WILDLIFE-FRIENDLY GAR­DEN

Im­pec­ca­ble spa­tial plan­ning and artis­tic use of peren­ni­als have cre­ated this de­light­ful wildlife haven from scratch

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words and Pho­tographs ca­r­ole drake

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.

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