Sheila Batterbury's Garden
Charity
29 October, 2010

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When we moved the West Country in the autumn of 1994 I was loathe to leave my plants behind and so they came with me, completely filling a large furniture van.

I had left behind a fine garden but it had fine sandy soil which dried out very fast. This was a real problem in hot summers. In contrast the rough sloping ground behind our new home was a disappointment to me when I first saw it. It was unkempt and on a rising slope. But I was lucky enough to find a builder who was also a plantsman. The rough sloping ground behind our new home had to have the attention of my builder's JCB before I could even consider planting anything.

It had to have the attention of his JCB before I could even consider planting anything. The ground consisted of heavy clay and boulders. I couldn't get a fork through it. So my plants had to sit out the winter months in trays and old manure bags. To my delight they all survived! So, as the builder worked, moving topsoil, building terracing, laying lawns and making borders, I was able to start planting. It was a monumental task in a particularly hot summer.

But a garden doesn't stand still and it is still developing. Each year we work on new plans. This year, taking into account the global warming issue, we have made a pebble garden and created two Alpine beds. We also have a stone circle to sit in.

Click to enlarge

But a garden doesn't stand still and even now it is still developing. Each year we work on new plans. Taking into account the global warming issue, we have made a pebble garden and created two Alpine beds. I planted heathers on a sloping rockery. We also have a stone circle to sit in. These changes should help to cut back on summer watering. We were careful to choose plants that were able to survive with very little water.

Some thought has to be given to parts of the garden as yet undeveloped. I am now lucky to have the help and advice of young helpers. Between us we have created paths, moved shrubs and plants, and even trees. Seating areas have been created, mainly for visitors, I rarely sit down !

Paths wind their way up past the terraces, past packed flower borders, through shrubberies, over lawns and under the rose arches to the top of the garden. Up here at the top there are wonderful views over Bath and the countryside beyond. Behind, as a back-drop, are the woods and fields that are home to all manner of wild life. On summer evenings balloons often drift silently over head.

A straight path runs down the side of the garden from the summerhouse in the top corner. Here is a fence on one side covered with Clematis and climbing roses. There is a small stretch of woodland here created for ferns and shade loving plants. Looking down towards the house you will see our vegetables planted on the garage roof !

On the other side of the garden we have a small tool shed and a walled raised bed which we filled with ericaceous soil for Rhododendrons and Azaleas, which don't thrive in Bath's acid soil. In May it is a riot of glorious colour. Then there is a border of mainly Delphiniums and foxgloves which come into their full glory in the summer.

Across the lawn is the top terrace which is home to my collection of hardy geraniums. They are excellent ground cover and flower throughout the summer. The two terraces below are planted out annually with cottage garden plants.

Down by the house is a patio with pots and containers for spring bulbs and annual colour. A prolific Kiftsgate rose and a Wisteria scramble up the walls. The greenhouse is in constant use for tender plants, propagation, seedlings. I collect my own seeds each autumn. Here too are two rockeries and a pond and a waterfall. The pond is home quite a few fish and aquatic plants. Alongside there is a newly constructed bog garden. The conservatory houses tender plants and here too are several shelves of garden reference books.

The garden in front of the house is of some interest as it presented us with quite a few problems. It was just a grassy slope in very poor condition. When the driveway was reconstructed we took the opportunity to redesign. Builder's rubble was dug out, stone walls were built and three flowers borders were created. I had to think carefully about the planting here because it is open plan. Deer and badgers wander through in the evenings. Over time I learnt what they fancied for supper and just planted shrubs and plants that I hoped they would ignore. As it faced north over the sweeping valley of the Avon they had to be able to survive the winds and winter weather. I went for warm colours and aimed to create a pleasant but maintenance free feeling to the front to our house.

 

The Making of a New Garden