den has won sev­eral awards and has opened for the Na­tional Gar­den Scheme (NGS) for many years rais­ing a lot of money for char­ity.

“A pot on a shelf has one look but along with na­ture wears a dif­fer­ent dress”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.