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My garden at Brow Cottage

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

If you follow me on Instagram, our garden might be familiar to you. I’ve spent the past year sharing near-daily images from our own outdoor space.

Gardens are always important, but they’ve become even more so during the pandemic. Not only have they given us a blissful escape from the four walls of our homes, offered a vital source of fresh air, and brought us closer to nature and the therapeutic powers it offers, they’ve also become a key location for socialising with family and friends.

To mark a year of missives from my garden – as well as this new blog – I wanted to share more about how it developed over time.

How we found the garden

Brow Cottage is a period cottage, believed to date back to 1720 (with later additions). It came with an adjacent coach house and pigsty. We moved in in Spring 1999, with an awful lot of work to be done, both indoors and outdoors.

When we came to view the property, the garden was hemmed in by Leylandii trees and – incredibly – had two VW Beetles buried in it. Despite the mass of nettles, bindweed and ground elder, one could imagine that the space had once been a well-cared for garden.

The garden covers a half-acre and is mostly south-facing. The soil is a neutral, free-draining loam but has patches of underlying clay and iron ore.

Before we even moved in, we had to install a new roof, rewire and fit central heating. We also removed 70-odd young conifers from the garden, though we left most of the remaining trees. This included a young Japanese maple, which has now grown into a stunning feature, an old mulberry and a Beauty of Bath apple tree. The apple tree was very popular to climb and has been underplanted with a succession of flowering bulbs, cow parsley and long grass.

How the garden evolved over time

Once the garden was cleared and usable, it evolved over the years as time and money allowed. This lined up rather well with my formal training as a garden designer, which took place between 2000-2002.

Of course, in addition to being somewhere for me to hone my horticultural skills, the garden also needed to cater for the needs of a growing family.

Over the last two decades, the lawn has provided a location for a trampoline, a slide, a climbing frame, various paddling pools, picnics, birthday parities, badminton, football and croquet. Some of the garden features I’m most happy with have been developed and improved over time, with plenty of lessons learnt along the way. This includes the potager-style vegetable garden and the entertaining area.

Wherever possible I have tried to work with nature rather than against it. This has included digging a wildlife pond, allowing nettles to grow in the native species hedge, leaving log piles in strategic places around the garden, and creating plenty of water sources. I’ve also introduced a biodiverse range of flora to attract as many fauna species as possible, and have a preference for single rather than double flowered plants (because they are more beneficial to insects).

We’ve reclaimed and reused materials found within the garden wherever possible. For example, a terracotta bath which is now filled with water to reflect light amongst planting, a pair of cast iron stable gates that are now a feature in the vegetable garden and old roof tiles on edge that have created step risers and unique paving details.

How the garden is now

Today, the Brow Cottage garden is a bountiful haven of colour and scents all year round. We can often be found socialising around the barbecue or fire pit or eating under the glass-topped pergola (perfect for keeping off both the rain and excess sun) surrounded by potted plants.

More recently, I have successfully experimented with installing living roofs on two structures I designed: a potting shed and a bin store. One has been topped with wildflower turf and bulbs, the other with alpines and herbs.

One of the biggest additions to the garden has been a small swimming pool with a jet to swim against. This was built in 2017, in a sunken area that had previously been used to house a trampoline, and then as a dining area.

See the garden for yourself

If you’re in the Wiltshire area and want to see the garden for yourself, it opens every other year as part of the Seend Open Gardens event, most recently on the 10th and 11th July 2021. It also opens occasionally for private groups.

You can also see many more photographs and seasonal updates over on Instagram.

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