We Made A Garden by Lesley Ann Sandbach

A great friend of Sitting Spiritually's, Lesley Ann Sandbach, co owner of Muntons Traditional Plant Supports, writes for us about the creation of their fabulous Cotswolds Garden.....

To quote Margery Fish, one of my great gardening heroes: ‘We made a garden.’

My husband Bob and I spend a lot of our time thinking about other people’s gardens; how our products can contribute to the design; how they can support and nurture treasured plants; how we can help people realise their visions for creating a beautiful sanctuary to enjoy. Pre Covid-restrictions, we’d often enjoy a walk around those gardens with our clients when making deliveries. It’s one of the best bits of ‘the job’. But we’ve never really shown anyone what our garden looks like. Until now!  This is our journey, and a glimpse behind the scenes at Munton’s Traditional Plant Supports.

In early 2017, we moved from an old barn with its large, established garden – a place full of fond memories – to a recently-converted Dutch barn that had been part of a traditional Cotswold farm 

Lunch in the garden with friends before the move
Lunch in the garden with friends before the move

Our move was driven by a wish for a more rural life and a place where we could expand our rapidly growing business designing, fabricating and selling UK-manufactured, steel plant supports. Arches and obelisks take up a lot of space and we had run out of room to grow.

In our new home in South Gloucestershire, we inherited a boggy area of lawn and an area of rough agricultural land. The benefits were lots of space to make a yard for our plant supports; five brand new stables that we could use as storage and a properly equipped packing shed.

One of the first priorities was to make a start on the garden. We decided to keep it simple – what is it they say about ‘the best laid plans of mice and men…’?

The first job was to replace the boggy lawn with a sheltered courtyard garden and work began the following spring. We were immediately forced to change our plans for the yew hedges dividing up the area. Almost as we dug the trenches, they filled with water (a combination of heavy clay and being on a level with the water table – we live near the source of the Thames). Our solution was to transfer them to our own sheet steel planters – the yews thrive and the planters have mellowed and now blend in with the steel retaining wall we put behind the Sitting Spiritually swing seat (of which we have two!) Our multi-stemmed amelanchiers, too, hated the wet soil and we replaced them with large terracotta pots planted with spring bulbs, olive trees and hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ for summer and autumn colour.

The Courtyard Garden takes shape
The Courtyard Garden takes shape
An early photo shows the view from the house with yews in steel planters, and our Sitting Spiritually Swing Seat
An early photo shows the view from the house with yews in steel planters, and our Sitting Spiritually Swing Seat
The pathway with Iris Enstata Purple Parasol & Ammi Majus
The pathway with Iris Enstata Purple Parasol & Ammi Majus

I kept the colour scheme for the courtyard simple – terracotta, gravel and rusted steel for the materials and white, a range of greens and lavender blues/purples with the occasional burgundy highlight for the planting.

Most of the remainder of the land we ploughed and sowed with wild flower seed. It is now an established wild flower meadow with a circular mown path leading up to a central seat with lovely views down to the Thames which flows through the neighbouring meadow.

Looking across the herbacous border with a focal point of an Abinger Obelisk covered with Clematis
Looking across the herbacous border with a focal point of an Abinger Obelisk covered with Clematis
The Wild Flower Meadow
The Wild Flower Meadow
The Wild Flower Meadow in late Summer
The Wild Flower Meadow in late Summer

Looking back and documenting our garden’s journey makes me realise how busy we’ve been, and how much we’ve achieved. But of course, a garden is never truly finished, and despite all the work and having created a wonderful sanctuary to enjoy, there are always new projects and things to try. My latest venture is growing espaliered fruit trees. I have been inspired to train my fruit trees, in part thanks to visits to the wonderful gardens at The Newt in Somerset, where they’ve created some beautiful effects with crab apple trees in the walled garden. Buoyed by that inspiration, earlier this year I planted some espaliered apples round our outdoor dining room. It will be a good stress-test for our free-standing espalier trellis, which we will be showing at RHS Chelsea later this year.

 

To sum up, we’re incredibly thankful for all that we have. Yes, our move to the Cotswolds has given us the opportunity to expand our product range and grow our company, but above all, it’s given us the peaceful rural garden that we so craved. And, my goodness, it’s been worth every ounce of effort that we’ve put into it. I think the past year has shown us all how beneficial gardens – sitting in and being truly present in them – are for our mental and physical health. We look forward to many more years enjoying ours.  

Lesley Ann planting the espallier trellis in January 2021
Lesley Ann planting the espallier trellis in January 2021

Many thanks to Lesley Ann for this blog

Lesley Ann Sandbach, Muntons Traditional Plant Supports

 www.muntons.net

Instagram: @muntons_plant_supports

Pinterest: @plantsupports 

Facebook: @muntonstraditionalplantsupports 

If you would like to contribute a guest blog, please contact Siobhan at siobhan@sittingspiritually.co.uk

Posted by Siobhan on March 22nd 2021


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