A Light Bulb Moment


This is the view of the beech border at the bottom of the lawn. Not taken today, obviously.

It’s currently a very high, dense green wall and really quite oppressive. But without the leaves on the trees we can better see the structure. The beech trees had their tops taken out a number of years ago and as a consequence are now rather ugly. The rhododendrons were planted rather too close together. Believe it or not there are about eight of them in that row, all jostling for position with flowering diminishing a little more each year.

But the real shame of all this? Just beyond and below the trees the river meanders through. We can hear it bubbling away, but from the main part of the garden can’t see it at all. We’ve always talked about removing the trees, relocating the rhododendrons and opening up the view, but how to cope with the steep drop in level at what would then be the edge of the lawn?

Inspiration came from Emily at Daisy! and her visit here:



 This stunning garden has been developed by Derry Watkins, with her architect husband, who also runs the nursery Special Plants just outside Bath. I had to see it for myself. It helps that Derry opens her garden to the public every Tuesday in summer and also gives a talk. This week the subject was close to my heart.. Summer Flowers for Shade. How could I not go?

The low box hedge in the photo above is a brilliant concept that would so work for us too. High enough to define the lawn and prevent visitors walking close to the edge of the slope but low enough to see over. Mike said those chairs were rather comfortable too. Doh.



Once I’d got him moving again we were able to see how Derry copes with the same challenge as me.. gardening on a slope. She has terraces too. And swathes of plants which cascade down the hillside in a riot of colour and texture.



Every border was crammed with plants in bloom.

Diminutive species placed on the top of walls, where they can be viewed at close range. Taller varieties planted low on the slope, left to grow to the point where their flowers are level with the eye.



Interesting topiary and the beautiful rural view


And then of course there is the nursery. The menfolk sat in the sun on a well placed seat. It reminded me of one of my favourite clothes shopping haunts in Scotland where they have a ‘husband creche’. Leather chesterfields, newspapers and coffee. Leaving the ladies free to browse in peace.





I might have come away with a plant or two.


2018-04-09T19:26:43+00:00July 4th, 2014|Tags: , |


  1. Jane and Lance Hattatt July 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Hello Jessica:

    It is always so good to visit other gardens for ideas and particularly so when one comes away inspired. We are sure that once your beech trees have gone, you will never look back [no pun intended].

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      It would have made a good pun! The beech trees do need to go. The view is to the south, they are casting far too much shade.

  2. Alison July 4, 2014 at 4:22 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous garden! It’s so good to have places like this to provide inspiration. We’re always growing, learning and changing as gardeners, getting ideas, getting better at placing and nurturing plants, etc. Looking forward to seeing what you do with your own slope down to the river. It will be nice to have a view of it.

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      I don’t do enough garden visiting and that needs to change. We are always learning, but isn’t that the wonderful thing? Gardens constantly evolve and next year it will always be better.

  3. Pauline July 4, 2014 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    What a fantastic garden, no wonder you were so inspired! Without your beech trees, a whole new area will be open up to you, it will make such a difference to your garden.

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:06 pm - Reply

      It certainly will. The trees have put on a lot of extra growth this year thanks to the rain. It’s beginning to feel claustrophobic.

  4. Em July 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Might? How many was it? What a beautiful garden she has and it would work absolutely brilliantly at your place. I once created a stripy box hedge alternating the classic one with a silvery variagated one. It was lovely and I was very sad to leave it in someone else’s hands!

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:07 pm - Reply

      It might have been four…

  5. Sue July 4, 2014 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    Wow … what a gorgeous garden and SO much inspiration, but you know I can see your place looking just like that in a couple of years with your eye for colour and design. And you have to love anywhere that has the makings of a ‘husband crèche’ … mine never reads the papers on offer he simply falls asleep and I have to go and poke him when I’ve finished shopping etc 🙂

    When I saw the title of this post ‘A Light Bulb Moment’ I thought you had finally taken a machine gun to those pesky squirrels 😉

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      As long as they stay awake long enough for a credit card raid all is well. Don’t tempt me with those squirrels..

  6. islandthreads July 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Jessica it is always so nice when we get these moments, you and Mike will be kept busy for a while though, a low hedge might just out fox some of the squirrels and birds as they won’t have an easy to reach hide away any more, good luck with your new project, Frances

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      The one thing I will miss if/when we take down those trees is the close proximity to the birds. The woodpeckers use them often and all manner of songbirds. I suppose as long as we have the bird table and feeders they will still come. The squirrels are another matter entirely. Their usual bolt hole is underneath the rhododendrons. Ha!

