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Our Garden

About our garden

We garden in South Cheshire in the small village of Hankelow. Our garden reflects our passion for herbaceous perennials and we try to use them in varied ways - sometimes formal and colour themed, and at other times free-flowing, informal and innovative. Our aim is to be able to trial plants in a real garden setting so that we can offer advice from experience and provide a true assessment of the merits and demerits of a plant.

Our National Collections of Helenium and Centaurea are planted throughout the garden, mixed in beds and borders with other plants.

Hankelow is about 60m above sea level at the edge of Cheshire plain. We have a plot of about a third of an acre. About half of it is given over to garden, the remainder is for our nursery stock beds. The house and garden were new in 2000. In 2011 we developed a long border running alongside our nursery area, which proved that you can plan, dig, plant and enjoy a mature looking border all in one season.

Our soil is a good grey-black silt overlying sand and gravel, richly peppered with builders rubble in places. Generally it is just on the acid side of neutral. We have had to break up a compacted layer about 2ft below the surface and now the soil is free draining, easy to work but holds little moisture or nutrients. Because of its recent past as a piece of neglected grazing land, the soil is full of weed seed that germinates every time the soil is disturbed.

For those of you who don't know Cheshire we have a climate that fits into hardiness zone 8 with occasional mild winters nearer to zone 9 and extreme winters of zone 7. Our lowest recorded temperature was -18c on 24 Dec 2010. We (normally) have plenty of rain in winter but seem to miss the summer rain. Our garden experiences regular strong cold winds thanks to our openness to the northwest and the Cheshire gap.

We are not opening our garden at present

You can read about the work we are doing in the garden in our garden dairy

Front Garden

Surprisingly secluded thanks to the tall Laurel hedge our front garden has a relaxed atmosphere.

Our front garden is about 40ft deep and 100ft across. It is planted in a fairly formal style and features two Snakebark Maples (Acer davidii George Forrest) as well as the eponymous Yew Trees. It has one of few shady corners in the garden but is always dry and hungry.  The laurel hedge takes much of the moisture and goodness from the soil which is a constant battle.

We have two very small ponds in the garden, one full of plants like Cyperus longus and Lythrum and the other, a tiny one, provided as a cool place for frogs.

There are 4 main beds and borders, each with their own character.

The Drive

Gaillardias are ideally suited to the dry, hot, poor soil and Hemerocallis cope well with these unpromising conditions.

Our paved drive is flanked by two narrow borders and visitors are welcomed with a great show of colour in mid summer

Pink Erodiums add a bold clash of colour and Kniphofia pick up the sizzling theme in late summer.

Cardoon (Cynara carduncularis) adds some dramatic height and the silver leaves set off Geranium Stephanie that is planted around its base.

We also have planted and let seed lots of Marjoram which does well in the dry conditions and is great for butterflies and hoverflies. The seedlings are an interesting mix of colours but it can become a bit of a nuisance.

Euphorbia Excalibur provides a long season of interest on the right-hand side with its burgundy spring leaves, yellow summer flowers and flaming autumn leaves.

Centaurea do well here and we grow the yellow Totnes Fat Lemon and glastifolia in this bed.

We also have plenty of blue and violet Salvias which we find make perfect partners for so many plants

Eryngium x.zabelii Jewel is the star of the far end of the left-hand border.

Yew Tree Bed

Achillea Pomegranate has such rich crimson flowers he is just asking to partnered with Salvia Lubecca and orange Hemerocallis

A roughly oval bed with our first Yew Tree at one end and a multi-stem Snakesbark Maple at the other. The centre is filled with two large Physocarpus Diablo who's purple leaves create a wonderful backdrop to the bed and serve to prevent you seeing the whole bed at once, hopefully enticing you to walk around to discover it all.

Hemerocallis Nefertiti is a perfect match for Achillea Pomegranate in July

We have many Achillea varieties planted in this bed because they are in flower for such a long time and carry a "theme" around the bed.

Pond Bed

Cyperus longus, that hardy relative of Papyrus dominates the pond and provides a hiding place for frogs.

This has a small kidney-shaped fibreglass pond edged with slate but frankly by mid summer it is pretty much invisible, hidden by the lush growth.

We also grow Lythrum as a pond marginal where it flowers profusely.

We fill the pond with rainwater from the overflow of our water butts.

Helenium Wesergold is one constant in this ever changing bed and is in flower from mid June to October. I love pairing her with orange daylilies like Bright Spangles and also the foamy acid yellow of Alchemilla mollis

The yellow and orange theme is continued round the bed with Helianthus, Kniphofia and daylilies.

The clump of Helenium merges into a drift of pale cream Anthemis Sauce Hollandaise.

At the far end of the bed the colours soften into blue, mauve and cream of Veronica longifolia, Scabiosa ochraleuca and Erigeron Strahlenmeer.

Holly Border

Hostas and Saxifraga Variegata (variegated London Pride) are planted around the very small frog pond providing colour especially in spring and early summer.

Backed by silver hollies, a purple hazel and a maroon-leafed malus this border sweeps from top to bottom and wraps around the corner making a large planting space.

The top half is one of the few shady spots in the garden and being bone dry as well it is planted out with shade loving Asters like schreberi and Twilight.

