Impeccable spatial planning and artistic use of perennials have created this delightful wildlife haven from scratch
Meticulously planned borders with abundant perennials and grasses create a haven for nature.
When Alan and Frances Eachus planned the garden around Farlands, their Thirties house near Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, this pair of landscape architects had a wealth of experience to draw on, having enjoyed careers that had encompassed a wide variety of designs for commercial and civic outdoor spaces across Britain, Europe and the Middle East. According to Alan, ‘We approached it as just another job, but this time, for ourselves.’
Two years had been spent reconfiguring the house before the couple were able to turn their attention to the garden, in 2003. A level plot enclosed by thick holly hedges on the northern and eastern boundaries, with just a few trees and a big beech hedge worth keeping, it was largely ‘a clean sheet’, Alan recalls. ‘We sorted out the spatial relationships first, bearing in mind the soil, aspect and the views from the house, and laid a continuous path along the east-west axis to act as a physical and visual link through the garden. From that lie various garden rooms.’
At the path’s eastern end is a tidy vegetable garden with raised beds and ballerina apple trees, screened on one side by a line of Miscanthus
sinensis ‘Morning Light’; next comes a grassy, open area in front of the house which contains a sprawling old Atlantic Cedar; and finally, framed by an undulating beech hedge and announced by a bold cube of pleached limes, is the pièce de résistance, the pool garden.
In late summer and autumn, this area of the garden, with its New Perennial movement-inspired planting and naturalistic pool, shines brightest. Alan, who originally trained as an horticulturalist, is particularly interested in herbaceous plants and was influenced by seeing them combined with ornamental grasses in public parks in Germany. Here at Farlands, an impressive 4,000 plants from the Rijnbeek and Son nursery in Holland have been planted into ground that has been ploughed by the neighbouring farmer. ‘No manure or fertiliser was added because low fertility suits these types of plants. We don’t stake or spray, and we leave the dead stems up over winter. Birds love feeding on the seeds and the insects that overwinter on them, and the stems look beautiful with frost and snow, too,’ says Alan.
Airy, dancing grasses, including Stipa gigantea and Panicum virgatum
‘Heavy Metal’, mingle with the rich pinks and purples of Echinacea purpurea
‘Rubinglow’ and Aster x frikartii ‘Mönch’, glowing yellow Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ and white Gaura lindheimeri. Frances’s honey bees love the planting, too. ‘I see scores of them travelling backwards and forwards to the pool garden from their hives in the paddock in late summer. The persicaria is constantly alive with them,’ she says.
Rainwater harvested from the roof of the house feeds the pond, which is surrounded on three sides by lush, naturalistic planting, including miscanthus, eupatorium and irises, and on its fourth by a sleek, low wall. ‘We can sit on the ledge and feel really close to the water, and swallows use mud collected from the pond edges to build their nests in the car port.’
In early summer, while the pool garden is gathering its energies, the kitchen garden peaks, blooming with the flowers and fragrance of catmint, roses and herbs. Enclosed by hedges, it has an intimate feel that is perfect for eating alfresco on the generously sized cedar terrace that extends seamlessly from the kitchen when the sliding glass doors are open.
A number of plants are used repeatedly throughout the garden to create a sense of coherence, among them Himalayan birch, Betula jacquemontii, in single and multi-stemmed forms, box topiary, and the shade-loving, evergreen ground cover, Epimedium x perralchicum ‘Fröhnleiten’, with bronze tinged leaves.
This is a beautifully thought-out garden full of sophisticated planting that buzzes with life, proving designer gardens can be wildlife gardens, too.
Golden sprays of Stipa gigantea make a dramatic impact where planting combines grasses and herbaceous perennials, including Aster x frikartii‘Mönch’ and rudbeckias.
A generously sized cedar terrace adjoins the kitchen where meals can be eaten alfresco on summer days.
Pleached limes straddle the path that runs the length of the garden, flanked by clipped box, sedums, lavender and ivy-leaved pelargoniums.
Drifts of grasses and herbaceous perennials surround a bench in the pond garden, including Stipa gigantea, Echinacea purpurea‘White Swan’, heleniums and Verbena bonariensis.