Gar­den of the Week

Cre­at­ing this peace­ful Sus­sex patch was a so­lace and dis­trac­tion for a for­mer air host­ess whose hus­band died shortly af­ter they moved in

Garden News (UK) - - Contents - Words Naomi Slade Pho­tos Clare Daw­son

When Alice Kenyon and her hus­band Gra­ham ar­rived at their gar­den on the Sus­sex coast 15 years ago, the plant­ing was tired and over­grown. Yet, although it was smaller than their pre­vi­ous plot, it was packed with po­ten­tial and the duo im­me­di­ately started mak­ing plans for the fu­ture.

“We were bit­ten by the gar­den­ing bug very early on,” says Alice, a for­mer air host­ess. “My grand­fa­ther was a very good gar­dener so I grew up around lovely gar­dens, and for Gra­ham and me it was a kin­dred spirit thing.”

They de­signed the gar­den to­gether, scrib­bling notes on scraps of pa­per and con­struct­ing a wish-list of plants but, sadly, Gra­ham was not to see the re­sults. Soon af­ter they moved he died and Alice was left to carry the torch alone.

“It had once been a very lovely gar­den, but a lot of the plants were worse-for-wear or had grown into each other,” she says. “We man­aged to fin­ish the hard land­scap­ing be­fore he died, and soon af­ter­wards I was asked if I would open to raise funds for the hos­pice, so I had to con­cen­trate on get­ting it all un­der­way.”

The gar­den was a so­lace and a dis­trac­tion, and grad­u­ally it took on a new lease of life, with fresh plants and ideas. “The plants that came with us did well, con­sid­er­ing that we were by the sea. It’s amaz­ing how far the salt spray goes in­land!

“It did feel de­struc­tive tak­ing things out, but some things just had to go, such as two huge conifers in the mid­dle of the site, which sucked up

all the good­ness and blocked out most of the light.”

The slop­ing gar­den is blessed with a con­ge­nial mi­cro­cli­mate and her feed­ing regime is sim­ple. “I get a load of ma­nure in ev­ery year, and that’s about it. I make sure I use a good qual­ity pot­ting com­post and feed ev­ery­thing

that needs it with To­morite.”

A lawn is set be­tween gen­er­ous bor­ders and there are steps down into the new gravel gar­den. As the gar­den has ma­tured, shrubby nooks and pleas­ing tableaux have emerged. The bor­ders are jam-packed with plants, partly to keep the weeds un­der con­trol and partly be­cause she can never re­sist a lovely new spec­i­men.

“Friends tell me that I cram too much in, but I’m tempted far too eas­ily! I love all plants, but I’m try­ing to do more rep­e­ti­tion.

“I’m aware of my lim­i­ta­tions, so I plan for low main­te­nance and have more shrubs and trees now. There’s a mixed herba­ceous and shrub bor­der next to a lovely old wall, and I have lots and lots of bulbs, helle­bores and hostas.

“Struc­ture is very im­por­tant,” she con­tin­ues. “I like to have con­trast­ing shapes and tex­tures, es­pe­cially in win­ter. Rounded top­i­ary coun­ter­point­ing spikey leaves, lots of sub­tle colours and dif­fer­ent shades of green.”

The re­sult is a rich and de­tailed tapestry, tow­er­ing palm trees, a mag­nif­i­cent Acer gri­seum and her favourite,

Sor­bus thi­bet­ica ‘John Mitchell’, lib­er­ally un­der­planted with early bulbs such as snow­drops, Iris retic­u­lata, aconites and ery­thro­ni­ums.

And, as a space, it’s hab­it­able and well used. Her grand­chil­dren scram­ble around ‘the for­est’, as they call it, and Alice also loves to en­ter­tain. “There are lots of sunny seat­ing ar­eas, for ev­ery time of day, and I can’t think of any­thing nicer than peo­ple sit­ting and en­joy­ing the gar­den,” she says.

Gar­dener: Alice Kenyon Lo­ca­tion: Winchelsea, East Sus­sex Size: Third of an acre Soil: Slight clay and slightly al­ka­line Open­ing for: www.ngs.org.uk; www.stmichaelshos­pice.com. Open: April 20, 2019.

The palm trees in the gravel gar­den are a dra­matic fea­ture. One started life as a pot plant, but grew and grew un­til it needed plant­ing out!

This beau­ti­ful fern and rose-filled bor­der com­ple­ments a stat­uesque Acer gri­seum, which has been in the gar­den as long as any­one can re­mem­ber

Clema­tis, cot­i­nus and climb­ing roses bring up the rear in the left bor­der, while dahlias, cos­mos, senecio ‘An­gel Wings’, feath­ery ferns and spi­raea show off in front

Main pic­ture: A sump­tu­ous lawn is sur­rounded with stately trees and choice plant­ing. Be­low: sor­bus ‘John Mitchell’ is one of Alice’s favourite trees

Un­der the rustic per­gola is one of Alice’s many com­fort­able seat­ing ar­eas

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