We moved to Oxleaze Farm in 1983 and with three small children, the garden was pretty near the bottom on a list of priorities. I inherited a love of gardening from my grandmother, so I was so grateful for the potential my mother in law had created in the bones of the garden, the trees and the hedges, and for the first few years I merely observed what grew where, and when.
As the children grew, so did my frustration of wanting to get to grips with and make changes to parts of the garden. The size and scale of the vegetable and fruit garden were unsustainable – indeed, who on earth were they feeding? Row upon row of potatoes, turnips, beans, onions, shallots, sprouts – you name it, they grew it, not to mention the forest of soft fruit, which was jammed, pureed, bottled, and frozen. ‘Dig for Victory’ was still alive and kicking at Oxleaze.
The garden seriously needed dragging into the modern day with less help available and ground cover was a new word. I have always held fast to the rule that the least earth you see, the better. Where there is bare earth, there are weeds.
Working at the time with Rosemary Verey from nearby Barnsley House I was hugely influenced by the naturalistic planting in her borders and the intricacy of the vegetable potager. I created a vista wherever I possibly could and simplified the garden with a series of ‘rooms’, which gives the illusion of a much larger garden than it actually is.