Garden style

This Blenheim garden is a masterclass in creating privacy

This serene, green sanctuary was cleverly created to combat a common complaint – loss of privacy

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Once a parking area, the sunny front garden is now filled with roses and other cottage flowers, as well as several immaculately clipped hedges and topiary.

 

When a two-storey rest home was built on the back boundary of her Blenheim home, Anne Bassett turned the situation into an opportunity. Instead of staring at a tall building from her kitchen and living room, Anne now looks into a leafy, shaded courtyard.

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Cedar shutters on the courtyard walls add a Mediterranean feel, while Japanese maples, hostas and other shade-loving plants provide green textural interest.

 

Four columns were constructed along the boundary and she fixed nautical wires to them, running them across the courtyard to the house wall. Boston ivy was then trained to grow up the columns and along the wires, creating a delightful green canopy that hides the neighbouring building. The deciduous climber has fresh green leaves in spring and summer that turn a fabulous reddish gold in autumn.  During the warmer months, Anne eats outdoors as often as she can.

“The courtyard is lovely in the morning and it’s nice in the evenings, too; I have the barbecue out there,” she says. “It’s very sheltered from our strong northerly winds. I have double doors off the kitchen and dining room that connect to the courtyard, and every window in the house is a huge picture window so I can be indoors and look out and feel as if I’m right there in the garden.”

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In the front garden, a neatly trimmed teucrium hedge lines a path beside the antique bench.

 

Anne has lived in her two-bedroom town house for more than 16 years and confesses she’s only become a keen gardener since the children left home.

“As a young mother you don’t really have a lot of time to devote to gardening,” she says. Since she started, though, Anne has managed to fit in an enormous range of plants, 150 different varieties at last count, into two small spaces at the front and back of the house.

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A fig thrives in an old wooden barrel.

 

When quizzed on her favourite plant, she says: “I have so many, I love them all. I’m not that keen on colour, except for my roses. I love big-leaved plants such as ligularia, hosta and oak-leaved hydrangeas. Lots of greenery.” So what does she do to keep her garden looking so lush? “A friend has ponies so I get horse manure from her and spread that around once a year. I also sprinkle blood and bone a few times. I water the garden in the evenings, especially when it’s windy because everything dries out quite quickly.”

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Like many gardeners, Anne gets a lot of satisfaction from seeing other people enjoy the lush area she has created. She has been a regular participant in the

well-known four-day garden festival Garden Marlborough, and has won two awards. Having lots of people roaming around her garden doesn’t bother her at all these days. “But,” she concedes, “I was a bit nervous the first time as 40-odd people got off the bus and started walking towards my house!”

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Anne clips all the hedges and topiary herself. “It’s a pretty low-maintenance garden because it’s so heavily planted,” she says. “I just water and clip, there’s no need to weed because there’s no bare soil for the weeds to grow.”

 

Topiary tips

  1. Choose small-leaved plants such as box, corokia, lonicera, teucrium, murraya, star jasmine, lavender, or Chilean guava.
  2. Buy a template or make your own out of wire to make sure your topiary retains a good shape.
  3. Planting in a round pot means you can use the outside of the container as a trimming guide.
  4. A little often is the golden rule for trimming topiary.
  5. Re-pot container topiary if you see the roots starting to come out of the pot or root prune to keep the plant the same size.

 

Words by: Carol Bucknell. Photography by: Juliet Nicholas.

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