The development of the gardens
When we bought Freston House in 2006, the gardens were mainly composed of pasture and parklands. The relatively small existing area of shrub and perennial borders had to be removed as the house was extended and renovated. The hard landscaping, mainly carried out in the kitchen garden, the pond & parterre area, the driveway and the area in front of the house, was started in late 2006, as was the planting of most of the yew hedging. This is when the two adjacent photographs were taken. The remainder of the perennial and shrub planting in these areas was started in 2008.
The Colour Themed Gardens & Main Borders
At the back of the house we built three colour-themed gardens: white, yellow and purple. The two central borders in the purple garden were planted in 2008, the white garden in 2009 and the yellow garden in 2010. The purple garden was extended in 2012 and again in 2014 adding an extra pair of beds on each occasion. The purple garden in particular was planted with a view to extending the flowering season. Alliums and a dozen varieties of bearded iris are followed by lupins then geraniums, nepeta and alstroemerias and finally dahlias, asters, perovskia and aconites, whilst osteospermum, penstemon and verbenas add interest throughout mosts of the seasons.
At the side of the house, between the croquet lawn and the tennis court, are the ‘hot borders’. A pair of traditional perennial long borders featuring a pallet of reds, oranges and yellows. Predominantly a mid-late summer border, the planting includes rudbeckias, alstroemerias, dhalias, achillea ‘Cloth of Gold’, helenium ‘Flammenrad’ and lysimachia punctata ‘Alexander’.
The Woodland Walk
The Wooded area along the eastern boundary of the property was already blessed with a large, dense carpet of bulbs when we bought the house; mainly snowdrops and bluebells. But, with an evergreen canopy of yew and holly, an abundance of sycamore trees and an undergrowth of weeds and nettles, it wasn’t a particularly inviting place to wander through. So, in 2010, we took out dozens of sycamore, heavily pruned and raised the canopy of most of the evergreens and dug out paths through the woods. The paths were then edged with the logs from the trees we had cut down. Hundreds, if not thousands, of shade tolerant trees, shrubs and perennials were then planted, including hosta, heleborus, brunnera macrophylla, alchemilla mollis, euphorbia, cotoneaster, cornus, geranium, anemone, vinca minor, arum maculatum, camellia, magnolia, viburnum & mahonias.
The woodland garden was extended along the north boundary of the property in 2013. We created a natural pond on the woodland edge in the far corner of the grounds We decided to use a clay bentonite lining rather than an artificial pond liner. Getting it water-tight and planting around the pond has taken a couple of years. The project was started in 2014 and even now the pond requires regular topping up, so there may still be a small leak to find!
Cutting down the trees and digging out paths in 2010
The Winter Garden
Having focused on planting mainly summer-flowering shrubs and perennials in the initial development of the garden, we felt that we wanted to add some winter and spring interest. After visiting several winter gardens (especially Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire & Marks Hall in Essex) in order to identify appropriate individual plants to add to existing beds, we were so impressed with the mass planting and combinations of winter shrubs in their own setting that we decided to create a dedicated winter garden.
The paths were laid and beds made in 2008 and the planting was started that winter. I particularly like the combinations of the silver stems of the Rubus cockburnianus and the bright red stems of the Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ together with the smooth red bark of the multi-stemmed Prunus serrula. There is winter and spring scent in the garden from the Lonicera x purpusii (Winter honeysuckle), Sarcococca hookeriana var digyna (Christmas Box), Skimmia x confusa ‘Kew Green’ and Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’. There’s still enough to see in this garden in summer though. The grove of Betula Jacquemontii (Himalayan Silver Birch) with its spectacular white bark is well worth a visit.
The Cottage Garden
We added a mixed perennial and shrub garden between the kitchen garden and the driveway in 2012 by utilising an existing bed of hydrangeas. We planted mainly in shades of pinks and purples including peonies, persicaria, Viburnum x bodnantense, lots of varieties of penstemon, alstroemeria, lupins and dahlias. Next to this garden, by the side of the woodshed, we’ve planted a small informal cottage-style garden which is now just about fully mature.