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About my Garden – Kathy Brown's Garden

A Garden for all Seasons: Four and a half acres and almost 30 years in the making

Simon and Kathy Brown began to plan the garden in 1991 with the clearing and planting of the cottage style garden at the back of the house. They chose hostas, ferns and foxgloves for the shadiest places, while up above early and late flowering clematis were allowed to mingle with rambling roses. The long pergola is swathed in pink and white roses, and clematis. It is fronted by delphiniums, poppies and peonies.

Starting in the winter 1994-5 they began a  formal garden framing the end of the house, with box parterres backed by a French court scene depicted in yew. Four rose arbours surrounded a pool in the centre. While the lower borders were planted with anemones, tulips and white tree peonies along with a group of white regale lilies. The whole vista is framed by clipped hornbeam hedges. Box blight over the years has forced them to adapt the plan with the removal of the central lines of box but the replacement lavender hedges are excellent.

Next came a parallel garden with a series of eight free standing metal arches to form the wisteria walk. It is  laden with various white, pink and blue wisterias, laburnum, Robinia hispida, clematis and roses under planted with masses of alliums, Dutch iris and poppies. While the May picture is vibrant, June is delightful with the white roses, foxgloves and peonies. End July through to October is delightful too with the late flowering clematis and masses of white Japanese anemones.

The courtyard garden by the kitchen door has been made into a container garden and continues to flourish with a variety of troughs, pots and baskets. Kathy likes the long term planting schemes as well as the seasonal.

In 1998 they planted a white-stemmed birch avenue choosing Betula ‘Grayswood Ghost’ with ornamental grass parterre beneath, leading to an ellipse of more birches under planted with daffodils, echinops and echinacea; all backed by purple beech. Beyond lies a wonderful wild flower meadow.

In 2006 they felled 21 conifers and two sycamores to the south of the front lawn which opened up the possibility of an amazing new garden to the south of the house. A new circular drive is now in place with a sweeping garden of ornamental grasses, bamboos, and a limited number of perennials. The autumn and winter tints of the grasses blend beautifully with the old stone walls.

Near the house, these grasses form dramatic waves emerging out of the slope, rather like the famous Hokusai painting called The Great Wave off Kanagawa. There is a strong sense of drama with the intense inner void. In time they also created The Rothko and Matisse gardens , a Hepworth garden based on her geometric drawing of Green Caves 1947 as well as Monet inspired borders. These art gardens are an important feature of Kathy and Simon’s garden, providing an emotional connection with the space as well as the plants.

In 2007, they planted a snaking winter garden so that they could enjoy the brilliant salmon, red, green and purple stems of dogwoods. These are under planted with winter flowering aconites and snowdrops. Winter is often a forgotten time in the garden, yet it can be so wonderful at this time of year.

The Edible Flower Garden co-exists right around the garden but a dedicated border is given over to edible flowers with displays of various lavender, roses, day lilies, fennel, thyme, chives, marigolds, hysssop, dianthus, sage, marjoram etc. It is a larder for cakes, suppers, lunches, drinks, ice creams etc.

Latest changes have been immediately in front of the house and around the old solardome, now over 40 years old. They have extended the border to the east of the solardome and made a new entrance to the formal garden which has been really successful. 

Meanwhile, a new tree peony border was planted beside the drive following a wonderful visit to the Luoyang Tree Peony Festival in China in April 2014. Eighteen tree peonies of the type Gansu Mudan are set to make a stunning display all with the typical black blotch at the base of the petals. It will take a while for them to mature but the ones planted nearby beneath the white birches were fantastic last year. We added another peony bed alongside the drive focusing on the Itoh inter-sectional peonies which are a recent cross between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies. They were so beautiful so now we are creating a second border by the Barnet Newman obelisk where there will be tree peonies behind, to flower in early May then the Itohs in front, for mid to end May. So we something of a peony bonanza in the making!

The grand old beech tree disappeared last autumn as it had split down the main trunk. It was sad to see it go but the view over the Great Ouse Valley is now wonderful. Two conifers from the drive entrance were also removed and we are slowly establishing new borders on either side, not easy because there are so many large roots in the soil. The once dominant large cedar near the walnut besides the lawn has also been removed and the area is becoming a lovely rose garden. Now we have a view of the Monet grass garden from the main lawn which is a delight.

The Manor House Garden exhibits many ‘living’ planting plans from my books ‘ including ‘Create a Cottage Garden’, ‘Bulbs For all Seasons’, ‘Edible Flowers’ and ‘Container Gardening’ brimming with practical guidance and ideas for both borders and containers. A wealth of bulbs, herbs, cottage garden perennials, old fashioned roses, early and late clematis including many viticellas are on display in their season. We have a map of over 80 late flowering clematis. Come and enjoy them for yourself!