Garden of the month: Potmans Heath
PUBLISHED: 17:49 28 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:49 28 March 2014
Find out how Wilma and Alan Lloyd Smith have developed their garden close to the fertile Wittersham Levels
Wilma and Alan Lloyd Smith have been developing the picturesque gardens around their attractive period house over the past 35 years.
Set close to the Isle of Oxney by the Wittersham Levels, the area is abundant with wildlife although the soil has been challenging.
“The marshland provides lush grazing, but the soil on the isle itself is less fertile, so our garden has been developed on heavy clay,” says Wilma.
“As such, all the flower beds have required and continue to require copious applications of mulching material.
“We use rotted stable manure, based on milled rapeseed stems, which is used for our horses’ bedding. In this way we are self sufficient in improving the soil in the garden.”
The resulting garden, set out in loose compartments, has a focus on trees with an apple and cherry orchard, along with a variety of ornamental trees, including many prunus, resulting in lovely displays of blossom through spring.
Further colour comes from widespread planting of bulbs each year for to achieve a successional display. “This starts with aconites and snowdrops in January. We plant Kaufmanniana tulips, followed by parrot, fringed and double, in pots that we place on steps and terraces,” says Wilma.
“These start flowering early in March, as do naturalised crocus, dwarf narcissi and irises. Every year we try to plant more daffodils and narcissi to naturalise in our lawns and we now have 50 or so different varieties to add to the planting of Lenten lilies, which were widespread when we first came.”
By the end of April vibrant tulips fringe the house and a particularly exciting use of these glorious bulbs is a colour-themed jewelled carpet in the long lawn.
Pink ‘Angelique’, purple ‘Recreado’ and ‘Blue Diamond’, along with white ‘Mount Tacoma’ all flowering together is a truly magical spring sight.
The only other garden where I have seen this innovative use is at Feeringbury Manor in Essex. If you’d like to try this at home, select tulips that will flower at the same time and plant in a scattered way within a designated space.
As spring turns to summer the garden glows with a large collection of roses, mainly climbers scrambling over pergolas and living structures, including ‘Albertine’, ‘Dublin Bay’ and ‘Golden Showers’.
The swimming pool garden has a fine display of bearded irises, which is followed by a pink and white border reaching its peak. Later in summer the garden gets a more exotic look from an array of pot-grown cannas and gingers.
After 35 years the garden is now pretty well complete, although there is always some new project in the offing.
“Every year we say we must have no more new ideas, but never stick to this!” says Alan. “We always find new trees to plant and this year we are putting more effort into our two greenhouses and vegetable garden.”
Both are equally involved in the garden, with Alan doing probably more of the manual moving of logs, clearing and cutting back. “The garden is definitely a combined effort and we both come up with creative ideas. We spend most days in the garden and tend to walk around and one of us will have an idea,” says Alan.
“We find that creating the garden is like painting a picture. You make a start with an idea and it flows from there, although sometimes Alan finds my ideas may be too high maintenance,” admits Wilma.
The couple enjoy opening their garden through the National Gardens Scheme, once in late April for the spring look and once in June for the roses.
Visitors wander the garden admiring the beauty of the flowers and trees along with the abundant bird life.
“It is a pleasure to have garden visitors knowing that they are supporting the excellent charities which are so carefully chosen by the NGS,” says Wilma. n