      • islandthreads July 5, 2014 at 8:44 am - Reply

        Jessica, perhaps for you and your garden a complete removal is not the way to go, but instead create a window in the existing hedge, I’ve seen photos of this type of opening in books, where an intentional gap is made so you see beyond as you would look through a large window or french doors, perhaps angle your ‘view’ from where you sit most on the terrace patio, and maybe consider moving the squirrel bolt hole under the rhododendrons by removing some of them so it is not so dense,
        I think when we see other gardens and they give us ideas the trick is to twist the idea to something that works in our garden, if you ever get to Essex then I would recommend visiting Beth Chatto’s garden remembering though that Essex is drier than Devon, she has developed a densely wooded area with the 3 layers of ground cover, middle layer and then the tree canopy,
        enjoy your planning, I love planning, it’s the carrying the plans out that are often the problem, Frances

        • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 10:08 am - Reply

          Beth Chatto’s garden is high up on my list to visit. Her book on woodland gardening was the first I read after we came here. It’s not a day trip unfortunately, otherwise I would have been already.
          I like the idea of windows. In an ideal world I would remove the trees closest to the house but create gaps between those further away to get glimpses of the river.

  7. Amy at love made my home July 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm - Reply

    It is a beautiful garden! Glad that you got some inspiration, you will be buzzing with new ideas now. I understand what you mean about the beech trees, I hate it when trees are chopped off at the top like that. It isn’t so bad in summer when they are covered in leaves, but they do not look their best in winter when they are like that do they. It will be fun for you working out what you want to do now that you have been so inspired. xx

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      The trees do cast a lot of shade, I suppose cutting out the tops was an attempt to rectify that. But you’re right, it completely spoils the shape.

  8. wherefivevalleysmeet July 4, 2014 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Jessica, I am sure that you did come away with a plant or two, but also it seems full of brilliant ideas for your own garden. I can the ideas in Derry’s garden transferring perfectly to yours.

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      I thought of you because there is a lot of topiary in the garden.
      It was quite uncanny how similar Derry’s garden is to ours. If you look at the first two photos, with the positioning of the terraces, it could almost be a before and after shot.

      • wherefivevalleysmeet July 5, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

        I have just noticed that Derry’s garden is on my side of Bath so will definitely visit her – thanks for the information.

        • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 10:17 am - Reply

          It would be an easy drive for you Rosemary, the most challenging bit is the last half mile of single track road to the garden, with few passing places.

  9. Sue@GLAllotments July 4, 2014 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    A beautiful garden – would you use box or something else?

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Something else I think, I’d be too worried about box blight these days. I need to research it fully, but perhaps Ilex crenata or Lonicera nitida.

  10. snowbird July 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm - Reply

    Now that is a beautiful garden! The hedge does sound like the perfect solution for your garden….what a massive project though! Thankfully those trees coming down shouldn’t wreck your garden.xxx

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:44 pm - Reply

      I think we’ll wait until the leaves have dropped before having the trees out, an easier job then. Plus there’s a pair of pigeons that spend a lot of time there, they may have a nest.

  11. Mr Paul July 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Hi Jessica. I adore Derry Watkins, her positive spirit, her garden, her choice of plants and her nursery. I have had the pleasure of running into her on various occasions at both Special plants and shows she attends throughout the country. What would my garden be without the plant I always associate with Derry, Salvia microphylla ‘Cerro Potosí’. That pop of pink lights up the summer garden.
    I love the idea of a low box hedge to define the border without obscuring what sounds like a stunning view to the stream. I also love the look of those comfy chairs too:)

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:51 pm - Reply

      Ooh, that salvia is a beauty. I did bring a blue one home with me, ‘African Skies’ for memory.. the tag is locked in the shed and it’s dark and raining otherwise I’d go and check!

  12. Jo July 4, 2014 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous. Visiting other gardens is brilliant as there’s always ideas which you can take away with you. Looking forward to seeing what you do.

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 10:57 pm - Reply

      It’s a grand project which will take a while to pull off. And of course we then have to get the ground on the other side of the hedge looking good too.
      Hope you have a great holiday Jo. Have a clotted cream ice cream for me.

  13. Linda July 4, 2014 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    It sounds as if you got a lot out of your day with Derry – an interesting talk, inspiring garden, plants from the nursery and a new project to plan and put into action!

