Little Ash Garden, Devon

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Two days after Cothay Manor we were off garden visiting again.

Little Ash Garden, near Honiton in Devon, opens regularly under the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) but earlier this month Helen Brown and her husband Brian were cajoled into opening an extra time for the facebook and twitter gardening group AllHorts.

Nestling in farmland and with gorgeous views out over the surrounding countryside, Little Ash is a stunning garden. There is something to admire at all levels, whether taking in the vistas and perfect composition of the borders or peering into their depths to pick out one of the multitude of rare and interesting plants. Helen is first and foremost a plantswoman and collector and with a varied range of garden microclimates can indulge her passion to the full.


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Polemonium pauciflorum


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Another feature that sets this garden apart is its collection of iron sculpture, often secreted away in the most unexpected of places.


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What would our ducks, and indeed Mr Ptolemy, make of it if I was to acquire one of these?


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A stream meanders through the top part of the garden, expertly planted and landscaped. Hostas here and elsewhere showed very little sign of slug damage. Helen reports that she surrounds them with ash from the wood burner just as they’re starting to push their noses up through the soil. Another technique to add to the armoury.


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The chickens look after themselves


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The 1 1/2 acre garden has gradually developed since Helen started it from a field over 15 years ago and it is still evolving. It may be packed full of colour now but there would be something of interest here in every season of the year. It is a naturalistic garden with closely packed planting designed to blend with the surrounding landscape and provide a habitat for wildlife. The additional advantage of close planting of course is that there’s hardly a spot left free for a weed!


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Clematis ‘Petit Faucon’


Helen grows a lot of climbers even though, like me, she has relatively little wall or fence space. She plants them at the base of large shrubs, even bamboo. Taking up virtually no space at ground level they rapidly clothe the host plant in bloom, contrasting with the shrub’s own flowers or giving it a second season of interest long after its own blooms have faded.


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The ‘Bus Stop’, a perfect place to sit and admire the view


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Geranium oxonianum ‘Sherwood’


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Rose ‘Scharlachglut’


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Wind spinners respond to the slightest breeze. This one has two sets of blades, one moving clockwise and the other anticlockwise to enchanting effect.


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I waited several minutes for this one to slow down sufficiently to take a sharp picture. Cornus kousa blooming in the background.


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It sits within a mini wildflower meadow. Yellow rattle in the foreground does a good job of restricting the growth of the grasses.


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Iris reichenbachii stealing the show in Helen’s new raised alpine bed


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At the bottom of the garden we move into woodland. A babbling stream and moist soil give Helen scope for even more treasures. Ferns, rodgersia, arisaema, impatiens, podophyllum to name but a few.


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Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’


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Candelabra primulas


And then it was time to wend our way back up the lawn for tea. And cake. Because if it’s NGS there has to be cake. Cake and a plant stall. Knowing that Helen is partial to a rare plant or several this was a plant sale I was looking forward to more than most. So of course I had to succumb. With charities benefiting from the proceeds this time it would definitely have been rude not to. Arisaema speciosum and A. ciliatum may have found their way into the footwell at the back of the car. Along with a couple of other goodies gifted by Helen, just to keep them company.


If you are anywhere near this neck of the woods in the second half of August I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Little Ash. The next NGS Open Day is Sunday 21st August 12-5 p.m. Details here.


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Would this little fella keep my bunnies at bay do you think?


Little Ash Garden

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2017-10-27T09:21:25+00:00June 20th, 2016|Tags: |


  1. Backlane Notebook June 20, 2016 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    Great garden, great images and what a fantastic iris !!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:21 pm - Reply

      I was rather taken with the iris too. Think I shall have to seek one out πŸ™‚

  2. ontheedgegardening June 20, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    I missed that little iris, better go back for another look! A lovely day and a lovely reminder, thank you πŸ™‚

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:24 pm - Reply

      It was a lovely day, all the better for the stimulating company!

