PUBLISHED: 09:25 20 March 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 20 February 2013
This month, visit the charming country garden at Edenbridge House, where densely planted borders are set in a formal framework
Gardens really come to life this month with fresh greens and splashes of colour. Everything grows with new vigour and the world sparkles as leaves, flowers and growth seem to burst forth right before your eyes.
The five acres of gardens spread out from Edenbridge House as a series of rooms with extensive lawns, deep borders, and both ornamental and productive areas. Laid out in the 1930s, they have been greatly augmented through the care of owner Mair Lloyd.
When Mair and husband David arrived at Edenbridge House in 1986 they realised that, although the structure was there, the gardens needed some attention. "The borders weren't very interesting," admits Mair. "My main influence has been adding to the borders, enlarging them and creating new ones. I have tried to plant more interesting perennials, annuals and half-hardies for spring and summer."
A year after moving in, more than 100 trees were lost to the hurricane that hit the area. It did, however, give them the opportunity to thin out some areas where the trees had become too crowded and heavy.
Many lovely specimen trees, such as liquidambars and a tulip tree, have been planted. Choices were made to ensure year-round interest by selecting ones with autumn colour, interesting bark and magnificent flowers.
In the orchard, there is also a range of fruit trees, their clouds of blossom adding to the spring scene. "Magnolias and cherries are placed through the garden, making quite a sight in the spring," adds Mair.
In winter, the garden relies on structure from evergreen hedges and trees, but from March onwards the borders are the focus. "The borders are quite bare until spring. There are snowdrops in the orchard and along the drive and a woodland of camellias.
"Then in spring we have masses of daffodils, cyclamen, tulips, hellebores and early perennials," says Mair.
The borders are densely planted with bulbs, groundcovers and reliable, long-flowering spring and summer choices. In some areas, the colour themes remain constant and in others, such as in the parterre, different colours are used each year.
Mulching the borders regularly from January to March, between frosts, with mushroom compost ensures a good start.
"I like a big block of one colour by planting bulbs in large quantities, giving a splash with one variety. I don't lift the tulips, for example, so add more each year. It helps to have the same colour scheme as some from the previous year may pop up, such as red or yellow older varieties that were planted by the previous owners, a Dutch couple," explains Mair.
Combining with the tulips and other bulbs are groundcovers, carefully chosen so as not to smother them, such as lamiums or shorter varieties of euphorbias. Later in the season, the borders become a textural tapestry of varying heights as plants reach maturity. Favourites in the plantings include penstemons, cleome, tithonias and dahlias.
"I tend to do what pleases me, learning by experience. I think of combinations, bearing colour and shape in mind but have no rigid idea, such as short plants in front," says Mair.
"I'm flexible - as long as one can see through plants, for example, verbena bonariensis can look good in front as it doesn't obscure what is behind. It makes it more interesting not to be too rigid. Gardening is unpredictable, which makes it enjoyable."
Edenbridge House, Edenbridge
April to end Sept
Tues, Wed, Thurs (2pm to 5pm)
For The National Gardens Scheme
Sunday 12 April (2pm to 6pm)
Sunday 3 May (2pm to 6pm)
Wednesday 20 May (1pm to 5pm)
Group visits by arrangement
Tel: 01732 862122
The National Gardens Scheme
Mair's borders tips
Plant in blocks of colour
Ensure groundcover doesn't smother your bulbs
Plant daffodils further back in the border as the foliage is untidy
when it's finished flowering and can be hidden by shorter shrubs
Consider colour schemes and combinations of shape
Many lovely euphorbias work well with bulbs in spring
Emerging leaves can look more intense than later on and work well with interesting coloured tulips
Mulch borders, use compost and water well to give good start
Choose adaptable, reliable plants for your conditions