Margot Delaney’s Winchester Tree Garden

Margot has the most amazing garden that has evolved over the 80 years she and her family have lived there. Margot was born at the house in Winchester almost 50 years ago, as was her mother, Mary. So it was Margot’s grandparents who started work on the garden back in the 1940s when they moved there during the war and ran the property as a small private hospital to help some of the troops who returned with major injuries.

Mary’s mother was a nurse and she wanted to help injured soldiers so she took in some with the gravest injuries who had received hospital treatment but didn’t really have anywhere to go to after discharge. It was a wonderful setting for recuperation but there weren’t many trees in those days, since some of the mature trees had been used in the first world war efforts.

That’s when a plan was conceived to start planting and it’s a plan that is still being rolled out today by Margot and her family.

Winchester Arborists are our tree surgeons in Winchester and very involved in the project, planting a few specimen trees each year and looking after the beautiful trees that surround the property. They also prune trees and remove anything that is dead or diseased, since it’s imperative to keep healthy stock in the garden.

The plan is well underway of course after so many years but the feeling is that it will never end. It’s reviewed every 5 years and a decision is made on what needs to be done to remove trees that no longer fit and to plant to fill in any gaps. It’s a project that takes a lot of time and dedication and involves a lot of precise tree surgery, but it’s rewarding and the results speak for themselves when you see Margot’s stunning Winchester tree garden.

Misha and Tilly’s Horsham Garden

Misha and Tilly invited me to their garden in the spring, not long after it had been newly landscaped by Horsham Decks and Patios.

The twins, who are fairly recently famous for their TV and blogging antics, bought their house together 6 years ago.  Thanks to their increased income, they’ve been able to spend money on their property and are doing a great job.  The house was tackled first and they’ve managed to sympathetically extend their Victorian property, whilst opening up the rooms and letting in a lot more light.

So it was natural that they should then move on to improving the garden and creating an outdoor space worthy of the entertainment business.  The garden isn’t huge but it’s big enough to host a party for 50 or so guests and that’s what the Misha and Tilly enjoy. Their garden needed to be suitable for summer barbecues and wine evenings with large patio areas yet hidden depths to tempt visitors to explore the further reaches.

The landscape gardeners in Horsham they chose have done a great job of interpreting the brief. There are two spacious patios, one outside the sliding rear doors and the other further down the garden, which also houses a delightful pergola and barbecue area. The whole is linked by a charming pathway constructed of Horsham stone and the girls have chosen raised beds for their planting. It’s a labour-saving way of gardening that’s becoming popular and saves knees and backs!

I was impressed with the versatility of the guys who not only build patios and decking but also take care of the whole infrastructure of the garden.

The garden lighting is spectacular and was done by another local firm of electricians, more about them later as I inspect another garden in West Sussex and report on the way lighting has been used to transform a garden.  This particular garden has solar lighting, complemented by mains lighting to ensure there’s enough light during the winter, when we often don’t get much sun.

Planting in the twin’s garden has been cleverly thought out, combining decorative vegetables with annual flowers. The results are very pretty and the whole lot is cleared out in the autumn and replanted with winter-flowering pansies to bring colour on those dismal days.  In the spring the whole cycle starts again with vegetables and flowers.

There isn’t much in the way of shrubs, but one beautiful old magnolia tree sits at the bottom of the garden to give perspective and must look stunning in early summer when it’s in full bloom. Unfortunately I was a little early in the year to see it at its best, but I can only imagine how it looks when covered with pink-hued blossom.

Underplanting the magnolia are crocuses and miniature daffodils, which were at their best when I viewed, giving a country feel to the place.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm and warmth of these two young ladies, who obviously enjoy their lifestyle and are justifiably proud of their beautiful Horsham garden.

John Karlettong’s Cardiff Garden

Friary Gardens, Cardiff

John’s garden in Cardiff is totally different to the other gardens I’ve visited. It’s not large, in fact probably less than a quarter of an acre, but it’s unusual.  John has modelled his garden on the box garden in the famous Friary Gardens at Cathay’s Park in Cardiff.

The geometric layout was designed by John himself, although he doesn’t do the grunt work as he has a gardener who spends a huge amount of time building and looking after the plot.

John is passionate about fresh fruit and vegetables and before he was famous he rented an allotment and grew all his own – although even in those days he employed friends to do a lot of the work.

John swears the only way to ensure you’re eating fresh produce is to grow it yourself. He doesn’t entrust that responsibility to anyone else.  So naturally much of his garden is utilised for vegetable plots, neatly contained in box hedging. It works surprisingly well, with veggies interspersed with an array of colourful flowers.

Around the edge of the entire garden, John has planted neat fruit trees, trained on wires along the walls, and numerous bushes, such as cultivated blackberries and gooseberries, red and black currants and raspberries, all well-trained, clipped and kept pristine.  You can see from his garden that John is someone who loves order and is obsessively neat. His home reflects this with his uncluttered rooms and open plan living.

John is known for his amazing paintings, but he’s also a sculptor in his spare time. A few of his works are scattered around his garden, stark white carvings that draw the eye and look wonderful as they contrast with the colour all around.