  3. Wendy June 20, 2016 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    This looks like a delightful garden to wander around and of course the lovely views behind set it off beautifully. That is interesting about the wood ash being used as a main slug deterrent. It’s something we have plenty of here so I’ll add that to my armoury, too!
    As planting yellow rattle is on my mind at the moment I’m interested to see its use in the mini wildflower meadow there.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      I shall definitely be trying the yellow rattle. The difference it makes is quite amazing. Grasses really take over here given half a chance.

  4. Elaine June 20, 2016 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    What a delightful garden with some very doable ideas. I love the sculptures too. The NGS schem isso good in enabling you to see ordinary people’s gardens rather than grand ones is loads of acres which you couldn’t possibly replicate.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      Exactly Elaine. Although Helen seems to have the energy of a whole team of gardeners. What she has done is amazing.

  5. Pauline June 20, 2016 at 7:11 pm - Reply

    This is a garden we have been to many a time as it isn’t very far from us. It has certainly expanded since our last visit, must be time for us to visit again! I’m so glad you enjoyed it as I think it is a beautiful garden and of course I love the metal sculptures!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:33 pm - Reply

      I recognised the rusty pheasant straight away!

  6. Susan Garrett June 20, 2016 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    It looks beautiful and good that she offers some interesting plants for sale.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm - Reply

      I came away with some Arisaema seeds as well, I must get them sown.

  7. Marian St.Clair June 20, 2016 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    This garden seems to have a smile on its face. Perhaps the view tickles its fancy or the “just right” sculpture makes it happy. Or, could be because it’s lavished with love.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:38 pm - Reply

      The sculptures are well chosen and well placed, certainly raising a smile as we walked around. And that it’s lavished with love is indisputable.

  8. Cat June 20, 2016 at 8:00 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden. You’d like Midney Gardens in Somerton, Somerset too, I’m sure.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm - Reply

      Hi Cat and welcome.
      I’ve just checked out Midney and it does look interesting, not least the plant nursery! It’s close to Hauser and Wirth too, which I also want to see this year. I feel a day out coming up. Thanks for the tip!

  9. Anna June 20, 2016 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Oh lucky you with all this recent garden visits Jessica. I’ve seen photos of Little Ash Garden via Twitter and it looks a most special garden. Cakes and a plant stall too. What more could a girl want?

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      Not a lot!

  10. Mark and Gaz June 20, 2016 at 8:40 pm - Reply

    What a lovely garden! And nice quirky ornaments too!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 8:59 pm - Reply

      I do love a bit of rusty metal.

  11. justjilluk June 20, 2016 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Fantastic. Love it all, and those sculptures wow.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:04 pm - Reply

      It encourages me to get more sculptures for here. Everyone who visits comments on the ducks, I must think of what else to add.

  12. Diana Studer June 20, 2016 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    I’m hoping the wood ash will work for snails as well. I have just 2 bulbs that the snails are determined to devour (I’d be happy if they nibbled bits of the other 99% of the garden. Sigh)

    Those flashes of vibrant colour and quirky sculptures make a garden I’d love to see!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

      It’s odd, I see relatively few snails here. But the slugs certainly make up for it. And they also home in on my favourite plants. Why can’t they eat the weeds? It’s not as if I don’t have enough of those.. πŸ™

  13. Kris Peterson June 21, 2016 at 12:50 am - Reply

    Your photos remind me of all those books by English gardeners that got me hooked early on. So beautiful and yet so unattainable in my climate. Sigh…

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      Not so attainable here either if this rain keeps up. Like you Kris, I do wish there was a fair distribution of sun and rain.

  14. germac4 June 21, 2016 at 1:35 am - Reply

    Thanks for a tour of Little Ash Garden …lots of inspiration for spring and summer planting. I love the honeysuckle at “”The Bus Stop” and that lovely hare with his magnificent ears was my favourite for a garden sculpture.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:15 pm - Reply

      I loved the hare. Helen says she has bunnies too so perhaps he isn’t a deterrent after all, but no less handsome for it.

  15. Beth @ PlantPostings June 21, 2016 at 3:39 am - Reply

    Oh, that’s very pretty! I love the iron sculptures!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:18 pm - Reply

      They add a quirky touch to the garden. You never know what you will find around the next corner.

