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

Country Homes & Interiors - - CONTENT -

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 >


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

Solanum laxum

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