A 19th century house near Barnard Castle has been given the garden it deserves
PUBLISHED: 21:07 11 June 2013 | UPDATED: 11:44 12 June 2013
Words and pictures by Linda Viney
Certain homes demand a specific style of garden and since 1975 a former gentleman’s residence near Barnard Castle has been given the garden it deserves. The 19th century house was bought from the Church Commissioners and the grounds came complete with some old fruit trees, a flower garden, rose garden, stables and paddock.
The first task was to clear the ground as it hadn’t been occupied for at least two years, and we all know how quickly weeds can take over. Moving from a different climate Julia took great care in researching plants that would thrive. Her father was a gardener so she has inherited his green fingers.
‘I remember as a small child helping him pot up plants he had grown from seed,’ she said.
Once the land was cleared, a leylandii hedge was planted to give protection from the prevailing winds as it would grow rapidly and kept under control making an ideal windbreak, the copper beech and holly hedges were added later. The hellebores dictate the early start to the season, plants which were probably brought to this country in the Romans’ baggage trains. Legend has it that the roots were used as a cure for madness and also used as rat poison, it was also planted it near the doorway to ward off evil spirits.
Though they normally hold their heads down, some were almost shyly looking up. There are about five species here of varying colours including an unusual slate blue, some have pointed petals and some rounded as well as single and doubles.
Julia’s other passion are the Barnhaven primroses, much hardier and beautiful colours though less garish than many of the modern varieties of primula that are ready available. Old fashioned roses feature along one wall, these rise up from the lower spring flowering plants and bulbs. Apart from the species tulips which thrive year after year, the other tulips are replaced every year with new bulbs. Azaleas and rhododendrons have to be kept in pots, some of which are buried in the ground because the soil is too alkaline.
Fritillarias pop up among the grass by the fruit trees, and surrounding the trunks like a wreath are the shiny green leaves of the Colchiums (Autumn Crocus). The marbled leaves of the cuckoo pint add another dimension as do the gentle hues of the pulmonaria from the more usual blue/pink to the peach and white. Foxgloves rest under the shade of the hedge which when in flower break up the green foliage.
As with many gardens of the time, a vegetable garden was a necessity and spinach, carrots, parsnips, leeks, peas and beans are sown in the spring on well prepared soil. Clematis and rambling roses are trained up and round the fruit trees.
Topiary is another feature which sets the garden off, and a magnificent peacock stands proud on its plinth. ‘It isn’t easy to shape and I have been known to sit astride as I clip to ensure it is even,’ added Julia with a smile.
The rear hedge is formed into a walkthrough arch. One day Julia decided the holly hedge would look more appealing with holly ‘lollypops’ rising up through, so when the hedge was cut stems at intervals were allowed to grow up and the lollypops were shaped. Another favourite is the Amelanchier with its early white flowers, bronze foliage and autumn berries. An ancient walnut tree, probably as old as the house, does produce fruit but small and not edible.