  16. wherefivevalleysmeet June 21, 2016 at 9:58 am - Reply

    So different from your previous garden visit to Cothay Manor, but just as lovely. Like you, and Little Ash Garden, I have rusty objects hidden in several nooks and crannies and amongst my plants.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:19 pm - Reply

      I need more Rosemary, having been to Little Ash. But they’re not stupidly expensive, and such fun!

  17. Jayne Hill June 21, 2016 at 11:17 am - Reply

    Now that’s a garden I could dribble and drool over πŸ™‚ Lucky, lucky you being close enough to visit.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      And we did!

  18. Jo June 21, 2016 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    It looks fabulous, that view makes it look as if the garden goes on for miles. I do like a bit of quirkiness in a garden so I love all those sculptures.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      I do think a garden needs to be fun as well as attractive to look at. This one scored on both counts.

  19. Amy at love made my home June 21, 2016 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful garden! Love the different sculptures too, they really add to the garden don’t they.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:25 pm - Reply

      They certainly do. I was fascinated by the wind spinners. They add movement which really catches the eye.

  20. Ann @Ann Edwards Photography June 21, 2016 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    ’tis the season for garden visiting and this looks like a stunning garden. Do you have any plans to open your garden one day, I wonder?

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      I would love to Ann but it’s a long time in the future. The NGS standard is really high.

  21. cherylwest2015 June 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the tour of yet another beautiful garden. You always show varieties of plants I have never seen offered here in New England.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Helen has some rarities that would be difficult to track down even here. But there are things I see on American blogs too that I instantly fall in love with and then cannot find supplied in the UK. It’s frustrating isn’t it.

  22. Chloris June 22, 2016 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    What a fabulous garden, just the sort I like, crammed full with interesting plants. I came across Rose Scharlachglut recently and put it on my must- have list. The iron sculpture everywhere is lovely. Ash to deter slugs? We might as well try it, we have tried everything else. I had that Dotty Spotty but it didn,’ t like it here and died. A great post, thanks.

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      I’ve seen Spotty Dotty on sale twice this year and so nearly succumbed, but I did wonder if I would be able to keep it alive. All my (expensive) trillium failures weigh heavily upon my mind.

  23. Jill Anderson June 22, 2016 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Helen & I follow each other on twitter & I’ve seen a few images of her garden, how lovely to see so much more, lovely photos too!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:36 pm - Reply

      It is even better in the ‘flesh’!

  24. CT June 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Super place. We are off to cothay next week after your recommendation πŸ™‚

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:40 pm - Reply

      Make sure you go down to the meadow area, you will love it there. We left it to the end with insufficient time. I’ll just have to go back..

  25. Brian Skeys June 22, 2016 at 9:11 pm - Reply

    Little Ash looks a beautiful garden, with such unusual planting the plant stall must have been very tempting!

    • Jessica June 22, 2016 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      Private gardens which open under schemes such as NGS have so much to offer Brian.

  26. CherryPie June 23, 2016 at 12:14 am - Reply

    This is another lovely looking garden, thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Jessica June 23, 2016 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      Yes, I got plenty of ideas here too. Thanks Cherie.

  27. Sarah June 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm - Reply

    Wonderful garden I particularly love the sculptures, the stream garden and the unusual plants. I will have to put that date in my diary! Sarah x

    • Jessica June 24, 2016 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      I think you’d enjoy it Sarah. And Helen is so knowledgeable about her plants, I learnt such a lot.

  28. Cathy June 26, 2016 at 7:48 am - Reply

    Yes, sounds like my sort of garden too – especially if they have a feature called the ‘bus stop’ along the same lines as our ‘bus shelter’, and all the intriguing sculptures too! Makes me want to go and seek out more places for climbers as well – for next year that is…

    • Jessica June 27, 2016 at 12:02 am - Reply

      I hope your own garden opening went well and that the rain held off! I was thinking of you when it started to drizzle here but with luck it didn’t reach you until later in the day.

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