The baton is taken up by white flowers of Actaea, Persicaria and Geranium in high summer and autumn.

Persicarias are very valuable in this difficult border performing well in shade and dry conditions. We use Red Dragon, Painter's Palette and the amplexicaulis varieties Alba, Blackfield and Dikke Floskes in this border to provide a long season of colour.

Moving towards the corner the space is deeper and Miscanthus Sirene provides height and form.

As the border moves into the sun the colours brighten and Heleniums, Helianthus and Tiger Lilies take centre stage.

Crocosmia pottsii Tall Form, Persicaria Dikke Floskes and Actaea atropurpurea mark the transition from shade to sun in this border. This Crocosmia is wickedly spreading but can be curtailed by uprooting in late winter, thinning out and replanting.

Alstroemeria Orange King looks good in early summer along side the blue of Salvia East Friesland.

The end of the border comes up to our study window and is home to many of Janet's collection of Hemerocallis.

Echinops ritro never fails to please visitors be they people, bees or butterflies.

The soil here is poor, overlying almost pure builder's sand but most things do well including Monardas which should like it wetter.

Back Garden

The back garden is mainly soft, cooler colours near the house gradually heating up further down where our Helenium collection is mainly planted.

The back garden is about 150ft long and 60-50ft wide (tapering) but the rear portion in mainly taken up by our nursery area.

We have gradually extended the amount of planting here over the last few years.

Patio Bed

Phlox Maude Stella Dagley and  Othello are divided by Persicaria Red Dragon giving a great display from July to September.

A triangular bed flanking our small patio filled with Phlox, Centaurea, grasses and other lovely perennials.

Acer Border

Our multi-stem Acer Serpentine is the star of the border and provides living "frames" through which to view the Hemerocallis, Campanula and Astrantia planted there.

This small border is against a north-facing fence but get plenty of sun in summer in the morning and again in late afternoon. In winter it is shaded and cold.

Phlox Miss Kelly and Hydrangea Annabelle finish off the border next to a shady seating area.

Garage Border

Salvia Pink Blush and Nepeta subsessilis are hardy and their long flowering period give the planting continuity.

This small border is the warmest spot in the garden backed by the south-facing brick garage wall. Here we grow sun lovers like Lobelia tupa ,Salvia atrocyanea, Salvia Black and Blue and the nearly hardy Lepechinia hastata.

The stars of the border are Lobelia tupa and Salvia atrocyanea, both 6 foot plus tall.

Greenhouse Bed

At the far end Stipa gigantea is paired with the deep red Helenium Mahogany.

Running east to west along the garden for about 30ft and widening and curving towards the bottom. Three large Stipa gigantea - one at each end and one in the middle are the signature plants of this bed.

Phlox amplifolia and Persicaria amplexicaulis Atrosanguinea are stars from July to October.

Centre Bed

Centaurea, Lychnis and Phlox set the tone of the bed

Occupying the centre portion of the top of the garden this bed as planted with grey and silvers leaves and pinks and purple flowers creating a soft, easy on the eye display

Stars of this bed are Valeriana sambucifolia planted in wave across the middle of the bed their pinkish white heads float above the lower plantings. Salvia amethyst adds the key colour tone for the planting.

Hazel Border

On the hot dry parts the blue grass Elymus magellanicus and the south African Osteospermum Lady Leitrim thrive.

Running along the north-facing boundary this bed is at once shady and dry with a large purple hazel about half way along. At the far end the aspect is sunnier but still dry.

Tall Molinia, Eupatorium and Cephalaria create drama and divide the border into sections each with their own character. Nepeta varieties flower throughout the summer in sunny or shady spots depending on their preference.

The border ends with a secluded and sheltered seating area: a great vantage point to enjoy the rest of the garden and views towards the Peckfortons and Beeston.

Hot and Cool "Circles"

Hot-coloured Helenium, Helianthus, Hemerocallis and Achillea surround cooler Phlox and Salvia with Monardas adding vibrancy to both elements.

Leading up the nursery area are our hot and cool gardens: the hot-coloured border encircles a cool-coloured roughly circularly bed and in one of boldest planting schemes inspired by the garden of our late friend Hartmut Rieger.

These beds enjoy sun for the greater part of the day but are exposed to the prevailing winds and can be very cold in winter.

Miscanthus and Molinia provide structure and height as does the towering Rudbeckia Herbstsonne. The border is flanked by a mixed hedge that runs the length of the back garden.

Hemerocallis play a large part in the garden and during July we often have over 120 different varieties in flower on any one day.

The planting is all fairly tall - over 2ft 6in and the aim is make the gravel paths disappear creating the impression of a sea of flower as you approach

We have lots of Phlox planted in this bed giving lots of colour and fragrance.

Helenium Border

Much of our Helenium collection is planted in a single bed abutting our nurseries creating a mass of colour from July to October. These are interspersed with Kniphofia, Rudbeckia and other brightly coloured plants.

Long Border

The border starts with a low planting of Helenium. Achillea and Coreopsis and builds to a crescendo of colour and then cooling off at the very end.

Running along the length of our nursery is our long herbaceous border which was planted in 2011.

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