Today’s blog post is a glimpse inside Kirstie Allsopp’s garden. I’ve been lucky enough to get some behind-the-hedge photos from Victoria Summerley, the author of The Secret Gardeners. If you missed my earlier blog posts, I’ve also shared a peek inside Prue Leith’s plot and Cath Kidston’s garden. Plus I’ve got two copies of the book to giveaway to two lucky winners so enter the competition below…
Claudette Margand, who looks after the gardens at Kirstie Allsopp’s Devonshire home, has an abiding memory of her boss speeding across the grass on a quad bike, bearing a freshly poached egg on toast. The egg was for Kirstie’s partner, Ben Andersen, who was tending a bonfire at the time. It is a wonderful image, and sums up what this garden means to Kirstie and her family. It’s about spending as much time as possible outdoors and allowing the children to enjoy adventures climbing trees and damming streams. It’s about wearing old clothes and letting the windfalls in the orchard lie on the ground for the birds and other wildlife. And it’s about celebrating the English countryside in all its seasons and moods.
Many gardeners will tell you that when they were children they had their own patch of garden, where they discovered the magic of sowing seeds and growing plants. I’m sure this is true, but many others come to gardening simply because it means being in the fascinating world of “outside”. If you inhibit children with too many safeguards, they never have a chance to discover this world for themselves, but this is not the case for Kirstie’s two sons, Bay and Oscar, and their half-brothers, Orion and Hal.The boys are free to race around the garden as fast as they like on quad bikes or mini motorbikes. They have a tree house in an enormous copper beech – which is, admittedly, within view of their mother’s bedroom window – and they are given space to explore the river, with its weirs, bridges, and places to paddle and swim. The boys also love helping their father dredge the pond, or build a bonfire.
Dandy, the border terrier, is allowed to run in and out of the house all day long, too, and it doesn’t seem to matter that there are 90 million tennis balls in the yew hedges, which he has failed to retrieve, according to Claudette. It’s a Swallows and Amazons meets Swiss Family Robinson existence here at Kirstie’s place.The gardens surround the house on all sides, and each section has its own character. On the south side is a large gravelled terrace, a good solution if you need lots of space for seating, but don’t want your garden to look like a car park. The two enormous tables with matching benches on the terrace can accommodate around 20 people. They were specially made for Kirstie, and you can imagine the adults sitting and chatting here on a summer’s day while their offspring tear around on the lawn beyond.
Next to the terrace is the most formal part of the garden, with a long mixed border on one side, and a row of magnolias along the other. Even when they are not in flower, the magnolias’ silvery bark shines out against the backdrop of dark yew. The border is mostly comprised of flowering shrubs, including roses, hydrangeas and the scented winter-flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima. Behind the long border is the swimming pool – heated by solar panels – and a tennis court.From late winter onwards, the garden is awash with a range of beautiful flowering bulbs. Snowdrops, daffodils and bluebells, together with carpets of dainty wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa), decorate the meadows and woodland, while thousands of tulips come to life from mid-spring, bringing a blaze of colour and interest to the formal part of the garden.
The front of the house looks out onto grassy meadows, where a herd of sheep graze and the River Tale, which flows through the estate, broadens out into a small lake. At the far end of the lake, the water flows under a wooden bridge and over a weir, forming a deep pool, ideal for swimming. Finally, on the north side of the house, there is the kitchen garden, accessed via a gate in a high wall. It includes an apple tree orchard, and a vegetable garden, with beds outlined in lavender and box hedging.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look around Kirstie Allsopp’s garden and that the photos have inspired your own plans for your garden. And now, on to the giveaway – you would win 1 of 2 copies of The Secret Gardeners by Victoria Summerley if you enter my competition via the Rafflecopter widget below. Two lucky winners will be picked at random from all entries once the giveaway has closed on 5th November and each winner will be sent a copy of this impressive book. Good luck!
Giveaway open to UK residents only. Competition runs from 15th October – 5th November 2017. Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter.