Inspirational Gardens and the People Behind Them [part 1]

We are getting back to gardens this week after the frivolity of last week’s Honest Scrap Award. This is the first of a new monthly-ish feature on inspirational gardens. I’ve chosen this first one to get the ball rolling, then all subsequent gardens are chosen by the person I’ve interviewed, which should, I hope, make for an interesting journey for us all.

Veddw House Garden copyright Charles Hawes

  Garden Design Elements

My inaugural Inspirational Garden is Veddw House Garden in   Monmouthshire, South Wales. The garden has been created by   Anne Wareham and her husband Charles Hawes. Anne is a garden writer for newspapers and magazines. She is also a garden consultant and is involved with ThinkinGardens, for  people who want more than gardening from their garden.  Charles is a professional photographer and has very kindly  allowed me to use his photographs of Veddw House Garden for  this article.

I’ve only recently discovered Veddw House Garden (shame on me – I should never have cancelled my Gardens Illustrated subscription!). I’ve been really impressed by the creative and clever layout of the garden. It is obvious how much energy and thought has gone into it. What impresses me most about this garden is its creators; neither Anne or Charles are professionally trained garden designers. They have created this garden from scratch. Anne started it with a spade in her hand. It’s a two-acre garden. That’s quite an undertaking for anyone.

Veddw House Garden copyright Charles Hawes

Where Do You Start To Create A Garden Like This?

I asked Anne where and how she got started on this amazing garden. She told me the first thing she did was to clear it. The overgrown trees and shrubs were removed and this enabled Anne to see the garden properly. Most people are too afraid to take things out and totally start again but for Anne this was a necessity not an option.

Having a two-acre garden to develop from scratch is a big challenge and a scary one at that. I was very curious as to how Anne went about transforming her garden, when, in her words, she knew absolutely nothing about creating a garden. She did something that is obvious, yet so few people do it…

You Can Do What Anne Has Done Too

She studied gardens, in depth. Anne went to every garden centre, nursery and open garden she could. She read books, magazines and totally immersed herself in all things garden. She asked a lot of questions. Most people tend to do some of those things but not all. Anne stuck at it until she understood what makes a good garden. It’s not about what plants you use. It comes down to what shapes you create before you add the plants.

Veddw House Garden copyright Charles Hawes

A Curious Design Method…

I wanted to know about Anne’s design process. Does she sit down with a sheet of paper and plan it or could she see it in her mind? I was expecting her to say she could just see it all in her mind but that couldn’t be further from it. Anne is like many people, myself included early on in my design career, she can’t visualise how things will look. If you’ve read the blog post I did a while back on visualising your garden, you’ll know that it’s not as important a skill as you would think.

Anne’s design method is born out of her curiosity; she will think of two or three different things and wonder how they would look if she puts them together. So the only way to satisfy her curiosity is to actually go and do it.

The Problem With Focusing On Plants

Iris sibirica Veddw copyright Charles Hawes

Anne is passionate about good structure in gardens (and I mean REALLY passionate about it). One of her pet hates is how easily seduced people are by plants. Too much focus on plants and the garden becomes an incoherent mess. As a nation we are plant obsessed and it is all too often to our detriment. Mention your plant collection to Anne at your peril!

An Inexperienced Gardener

Before Veddw, Anne’s experience of gardens was limited to a small London garden and before that a tub of herbs she’d grown from seeds on the flat roof of her flat! So if you were thinking that it’s impossible to create a great garden without a lot of garden experience, you’d be wrong. Anne and Charles started the garden in 1987. They’ve developed it one section at a time. A garden like Veddw doesn’t happen over night, it evolves over time.

View across grasses copyright Charles Hawes

Anne’s Top Tips:

If you are starting a new garden, mulch as much as you can to keep the weeds down. Think about structure in your garden and read, read, read everything you can on gardens. You must educate yourself as much as possible. Her last tip is to go with the lie of the land, especially if you have countryside views. It’s important your garden sits well in its surroundings.

Visit This Great Garden

I do hope that if you are ever in South Wales, you will go and see Veddw House Garden for yourself. It’s open to the public on Sunday’s from 2-5pm June-August. And whilst you are visiting you may as well take a look at some other wonderful Welsh gardens. There is a fabulous book available (which features Veddw among others) called Discovering Welsh Gardens by Stephen Anderton, photographs by Charles Hawes.

I’d like to thank Anne for taking the time for the interview, especially as she’s facing a deadline for her new book ‘The Bad-Tempered Gardener’ for Frances Lincoln, which should be available early next year.

Veddw House Garden Copyright Charles Hawes

Your turn?

If you can get a good understanding of how garden design works, then creating your own fabulous garden is definitely achievable. I hope seeing Charles and Anne’s garden has inspired you to tackle your own garden in a creative and thought provoking way. Gardens can be so much more than just a place to put the shed, you don’t need to be an expert to do it but you do need knowledge.

I’ve certainly been inspired by my conversation with Anne. Veddw House Garden is proof that if you put your mind to it, you can create something amazing with your garden. In fact she’s inspired me to take action to help people do just that. I’ll write more about the idea our conversation sparked in the next blog post…

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About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

Comments

  1. Rachel, awesome post! Those wave-like hedges are incredible. And what a great idea to have the one you interview be the one to choose the next garden/er!

  2. I admire what Anne has done. She created her vision from scratch and has produced something unique and attractive. It goes to prove that you just need a good dose of motivation, enthusiasm, and some energy and time.

  3. Thanks Jenny – the wave hedges and pool are my favourite part. I’m looking forward to seeing who each person picks.

    Alison – it’s very inspiring to see what someone with no garden skills can do when they put their mind to it. Education and motivation is key.

  4. Anne is an inspiration. In addition to the work she has done at Veddw, i would urge everybody to look at Thinking Garden where the input from Anne and her colleagues takes gardening and gardens to the next level. it really does what it says on the tin! (Sorry -cliche!)
    Great post Rachel.

  5. great – well written thanks – look forward to the next review-

Trackbacks

  1. […] weeks ago I interviewed Anne Wareham to kick start a new monthly feature on Inspirational Gardens and the people behind them. I knew very little about Anne before the interview; turns out […]

  2. […] It came to me a couple of weeks ago, after I interviewed Anne Wareham for a new feature on inspirational gardens. She has created an amazing garden and isn’t a professional landscaper. So, if she and people […]

  3. […] then stumble into Rachel Mathews blog who is surrendering the good garden as ‘art’ award to a well versed garden owner. […]

  4. […] first one I choose, the wonderful Veddw garden in South Wales, was an easy choice; great garden, lots of accessible photographs and it proved to […]

  5. […] Inspirational gardens can do more than just inspire, if you know what to look for they can show you how to make your own garden sensational. […]

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