Waterperry Gardens

Waterperry Gardens, Wheatley, Oxfordshire

‘If people don’t gasp when they turn the corner and see the border, I’m not doing my job properly,’ says Waterperry’s horticultural manager, Rob Jacobs. He needn’t worry – you couldn’t fail to emit all kinds of superlatives when you clap eyes on it for the first time, especially at the moment. Dozens of asters in shades of blue, purple and pink are at their peak, and several large Solidago ‘Golden Wings’ provide contrasting splashes of yellow. The colour palette reminded me of a bunch of statice.

The traditional herbaceous border was originally used for teaching – Waterperry started life as a horticultural college for women, under the stewardship of the formidable Beatrix Havergal. Each student took care of a section. The border was later unified by the legendary Pam Schwertdt (latterly the head gardener at Sissinghurst). It’s designed to have a long season of interest: lupins are the highlight in late May/early June, followed by delphiniums in late June/July, phlox in August and Michaelmas daisies (asters) in September. It looks so full and abundant that you can’t help wondering where the early flowerers have gone (a visitor once asked if the plants are removed and replaced for every season). Actually, it’s all down to careful positioning (and staking) – tall, early plants are situated at the back, and any plant that keeps its leaves nicely after flowering, or flowers late, is at the front.

The border needs a lot of work to keep it looking good. There’s a lot of staking and deadheading to be done, and in the first two weeks of November it’s all cut down to the ground. Rob and head gardener Pat are at pains to point out a couple of holes in the border and say that they’re never quite satisfied with it. But to anyone else, it looks pretty much perfect.



Guest post 1: Danny’s garden

Walthamstow (by Paul Lindt)

My current accessories, a Nora Batty-style bandage and a crutch, are not conducive to taking pics for this blog. So it’s time to call in some favours. For the next few posts I’ll be employing some roving reporters to take pics on my behalf.

First up is Danny’s garden, taken by Paul Lindt. Danny is a man of many talents and his garden is a wonder, cleverly designed and laid out with his own fair hands, and packed with plants. Not that an estate agent liked it much, though – when he came round to value the house a while ago he informed Danny that the garden ‘could be very nice’.

Anyway, Danny’s front garden has been shortlisted for a ‘Best Kept Front Garden’ award in Walthamstow, and deservedly so.

Over to Danny…

‘In a blatant attempt to curry favour with the judges, and tick the criteria boxes (attractiveness, creativity, wildlife friendly, choice of plants), my supporting text for my entry read:

“Chock full of year-round interest, subtle colour, texture and some unusual plants. Danny’s front garden rises to the challenge of dry, summertime shade.He’s combined woodland plants like thalictrum, astrantia, tricyrtis, anemones, phlox and hardy geraniums. It’s peppered with self-seeded michaelmas daisies and softened by puffs of deschampsia.  The house is clothed in spring-flowering clematis and white wisteria and a headily scented trachelospermum (a surprising success in shade).

Architectural plants include acanthus, phormium and fern while the front door is flanked by a pair of cypress trees.  A wall-trained pyracantha has been home to nesting blackbirds again this year, and the soft dry soil provides nesting sites for solitary bees and the ubiquitous ant.  And he’s a martyr to the snail.
Come late summer spiders strike up instant webs between tall stems, and autumnal yellow and golden hues suffuse the foliage. Fading to a garden of evergreens and dried seedheads. When spring comes around the garden is soon awash with mauve clematis and wallflowers and tulips, bluebells and alliums until the street trees draw the curtains on the sun for another summer. 

It’s not the most manicured of gardens, ‘natural’ you might say, but Danny’s crammed it to the gunnells with lovely plants that vie for the attention of passers-by.”

Let’s hope he wins, eh? I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime if you spot a nice garden on your travels, please take a pic and send it to me via the Contact Me tab!
PS You can see more pics of Danny’s garden here. Well worth a look.