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 11:09 pm - Reply

      It’s so inspiring seeing what other gardeners do, I should follow your lead and do it more often.

  14. elaine July 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    Methinks you came away with lots of inspiration that you may be able to put into practice in your own garden. I like the look of the b ox hedge – it would certainly solve your problem of what to do and open out the view in the process.

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 11:16 pm - Reply

      It’s such a shame to have a nice garden feature and not be able to see it, I hope we can remedy that. Relocating the rhododendrons will give us another 6 feet of lawn width too. If you can call it a lawn, moss garden more like..

  15. Mark and Gaz July 4, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    Glorious indeed! A new garden to visit and explore in the near future!

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      A long drive for both of us, but worth it.

  16. Willow July 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful place to stroll. great ideas and so relaxing to view .

    • Jessica July 4, 2014 at 11:20 pm - Reply

      Hi Willow, hope you’re feeling better. Such a good thing, to visit somewhere and come back full of ideas. Just need a magic wand now..

  17. hoehoegrow July 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    What an interesting garden, I love the box hedging defining the curve of the lawn . Go on, what leapt into the car with you and insisted on being planted in your garden ?

    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 9:42 am - Reply

      A Gaura, Knautia, Blue salvia (hopefully hardy) and Linum ‘Bright Eyes’. I don’t usually bother with annuals but this one has an unusual flower. Might get seed next year if it turns out to be a doer.
      It’s infuriating when plants leap into your car like that, there should be a law against it.

  18. CherryPie July 5, 2014 at 12:56 am - Reply

    That is a very inspirational garden 🙂

    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 9:43 am - Reply

      It’s in a beautifully quiet spot too, very pleasant.

  19. Christina July 5, 2014 at 4:06 am - Reply

    Hi Jessica, wow, what a stunning garden! I am in awe! They found incredible solutions for a sloping lot and I can see that the precisely clipped low boxwood hedges will work for your garden, too. I have never had boxwood hedges, but assume, that keeping them in this prime condition is not that easy. I love the jam packed organically shaped borders as well. You said it best: Glorious!

    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 9:50 am - Reply

      Box blight is becoming a real problem over here so I’d probably use something different to create a similar effect. Something slow growing ideally! Either that or buy Mike an all singing and dancing new hedge trimmer for the toy box.

  20. Sigrun July 5, 2014 at 6:50 am - Reply

    What a garden! Beautiful! Always, when I visit such a garden, I think, that something is wrong in my own.


    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 9:54 am - Reply

      Sigrun, if you are travelling down this way on a Tuesday (or some Wednesdays) it is well worth a visit. I must make a point of finding more gardens on slopes, especially if they are also shady, it is so useful to see what others have done.

  21. Chloris July 5, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

    Ha! Now I see what you meant when you were talking about an exciting use for a box hedge. Here it’ s not used to imprison flower beds but as a stunning design feature. I love it, it would look wonderful in your garden. Just what you need.
    Getting rid of those trees looks like quite a job, but from what I have read on previous posts your Mike doesn’ t seem to be daunted by the prospect of a bit of forestry

    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 10:15 am - Reply

      He knows his limitations though and we’d get the professionals in for these. It will be easier when the leaves have fallen, but still a difficult job because there are more trees behind that I want to keep.

  22. Joanne July 5, 2014 at 9:53 am - Reply

    It looks such a wonderful place, you have such a big project on now! Loved the bit about a ‘husband crèche’, I’m pretty sure Mike would be to scared to stay in one if I was skipping happily about with his wallet.

    • Jessica July 5, 2014 at 10:19 am - Reply

      It is the lesser of the evils I suspect, I am not the most decisive clothes shopper!

  23. sustainablemum July 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden, very inspiring I can see the low box hedge working in place of the shade casting beeches.

    • Jessica July 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      Yes, it won’t open it up completely because there are more trees behind, but it should reduce the oppressive feel that we get in summer.

  24. Suzanne July 5, 2014 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Derry has an exquisite garden. I think you can adapt the idea of a low box hedge there after the beeches go. Another commenter suggested framing the view. That a super idea, perhaps you could transplant, prune and cluster those Rhodos on either side, framing that view. Maybe add some azaleas in front if them adding in similar colors. to tie it to your terraces?
    As you know I have a garden I work in that has rocky slopes. There are planting platforms made by excess stone to hold shrubberies.
    If you utilized those beech logs after you cut them, add in some metal posts so that you could make some of those planting platforms on your slope to help retain the soil. Just until the root balls establish themselves into the slope.
    Lots of possibilities, exciting.

