Our son, Jamie and his fiancee, Sam have just bought their first home together, an old cottage in a small Leicestershire village and so we were looking forward to visiting them and having a good nose around and of course to explore their garden to see what promises it had in store for the coming seasons.
The village seemed a perfect, idyllic place to live, with a pub, a village shop, a primary school and lots of friendly neighbours. Homes have been built here over the centuries giving a huge range of styles – a potted history of domestic architecture. Jamie and Sam’s cottage was built about 300 years ago, but I should really have said two cottages as originally these were two tiny workers cottages. From a quick look at old census returns for the village the cottages were likely to have been home to stocking knitters, lace workers or agricultural labourers. There could be many hours of internet searching of historical sources ahead to enjoy.
It is a very welcoming cottage with a beautiful porch with a feature stain glass window alongside it. The front garden consists of a triangle of land just big enough for a Lilac to grow with a few small shrubs at its feet. Sadly the day after I took this photo the lovely old Lilac blew down in strong winds.
J and S are excited by the thought of what treats might emerge from the cottage garden to the back of the cottage. A walk around revealed some lovely secrets awaiting their season. The garden is a long plot, well stocked with plants to attract wildlife.
From the plants we could identify it should reveal itself as a true cottage garden planned with wildlife in mind. A small pond, a wildlife friendly hedge and a couple of log piles have also been included. A beautiful dry-stone wall provides shelter for a variety of creatures. We took along a bird table and nestbox to add to these and these were soon in place.
The perennials present include Asters, Aquilegias, Foxgloves, Sedum, Iris, Crocosmias, Hemerocalis and Aconitum, so there is a promise of lots of colour and lots of butterflies, bees and beneficial insects.
Of particular interest were the many clumps of Arum Lilies, a family I know little about. We grow Arum italicum marmoratum which was present as several clumps, but I think there were others there with different foliage markings and colours. The main reason to grow these is for their marbled leaf markings.
One task J and S set us was to identify “the sticks”, their non-gardening word for shrubs and trees without leaves! The biggest and most impressive “stick” proved to be a very old apple tree over which scrambles an equally old rambling rose. These will both take a lot of remedial pruning but will prove to be wonderful features. A mature Buddleja, Spiraeas, Hydrangeas and a small cherry will provide colourful flowers in the future, and the Buddleja will bring in both scent and butterflies for their enjoyment.
The large terrace is separated from the garden itself by a low wall of mature bricks which proved to be a handy place to display interesting objects discovered as we cut down the old growth of perennials and tidied up the borders. The little sculpture of stacked sea-worm bricks is one I made years ago.
Three found items, a chair, a terra cotta bowl and a rusty pruning saw blade now adorn the shed.
Two days with J and S wandering around and discovering their new garden and hatching plans for the future, inspired ideas for a mini-meadow of wildflowers, a much bigger pond, a prairie garden and some trained fruit. They have years of fun to come!