• MELLOW FRUITFULNESS
Garden designer Helen Hays has created her very own haven, where wildlife and wild flowers are welcome and a strong underlying structure keeps all in order
Home to numerous birds, including a returning flock of house martins, this plant-lover’s garden is a haven for wildflowers and wildlife
Garden designer, writer, musician, pub quiz addict, enthusiastic bird watcher, wildflower lover, keen conservationist and avid reader, Helen Hays has very little time to spare in her busy country life. A polymath indeed, she lives in a small Yorkshire village, but her horizons are wide, which is reflected in her plant-filled garden.
‘I started gardening as soon as I could walk,’ says Helen. ‘My love of wildflowers stems from my delight in the delicate flat heads of Anthriscus sylvestris (cow parsley) that grew in the lane at the back of our home. When I began to garden more seriously as an adult, I developed a real love for the whole family of umbellifers. As I am a bit of a collector, I found myself searching out everything from the dark-leaved Anthriscus Ravenswing through to sea hollies.’
Helen moved to her present home in Grewelthorpe a few years ago from another North Yorkshire village, when a planned housing development was going to take away the fields and trees that abutted her garden. For Helen, losing her connection with wildlife was not an option. Her new village has plenty of country walks, a duck pond (possibly a mixed blessing as the ducks are inclined to invade her own small pond!), a local pub, and very welcome guests in the form of house martins. The arrival of these migrant birds each year is much anticipated among Helen’s friends and neighbours. They always return to the same spot under the eaves, quickly repairing any winter damage to their nests.
The back garden is fairly small, just 12m by 10m, but Helen has carefully planned it to make the most of the space. She used responsibly sourced Indian sandstone to create an elegant pattern of paths throughout, with swathes of planting between. ‘I put in wide paths but let everything spill over to soften the edges,’ she >
I HAVE AT LEAST 35 SPECIES OF BIRDS THAT VISIT AND FEED OVER THE YEAR. I PARTICULARLY WELCOME THE ARRIVAL OF THE HOUSE MARTINS EACH SPRING
says. Low growing Chamaemelum nobile Treneague and the
New Zealand burr Acaena microphylla fill cracks and crevices.
Having plenty of places to sit and enjoy the garden was crucial to Helen. As well as a seat by the back door, she added a bistro table and chair in her favourite breakfast spot and two locally made Adirondack-style chairs in the main seating area. A bench provides a secluded place to enjoy the roses that grow on an arch and trellis, a design Helen took from the book Cottage Gardens by one of her heroes, the late TV gardener and organic pioneer Geoff Hamilton. ‘He was a great inspiration to me. I built the same arch in my last garden and I’ll do it again if I move in the future,’ she says.
Helen’s love of old iron artefacts is also evident throughout the garden. A series of huge iron tyres from traditional cartwheels lie against a painted fence as an eloquent reminder of the village’s farming history. On the other side of the garden, roses are trained on an old iron chain that was once used as a unit for measuring land as it stretches the width of an acre. ‘Apart from any historical significance, I just like the look of rusted iron,’ says Helen.
In keeping with her belief that every garden should have a tree, Helen chose Crataegus x lavalleei Carrierei for its lovely blossom and big haws, which are beloved by the birds. ‘It’s a very windresistant tree and holds its leaves until December,’ she says.
When planning a small garden, Helen says, ‘you have to make sure it looks good all year round. I must admit, I didn’t plan much by way of autumn planting initially, but it’s often the case that plants grown for summer will work well as they mellow towards the end of the year. Overall, mine is a fairly high-maintenance garden, but as I love gardening, it suits me fine.’
My garden is my little patch of earth where I can indulge my passion for plants. It’s my personal haven, where I can relish the flowers and foliage that I love the most
The much-loved, cottage-style arch is enveloped by Rosa complicata. ‘I don’t deadhead as I enjoy the hips,’ says Helen
Locally made Adirondackstyle chairs are painted in eco-friendly Swedish linseed oil paint, which is used throughout the garden
The tall, mop-headed, bee-attracting Selinum wallichianum is one of Helen’s favourite umbels An alpine roof is a great way to make a bin or log store more attractive Helen enjoys beautiful views from her attic study
The rose arch is one of Helen’s favourite additions to the garden
Even a small garden needs a workspace. Helen keeps her potting table by the outhouse