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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?


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