The lowest lake was constructed in 1982, the folly and scented arbour in 1986, the final slope being planted with trees in 1987.
At the same time two shelter belts were planted. With a valley and the prevailing wind coming straight up from the west, it is impossible to achieve complete protection but gradually as the planting of trees on each side developed, they began to mutually support one another. I found that an original planting of maples, which I thought might protect the magnolias planted at the same time, acted in reverse and the magnolias did well in full exposure whereas the maples were very reluctant.
Another surprise was that camellias here do very well in exposed positions, unlike the accepted position that they require partial shade. I planted a hedge of Camellia Donation after seeing this done at Pukeiti Gardens in New Zealand. This can be kept almost like a privet hedge and is a joy for over a month in the spring when it is covered with flowers. I also grow Camellia reticulatas with the largest flowers of any camellia in the teeth of the gale with great success, covered with flowers and seeding freely afterwards. Both sides of the valley have now been planted up with collections of trees and shrubs, many of them rare.
There is a collection of eucalyptus of different species together with birches which give a very good mixed effect, one deciduous and the other evergreen. The birches get very green from algae and are therefore cleaned with warm water and detergent early in the year. I also plant white anemone blanda for the spring and cyclamen for the autumn under these trees. I am very fond of the bark of trees and the more trunks there are, the more bark, hence my preference for multi-trunked trees rather than the standard. Both sides of the valley have now been planted up with collections of trees and shrubs, many of them rare. Magnolias are planted throughout the garden, some of them mature Himalayan trees which give spectacular displays in February and March, frost permitting, and many others which continue to bloom throughout the seasons according to their species.
I was slightly surprised to read up from our list of plants that I grow over 80 different magnolias, some of them admittedly still small. I particularly like the Jury hybrids from New Zealand which have Campbellii blood in them and have the great advantage of blooming at a young age and with huge flowers at shoulder height originally and do not require a helicopter to see their bloom.
A sloping garden has advantages from some points of view as one can select the situation of a plant so that you can look up into the bloom of pendulous flower from below and conversely down into the bloom of an upright flower. Hence I like to plant hellebores on a bank or wall above the eye so as to be able to look up into them as with the Erythroniums.
As mentioned above, the lowest lake was put in in 1982, and beside it sited a Scented Arbour, with a seat surrounded by honeysuckles, the Spanish broom, a Philadelphus and a highly scented small shrub rose hedge. The folly at the lower end of the garden with the cherub in it was put in to come at the end of the vista and has groups of Betula jacquemontii, 3 to a hole so that the trunks may join up without the danger of splitting at the base as they mature. Beyond this there is the latest development of a wild garden where plants may be allowed to grow which would be too obstreperous elsewhere.
Visitors to the garden this year have commented on the fact that I plant hydrangeas in the same hole as another tree. This does save space and provides another season of flower in late summer. After all, you see this happen with different plants in the wild and I see no objection to doing it in the garden.
I am very inclined to follow nature as far as possible and to plant where the plant is likely to be happy and, although I can admire it when practised by others, I do not want to have what I describe as a contrived garden with very carefully arranged colour. One never really notices clashing colour in the wild and there are very few occasions when it offend me in the garden. I can only remember one disaster with an amusing result. This was when I planted the very scarlet coloured Rhododendron shilsonii alongside the mauve pink Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’. The smaller plant was the rhododendron so I moved it to the other side of the valley. The next year – disaster! I had forgotten that there was another Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ which flowered for the first time. There is a happy ending, however, as M. shilsonii is now happily ensconced at the far end of the garden.
I have most of the plants in the garden labelled, partly for the sake of my own flagging memory but in addition with the garden open all the time, I am sure that it cuts down on the taking of cuttings without permission or even the theft of plants as visitors can write down the name of the plant they fancy and either hope to buy it in our sales area or find it elsewhere.
People are inclined to ask me what will happen to the garden after my time. I could not afford to give it to the National Trust, and I do not like the idea of a Trust because so often people look over their shoulder and say “What would he, or she, have done?” I feel that if I provide the structure of the garden, whoever follows could follow whatever was their favourite planting and with luck could afford to run the garden on the basis of visitors paying for admission and sale of what has now become a collection of very many unusual plants which are being propagated. It is, I suppose, possible that The Lottery, Heritage or other body may in the future feel that a garden which I have developed over half a century may be worthy of some support with what is, after all, in some ways a botanic garden as well as being a private one that is now enjoyed by so many visitors from home as well as overseas.