We are shifting concrete. Nothing precious, just the 1980’s steps and gate posts. These steps in particular were a grand effort at a garden feature, sweeping from the doors of the Morning Room in one straight flight down the bank to the croquet lawn. They were my bete noir and all wrong, removing the mystery from the garden. So in one morning, they were gone, the footings so shallow that one rake of Trevor’s digger dismantled them.
Now you will come down the bank using the original flight of steps, to the far right on our boundary with James. They are narrow, stone and understated. Overarched with a long dead framework of laburnum, they deliver you to the back of the old stone summerhouse and the tennis lawn. Here a sultry, concrete statue of a woman poses rather incongruously. In more leisured times, one would have sat in the summer house to watch tennis or croquet. But the lawn is no longer part of the Castle garden and equally, who has that leisure?
So I dream of turning the bare boundary into the loveliest area of planting to entice you down here. To give you a feel for this area of lawn, (which is at the base of the steps and near the summer house), tracing along the bottom edge and allowing only fleeting views of the sea, is a 12 ft hedge of marvellously clashing, gaudy camellias, in front of which are two of the loveliest trees, Metasequoia glyptostroboides and Cercidipyllum japonicum. On the eastern boundary are a row of 10 or so very old hazel shrubs, under-planted with primroses ( and various nefarious weeds which will concern me later down the line). A gap in this hazel planting is a happy accident, as it leads across to the old ‘Olivers’ orchards, with misty views over the newly opened up boundary to the National Trust’s land (we have cleared a lot of self seeded bay from here). All these old hazel shrubs are newly coppiced, so choked were they with bramble and old wood, so it will take imagination to see this feature for the next few years.
So turning back to the bare boundary, my list is long and in need of pruning: Camellia sasanqua, Halesia carolina, Syrax japonica , Davidia involucrata, perhaps a Eucryphia , seen long ago at the lovely Felley Priory in Nottinghamshire , Michelea yunnanesnis, looking gorgeous now at the Chelsea Physic… I need to sit down with a cup of tea and get my thoughts in order. Davidia involucrata gets the nod from the neighbours, though the dubious smell and the long years until the first flowers appear needs consideration. It is well worth the wait though and as for patience, well I did buy this house, so I must have some.
Finally, a few have asked for more history of the house and garden. Click on the three lines on the top right corner of the site and it is there. To help more, next week, I will post a plan of the garden. My arty daughters have promised to draw this up for me as a Mother’s Day gift. Still waiting……