THE SE­CRET GAR­DENS

House Beautiful (UK) - - Contents - WORDS & PHO­TOG­RA­PHY NI­COLA STOCKEN

Award-win­ning out­door space

Step into Julie Alviti’s flower-filled gar­den, and you’ll be taken by sur­prise. Nes­tled be­hind the back hedge is a se­ries of smaller, se­cret green spa­ces – hid­den from view and each with its own un­ex­pected twist. It’s taken Julie 37 years to cre­ate her havens.

‘Al­though my gar­den is big, I love small ones, so I di­vided the plot into a se­ries of lit­tle, se­cret rooms that can’t be seen from the house,’ says Julie, 62, of her three-quar­ter acre gar­den in the vil­lage of Ash­ford Car­bonell, Shrop­shire.

‘The idea was to have a gar­den you can’t see all at once, and when you walk through it, you go round a cor­ner and dis­cover un­ex­pected fea­tures, or an invit­ing seat­ing area,’ she adds. ‘I love the idea of var­i­ous zones with dif­fer­ent plant­ing schemes – I can grow such a wide range of plants.’

Her cre­ativ­ity re­ally im­pressed the judges of House Beau­ti­ful’s re­cent Glo­ri­ous Gar­dens com­pe­ti­tion, who voted her the win­ner of the Large Gar­dens cat­e­gory for plots of more than 350 square me­tres. In­cluded in Julie’s stun­ning plot is a gravel court­yard with a gazebo, a potager and green­house, a stream and pond, a cut­ting gar­den and parterre, a pot­ting shed and a cot­tage gar­den.

She and hus­band Frank, also 62, moved to their 500-year-old, five-bed­room farm­house and farm in 1981, hav­ing de­cided it was the ideal lo­ca­tion to launch their agri­cul­tural ma­chin­ery busi­ness. At that time the plot was largely laid to lawn, with two small top­i­ary yews, a sil­ver birch and ap­ple trees. Julie be­gan by plant­ing a black wal­nut and a cherry tree to cast shade for their three chil­dren. ‘The gar­den be­came their play­ground,’ she says.

Dur­ing the early years, Julie widened the borders to make space for roses, hy­drangeas, cone­flow­ers, as­tran­tias, cos­mos, ver­bas­cums and clema­tis. A wooden per­gola was built be­side the house to sup­port some of her 50-strong col­lec­tion of clema­tis. ‘I love clema­tis,’ she says. ‘They form stun­ning dis­plays when they climb all over a struc­ture.’ She also grows climb­ing roses, and has cho­sen the or­ange rose ‘Warm Wel­come’, which

flow­ers in June and Septem­ber, for around her front door. ‘It’s the per­fect wel­come into the house.’

The gar­den evolved over time. ‘Each year, I cre­ated a new area, but there was never a mas­ter­plan.’ She maps any new lay­outs onto the ground us­ing pegs and string for straight lines, or hosepipe for curves. Frank helped her land­scape the ter­race with pieces of pav­ing, bricks and peb­bles in­ter­spersed with dec­o­ra­tive cir­cles.

Julie’s son Kevin is a car­pen­ter and he helped out by build­ing raised veg­etable beds in a potager tucked away be­hind a black­berry-cov­ered brick wall, which to­day spill over with herbs, fruit and vegeta­bles. The nearby green­house is full of an­nu­als. ‘It’s busy in spring, when there are lots of seedlings to trans­plant out. I love it in there, tucked be­hind the wall where no one can see me,’ she says. Kevin also made her an out­door pot­ting bench as a Christ­mas present.

A pond over­looked by a metal ar­bour takes pride of place in Julie’s gravel court­yard. ‘When mak­ing a new gar­den area, I al­ways like to add seat­ing,’ she says.

‘In spring, the bor­der is car­peted with hy­acinths.’ Her most am­bi­tious pro­ject was de­sign­ing a man-made stream and lily pond in the gar­den’s fur­thest cor­ner. On each bank are borders that start flow­er­ing in spring with can­de­labra prim­u­las, just as the mois­ture-lov­ing, large-leaved plants emerge. There’s even a wooden bridge built by younger son, David, a tree sur­geon.

Re­cently, she cre­ated a cut­ting gar­den. ‘I laid a gravel path be­tween the beds, and worked out which plants would go best,’ she says. ‘I’ve planted sweet peas, zin­nias, dahlias, cos­mos and clary sage. I love pick­ing flow­ers and giv­ing them away.’

To­day, there are five sep­a­rate green spa­ces here, each with its own dis­tinc­tive feel. ‘This gar­den has been my life for 37 years,’ says Julie. ‘What­ever the sea­son, and wher­ever I stand, it never fails to thrill.’ Julie wins £2,500 of vouch­ers to spend at For­est Gar­den, the UK’s lead­ing pro­ducer of sheds, sum­mer­houses, gar­den struc­tures and fenc­ing pan­els. Run­ner-up in this cat­e­gory was Heidi In­gram from Ed­in­burgh, who won £700 of For­est Gar­den vouch­ers. See next month’s is­sue for the win­ners of the Small and Court­yard Gar­den cat­e­gories.

THIS PAGE Julie Alviti in her cut­ting gar­den amid dahlias, sweet peas, zin­nias, cal­en­dula and clary sage. Be­hind her stands a golden-leaved In­dian bean tree. The judges loved this gor­geous plan Julie drew of her gar­den OP­PO­SITE The sum­mer­house gar­den ha

The kitchen gar­den, with four raised beds planted with as­para­gus, let­tuce, herbs and rhubarb; Clema­tis ‘Princess Diana’; the nearly-500-year-old farm­house is set against the Shrop­shire hills; pur­ple bell vine OP­PO­SITE Tucked away be­hind trees, shrubs a

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