I enjoyed this garden with its neat walkways and symmetrical layout, but there’s something a little odd about a garden that is so controlled – so fighting against nature the whole time, in my opinion. But it suits John and it’s certainly an interesting place to visit.



Arialla Milscon’s Surrey Garden

Arialla is one of my favourite entertainers – what a voice and she’s just as good when dancing.  So I was delighted to be invited to visit her homely garden in leafy Surrey.

It’s not a large or pretentious garden, but designed in the cottage garden style similar to that favoured by the late great Gertrude Jekyll. Gertrude died in 1932 but her legacy certainly lives on in the beautiful country gardens she designed and have been copied by thousands over the years. She was a great inspiration to everyone who wants a natural style garden without the pretentiousness that can sometimes permeate when a wealthy landowner asks for a design!

Arialla’s garden has been designed by her but she’s a great admirer of Gertrude and you can certainly see her influence.  There are swathes of cottage garden plants sweeping up her long front path, bordered by immaculate lawns and neat hedging.  The whole complements her pretty house and is a joy for every passerby.

The back garden is equally delightful and continues with the Jekyll influence, though leading to an informal orchard awash with apple trees that were bursting with fruit when I visited.  Along with the apples were plum, pear and damson trees, all planted some 30 or 40 years ago. But much of the rest of the garden is Arialla’s own work.  I didn’t realise she was so hands-on until we chatted and wandered around, but she knows every one of the plants and many were planted by her. She finds working in the garden to be a relaxation and relief from her on-stage work; it’s a time to switch off and enjoy nature in the privacy and quiet of her own little haven.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and as it was such a beautiful day we sat in the garden and enjoyed a glass of rose.  It’s such a peaceful setting and I felt honoured to be invited to such a spot with a delightful host.



Rob Jackmann’s Cornwall Garden

Who doesn’t love Rob Jackmann?  He’s a wonderful actor and I think he looks at his garden as another stage, to be dressed and to serve as a set for his acting.

This garden is something to behold. I love the huge dramatic trees that create a backdrop for his planting. Of course they’ve been there for generations, originally planted in the 19th century by a wealthy industrialist who bought specimens back from his travels to Europe.  To my mind, the English Oak is always the most magnificent tree in any garden, but I have to admit he has some fabulous examples from around the world, including an enormous Giant Sequoia from California.

Rob’s garden sits amongst 200 acres of beautiful Cornwall countryside, featuring woodland, streams, a couple of large ponds and a lot of grazing land. A local farmer uses the fields for his sheep and cattle, providing a peaceful and harmonious backdrop for the gardens of his house. I’m deliberately not identifying the location because I’d hate to cause an influx of strangers, gawping at his private property.

I’ve been unable to discover who originally designed the garden, but I’d put him up there with Capability Brown as a designer who knew how to bring nature and nurture together harmoniously to create a beautiful setting for Rob’s lovely house.  In fact, the house isn’t that big, rather what would have been a fairly modest country residence for a Victorian gentleman (women didn’t enter into the world of property in those days!).  The way the garden builder landscaped 30 acres of the holding is beautiful and his vision is still being enjoyed by the present owner.

Many mature trees form the backdrop for the garden, but it’s the underplanting that’s inspired. All manner of huge shrubs from around the world compete for attention and are there to surprise as you meander through the scene. Carefully constructed footpaths take you around the estate, making the whole appear much larger than it is and showing off the splendour of the garden at every season of the year.  In winter there are bushes laden with berries of every hue, spring brings daffodils and snowdrops, bluebells and primroses – very traditional but no less beautiful for it.

Early summer brings out the rhododendrons, which in this setting have been strictly controlled so they don’t take over the entire garden.  I believe the planters who first brought these lovely plants back from China had no idea they could become so invasive.  But when kept on a leash they can be a real asset to the garden.  Summer is a wonderful time in Rob’s garden, from the Iris garden to the formal box garden with its herbs and vegetable plot.

I’ve not been allowed to post photos of this garden, which is a shame but totally understandable as Rob values his privacy. I hope to visit again because he’s a wonderful host and the scones he served were delicious.

Thank you Rob for your tour of your beautiful estate.



Ginny Welston’s Garden

Ginny has a wonderful garden of over 60 acres. In gently undulating ground she has areas of woodland, streams, lakes, shrubbery and flowers. The whole comes together to impress and calm the visitor.

One of my favourite areas is a bank of crocuses that look spectactular in the early spring. Here you can see the abundance of colour on display.  Later in the year the bank will be mown, but in this photo the crocuses are at their pinnacle, exhibiting beautiful mauves, white and yellow.

I visited Ginny on a sunny day in March, the kind of weather that produces a cold wind but when you find a sheltered corner, the sun is really warm. Ginny has such a tucked away spot in a courtyard outside the back door. It was there that we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a chat after a stroll around the grounds.

Most of the trees were still bare, which somehow accented the crocuses and snowdrops scattered around the hillsides. I wonder whether they were originally planted by an enthusiastic gardener or whether they spread themselves from some initial minor planting.  Ginny has done a lot of work herself over the years, but she knows little of the history of the garden, which is a shame.

I’ll probably return to this garden later, but for now I really want to tell you about Rob Jackmann’s wonderful garden in Cornwall