We’ve all read something like it….
Anne Wareham, editor
Pleasance in Suburbia, by Genny Twigg
Name: 102, 1956 semi-detached bungalow
Points of Interest: Edwardian formal style influenced by Arts and Crafts movement, planting taken from William Morris fabrics. Wildflower meadow and shady dell
Where: Alwoodley, Leeds, North Yorkshire
Size: Front garden and driveway only
Climate: Exposed ridge with predominant easterly wind blowing along valley, average rainfall, with long dry periods in summer and heavy rain in winter.
Soil: Bedrock millstone grit, overlaid by clay forming a clay loam enriched by well-maintained composting system.
When it was purchased in 2005 the house and garden had been empty for two years and neglected for several years beforehand. Renovating the house, demolishing the collapsing garage and porch and replacing the disintegrating driveway took precedence over the garden but also released opportunities to build a garage with a roof capable of bearing a wildflower meadow,
a driveway with integrated water management and a sympathetic area for parking.
Inspired by Laurence Johnston’s garden at Hidcote and Sybil and Robin Spencer’s development of Johnston’s themes at York Gate, Adel, Leeds, the basic plan of the steeply sloping south facing garden was devised as a series of spaces which traced a pattern of garden development from the medieval pleasance through to the current meadow and grass planting.
The focal point of the entrance to the property is the garage door but the eye is drawn up to the grasses and meadow flowers sparkling like jewels through spring and early summer.
Opening a field gate one steps onto a grassed area with trellising to the left which billows fragrance from the honeysuckle twined through it. The driveway is bound on either side by tightly clipped box hedging with a grass and wild flowers central area, both of which slow surface runoff.
Turning immediately right, the visitor can either close the gate on the outside world,
or step onto a grass path and close hook the gate behind, and be enclosed in a garden brimming with delight. Screening from the public footpath is by a stilt hedge of hornbeam and below a neatly trimmed hedge of box, on the left is the William Morris planting area; bordered by dianthus and dainty strawberries, and within roses, ox-eye and shasta daisies, achillea, campanula dance in the breeze. At the end of the path as a focal point and for comfort is a turf seat from which grow, Lamium. Campanula, Linium, Saxifrage, Erigeron karvinskianus, rye, thyme and the common daisy.
Having enjoyed the view across the garden and the scent of the clove dianthus and rose, the path turns at right angles and continues past the central bed, which is bordered on the right by a borrowed tapestry hedge. This is beautifully underplanted with bulbs and Lavendula ‘Hidcote’ (what else?).
Here the focal point is a Ribes ‘Elkington’s White’ planted against the house wall. The path now turns left and passes through a grove of heritage apple and pear trees pruned in the Lorette style, up which climb Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’ and ‘Falstaff’. The bright Morris tapestry continues on the left but the mood on the right is changing as the aspect for this area faces north and is shaded by the house. The path returns to the driveway. If one turns and looks back the birdbath forms a neat focus backed by the Eleagnus and Berberis of the tapestry hedge of the garden next door.
At this point the driveway paving, which has gaps for sustainable drainage, broadens to create a pausing place for a car. Opposite the path, across the pause, is trellis covered with Jasminium nudiflorum and Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’ all underplanted with Erigeron karvinskianus , beloved of Gertrude Jeykll and so useful in paved areas.
From the pause the visitor can turn right along a narrow path bordered by the house on the left and a natural stone wall on the right. This raised bed takes on the mantle of the Edwardian grotto: think of the Quarry at Belsay House or the groves at Hestercombe. Planted with Geranium phaem, G. ‘Wargrave’, Hydrangea, Geranium, Hebe, Hosta, Paeony, ferns, Welsh poppies, foxgloves and bulbs, this area is as lively and attractive as the central border. It terminates at the north east, facing the British Telecom bed – an area dug by Open Reach to install the telephone line, which created another planting opportunity. Hedera threads through trellis pinned to the well-pointed wall, fern, Lamium and viola cover the ground, with Ribes ‘Elkington’s White’ as a backdrop.
This is a termination and the visitor can either step on to a service path for the birdbath in wet weather and return through the grove of fruit trees or turn round and walk back past the house noting the Pyracantha ‘Fireglow’ which is kept well pinned to the wall and pruned so the window cleaner is safe.
The drive passes the house where the box hedging is overhung by Rosa ‘Ena Harkness’. East facing with summer sun from early morning to midday, this area is filled with delicious scent.
This is not a cramped garden packed with exhibits. It is exuberant and freely flowing. Quirky detail; the turf seat made from old milk crates and the birdbath from a standard lamp base, garden stake and a flower pot saucer add whimsy (and permanence, for this is an area where garden thefts are prevalent). It is a garden to be enjoyed by visitors and passersby. The most treasured comment being “I love your garden it’s so different from the others” (generally paved parking areas or lawn and border) and then the punch line “It’s not at all Chelsea”!