    • Jessica July 6, 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

      To the left of the top picture, out of shot, there is an area where we could do this.. where the slope is not quite so precipitous. The view from there could be straight down the river valley and it would look great framed by shrubs. It is exciting, opening it up a bit more would give the garden a wow factor that it lacks at the moment.

  25. Serendipity July 5, 2014 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    It’s wonderful. The box hedge really pulls the garden together.

    • Jessica July 6, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      I love the way the hedge curves, ours might have to be straighter.. it’s difficult to see where the flat area actually ends at the moment with all the shrubs in the way.

  26. Charlie@Seattle Trekker July 6, 2014 at 12:17 am - Reply

    This is the part of the process I love the most, the “what if” stage when you are weighing the options, looking at alternatives, and choosing. I am really anxious to see the project as it progresses. You have some wonderful before photos, it will be interesting to see the after pictures.

    • Jessica July 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Gathering ideas is a fun bit and it’s not done yet. We’ll aim to get the trees down late winter, after the leaves have fallen and before the birds start nesting again. Then next Spring, hopefully, start to clear the area beyond.

  27. Marian July 6, 2014 at 11:46 am - Reply

    Wow, that garden, so amazingly beautiful, and those views, a paradise!

    • Jessica July 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Yes, the views are lovely. The garden is in a beautiful spot, and very close to the spa town of Bath.

  28. Christina July 7, 2014 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    The possibility of visiting other gardens for inspiration is one of the things I miss about living in England. Your ideas sound perfect!

    • Jessica July 7, 2014 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      I don’t do enough of it that’s the trouble and it’s criminal given all the wonderful gardens in Devon and Cornwall. As we move on to new areas of the garden it will be a must do, so worthwhile.

  29. welshhillsagain July 7, 2014 at 8:15 pm - Reply

    Oh dear. I want her garden, as opposed to mine, trailing nettles and bindweed and neglect…. That is not supposed to happen. It does look inspirational and very much the style I love and was trying to create here. We too have slopes!

    • Jessica July 7, 2014 at 9:53 pm - Reply

      Elizabeth I wish I could show you my garden, it would give you such comfort that you are not alone! I got great ideas from Derry’s garden but it will take me a long time to get something like that established here. With this amount of land, similar to yours, I really need help but that’s not an option at the moment. All I can do is get small areas under control and work outwards from there. If you ever have a spare moment (I know!) when you are in Devon let me know.

  30. Natalie July 7, 2014 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Gorgeous, and you did a great job photographing these gardens!

    • Jessica July 7, 2014 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      We tried to get a long shot up the hill but the camera couldn’t pick out enough of the detail. The colour in the borders was quite incredible.

  31. Cathy July 8, 2014 at 8:31 pm - Reply

    I thought for a minute you had had a complete transformation of your plot, Jessica – looks a lovely garden to visit. I like Francis’ idea of having an opening allowing glimpses of what’s beyond…

    • Jessica July 8, 2014 at 10:21 pm - Reply

      That would be a magic wand job Cathy, something I dearly wish I had! We will certainly incorporate glimpses. It makes the whole thing more interesting than being able to see a large area all at once.

  32. Jay July 8, 2014 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    That garden looks beautiful; I dream of having a well organised garden with well placed plants. The shapes are perfect too, very few straight lines, lots of curves – I love that.

    • Jessica July 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm - Reply

      Plants deserve gentle curves I think, it looks more natural. Originally I was thinking our version of the hedge would have to be straight, but hopefully when the trees come down we will find there is an opportunity to do something less formal.

  33. Alana Mautone (@RamblinGarden) July 9, 2014 at 12:25 am - Reply

    I admire anyone who can design a garden. As much as I love flowers, this is not an ability I possess. Lovely photographs, too.

    • Jessica July 9, 2014 at 10:20 pm - Reply

      Visiting lots of other gardens does it for me, I’m not sure I could do it either from a blank sheet of paper.

  34. paxton3 July 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden. I can see why you came away with ideas and inspiration. I often think my garden lacks design. It’s all thrown in together. If I had my time again, I’d do it differently.
    Leanne xx

    • Jessica July 9, 2014 at 11:02 pm - Reply

      Your garden looks beautiful from what I can see. I thought of you today, when I saw some huge echiums. Nearly bought a couple, but couldn’t think of anywhere to put them. And I’m not sure whether they’d be hardy here.

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