Mill House Garden is a west facing 3/4 acre plot with an attached 2 acre Paddock. We’ve been working on this project since 2013.
The soil is heavy clay and the garden was laid to grass with little/no planting when we started.
There were a few mature trees – including the dominating ash and some hawthorns and an elder, as well as a pair of large cordylines.
There was also a hot tub just off the patio area, and a man-made pond; fed by rainwater from the roof in which there were many Carp, Roach and Rudd. Hundreds of voracious fish which meant that no aquatic plants survived.
The front of the house had been recently excavated for cellar repairs.
The design has included a quartet of vegetable and fruit beds. This includes a fruit cage by Harrod Horticultural, a grape vine and a productive asparagus bed as well as globe artichokes which provide architectural interest and foliage. This area is sheltered by a new yew hedge.
The pond was drained and the fish removed to another site. Planting was established with Waterlilies, Elodea with various Gunnera, grasses and rushes at the margins. Native Flag Irises are also flourishing. The absence of fish allows a much greater biodiversity on the site. In particular Newts, Toads and Slow-worms mean that slugs and snails are seldom a problem in the garden as a whole.
The hot tub was removed (rehomed) and planning permission obtained for the base to be used to support a template for a Hartley Brick based aluminium framed planthouse. The bricks and traditional lime mortar were chosen to match the Victorian back of the main house.
New herbaceous borders were created – all of which required large amounts of organic matter to enhance the heavy clay soil. The main bed was centred on an old tree stump and shaped in a gentle curve to mirror the pond. Central taller shrubs like variegated Pittospora, Osmanthus and Cammelias provide vertical height to provide a natural break between the Vegetable patch and the rest of the garden. Aquilegias, Dephiniums, Geraniums, Salvias and Nepeta give the border a cottagey feel.
The Cordylines were removed (as well as a lot of couch grass and bindweed) and a banked border adjoining the patio created – with various roses, dahlias, mixed perennials and a frontage of a low box hedge (grown from softwood cuttings to reduce costs), with a backdrop of a Portuguese laurel (moved from the paddock where it was less than happy) and a mix of climbing roses – Solanum and Clematis backing onto a trellissed fence.
The patio istelf was surrounded by new low box hedges – and planting gaps created in the bricks for Alyssum, Chamomile and Erigeron. Around the back door a Dixter-inspired collection of pots with perennials like Hostas and Agapanthus as well as bedding – which can be changed over depending on the season as well as some Box balls. The gateway to the Veg patch from here is marked by two terracotta rhubarb forcers (when not in use).
A boggy bed in the wet drain-off from the pond was created with Astilbes, Gunnera, Rogersiae, Sedums, Hostas and Ajuga.
South facing on the edge of the main house is a “hot” bed with mixed shrubs, Roses, as well as a dedicated herb bed – next to the kitchen window.
The frontage of the house is East facing and more shaded. This uses a more shrub-based planting scheme for architectural structure with Box balls, Osmanthus, as well as Hellebores, Euphorbia, Japanese Anenomes, Bergenia, Pittospora and Periwinkle for ground cover. Ivy covers an old well surround and height is given by Smoke bush and Laurels shielding the main garden from the drive and the road beyond. Elsewhere there is another shield for the oil tank with trellis and thriving Clematis and Solanum, plus a cold frame for growing on cuttings and propagating.
At the rear of the garden a more open expanse of lawns allows for a croquet pitch – surrounding by five box cones, and three Portuguese laurels. In another lawned area below the pond have been planted more substantial shrubs and specimen trees – such as magnolia – a honey locust, a black birch and a tulip tree.
The paddock has been divided into a football pitch area – a cutting garden for cut flowers, further vegetable patches, as well as an orchard area of 16 fruit trees, and a woodland area of recycled saplings – now maturing and leaving the property self sufficient for firewood. The garden also now has a variety of composting areas for garden waste, grass cuttings and leaf mould, which means the soil is improved year on year by this rich mulch.
The remainder of the paddock is left to long grass and wild meadow, needing only to be “topped” twice a year. Hedges around have been planted and bolstered with a variety of wild hedging plants. Thus the paddock and its hedges have become a haven for wildlife. Barn owls, kestrels, pheasants, mice, voles, butterflies and bees all revel in the biodiversity here.
For budgetary reasons – wherever possible plants were recycled and moved – perennials divided and many plants grown for free. We took softwood cuttings from hydrangeas – sedums and box, as well as lifting the trees in the paddock woodland area – which were found as sapling “weeds” at the onset of our work here – growing either side of the drive.