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Our garden journey….

“There is nothing better than seeing a totally overgrown, wild and unruly garden that has the potential of being beautiful” - my thoughts when I first saw our garden ten years ago ... which after a lot of hard work is now indeed beautiful!

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

It was not a huge plot and was triangular shaped with dimensions of 30m x 42m, but more interestingly it had only about 1 square metre of flat land. The top was 7m higher than the bottom and about 40% of the land was on a steep slope!

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

It might be worth mentioning that I’m not a professional gardener, nor do I know a lot about plants. My family has always liked gardening and I have enjoyed the company of other amateur gardeners and professionals over the years. I have designed and constructed gardens before this one, but without doubt this has been the most challenging and the most rewarding. 

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

In March 2008 I started clearing the land and the Syringa vulgaris (lilac) tree which had grown and fallen several times over the years and was now 10m from its original planting. This well-loved tree needed to remain in the garden but had to be taken back to its former position. It took three months to prepare the land and replace two of the boundary fences. The third boundary was a beautiful mixed foliage hedge over 2m high and loved by wild birds for nesting.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

With the land cleared the first step was to build the walled tiers which meander along the natural contours to create flatter and shapely borders for future planting. Before this work could take place almost 100 tons of soil and chalk needed to be excavated, moved and shaped all by hand, one man’s labour of love! Nestled in the heart of one of Hampshire’s prettiest thatch cottage villages, it was important for me to keep in mind the character of the 160-year-old flint and brick cottage which the garden belonged to. Over a thousand bricks were ordered and along with flintstone inserts the tiered walls were constructed during the early months of 2009. The result was eight individual levels with brick paths leading through them. 

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

In March I levelled the ground and backfilled behind the walls, and in early April I sowed the grass seed to create a large flat lawn and two smaller areas we call the pond walk and orchard. Late April was planting time, and I ordered close to a thousand plants from a horticultural friend who runs Copthorne Nursery, Fawley, a centre for adults with learning disabilities, and over a weekend we planted them all.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

It had always been an ambition of mine to open a garden that gardening enthusiasts could relate to. Our village holds an open garden event every year and it may have been a little premature that the garden was included late June 2009. It was rather raw, thinking back!

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

For the next five years, the garden was developed further, adding many constructions and features, and I spent the winter months building and reshaping. Three building have been included - workshop, gym and an office – along with a large decking area, seating and garden ornaments, all of which are now covered in established planting.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

In 2014 we purchased the cottage next door and gained another steep slope garden! The challenge now was to blend it in with the already established garden. By this time I had managed to move the Syringa vulgaris (lilac) tree back to where we wanted it and it now had a purpose acting as a backdrop to the decking and a screen for the greenhouse and propagation area at the top of the garden. This leads nicely into the new garden, half of which was to become a tiered vegetable area (where I grow unusual vegetables), and the other half becoming a dedicated rose garden.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

Both new gardens took a year to construct, another thousand bricks and many tons of soil removed, all moved manually, and another large plant order for Copthorne Nursery.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

As in all old gardens it’s common to find all sorts of things buried when excavating and this project has been no exception, including part of an old bed, bicycle, and many pots and bottles (miraculously some intact), but for me the most interesting has been a large number of stones which are not from this area. Research revealed that there was once a large abbey close by and following the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the abbey falling into ruin the villagers took the stones … clearly some of the stones I found have been hand carved and are likely to have come from the source. They now form a dry-stone wall as a backdrop to the pond and grass border, beautiful.

Robert Lawrence Member Profile Plant Lover and Shoot Member

Pictures never seem to do a garden justice, and if anyone would like to come and see our gardens please feel free to make contact at robertandsue@oliveridleyproject.org. We ask only for a small donation to our chosen charity Olive Ridley Project www.oliveridleyproject.org for the medical care of turtles who have become entangled in ghost nets.

Plant list

I'm so pleased to have discovered Shoot. It allows me to manage all the plants in our garden and give them the care they need when its due. The pictorial library of all our plants, all in one place, is especially useful.

Agapanthus 'Bressingham Blue'
Galanthus nivalis
Acanthus spinosus
Allium cristophii
Anchusa azurea 'Loddon Royalist'
Arum italicum subsp. italicum 'Marmoratum'
Rosmarinus officinalis Prostratus Group
Buddleja 'Lochinch'
Verbena bonariensis
Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'
Clematis montana
Convallaria majalis
Cynara cardunculus
Primula vulgaris
Nicotiana sylvestris
Origanum laevigatum 'Herrenhausen'
Allium giganteum
Agapanthus 'Bressingham White'
Pulsatilla vulgaris 'Alba'
Persicaria affinis 'Superba'
Lychnis chalcedonica
Aconitum carmichaelii 'Barker's Variety'
Allium sphaerocephalon
Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Artemisia 'Powis Castle'
Geranium 'Johnson's Blue'
Clematis armandii
Aubrieta 'Royal Blue'
Aubrieta 'Doctor Mules Variegata'
Lamprocapnos spectabilis 'Alba'
Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple'
Vinca major
Deschampsia flexuosa 'Tatra Gold'
Echinops ritro
Allium schoenoprasum
Viola cornuta
Hosta 'Sum and Substance'
Penstemon digitalis 'Huskers Red'
Physocarpus opulifolius 'Diabolo'
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver Queen'
Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor'
Spiraea nipponica 'Snowmound'
Pratia pedunculata
Gladiolus murielae
Crocosmia 'Lucifer'
Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty'
Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea'
Paeonia officinalis 'Rubra Plena'
Phlomis russeliana
Phygelius x rectus 'Devil's Tears'
Potentilla nepalensis 'Miss Willmott'
Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'
Geum 'Mrs J. Bradshaw'
Liatris spicata
Lithodora diffusa 'Heavenly Blue'
Festuca ovina glauca 'Golden Toupee'
Anemone hupehensis 'Hadspen Abundance'
Campanula lactiflora 'Loddon Anna'
Allium karataviense
Anemanthele lessoniana
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
Aurinia saxatilis
Chaenostoma cordatum 'Snowflake'
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Solfatare'
Libertia grandiflora
Lychnis coronaria
Eryngium giganteum
Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fen's Ruby'
Tanacetum parthenium
Helianthemum 'Highdown Apricot'
Hemerocallis 'Berlin Red'
Hemerocallis 'Cartwheels'
Hemerocallis 'Golden Chimes'
Hemerocallis 'Lemon Bells'
Hemerocallis 'Stoke Poges'
Gillenia trifoliata
Scabiosa columbaria
Lychnis coronaria 'Alba'
Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low'
Clematis 'Niobe'
Geranium pratense Midnight Reiter strain
Hemerocallis 'Stafford'
Arabis procurrens 'Variegata'
Arabis procurrens 'Old Gold'
Phlox subulata
Heliopsis helianthoides var. scabra 'Benzinggold'
Viola labradorica
Echium pininana
Hemerocallis 'Stella de Oro'
Coreopsis lanceolata 'Sterntaler'
Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'
Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'George Davison'
Echinops ritro 'Veitch's Blue'
Dahlia 'Bishop of Canterbury'
Primula vialii
Rudbeckia fulgida var deamii
Catananche caerulea 'Alba'
Hosta 'Patriot'
Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum'
Hemerocallis 'Pardon Me'
Aquilegia 'Clementine Red' (Clementine Series)
Dianthus 'Fusilier'
Aquilegia alpina
Artemisia lactiflora Guizhou Group
Campanula poscharskyana 'Blue Waterfall'
Geranium 'Blue Sunrise'
Geranium cinereum 'Rothbury Gem'
Geum 'Lady Stratheden'
Carex comans bronze-leaved
Hemerocallis 'Custard Candy'
Hemerocallis 'Frans Hals'
Erigeron 'Pink Jewel'
Erodium 'Bishop's Form'
Erysimum 'Stars and Stripes'