We spent September, October and November 2015 digging a pond, making a terrace, and landscaping a garden around the house…. The rest of the land is going to remain as the semi-wild naturalised space it always has been.

The Pond is the biggest venture so far. I’ve never water gardened before and am now obsessively learning about the plants and the management. In many ways I am surprised that I haven’t arrived here, obsessed with water gardens, earlier… They are the perfect marriage of ecological function, aesthetic and natural resource: the dynamic balance that makes a perfect garden.

What I have learnt so far is that the plants can be brutes: so you need to chose your varieties carefully and manage their growth by ruthless yearly pruning. I’ve learnt that in order to keep the pond clean you have to balance three things; the oxygen level, the nitrogen level and the ammonia level…. This is done primarily with the planting (bio-filtration), additional to this are pumps and UV filters stopping fluctuations in vegetation and seasons becoming imbalances…I am now trying to learn my biotic indicators.

I always wanted a body of water in this part of the garden…. What I never imagined was how much the water would “lift” the garden… This spot was a dark shaded place that divided us from the landscape beyond…. The pond completely reversed this: light is reflected back into the garden and draws the landscape beyond within.

I’m hoping that the pond will add to the wildlife… All the machinery work and the dogs (all landscapers have dogs!!) have put them off… Please come back and let me give you a home.

When we first came the animals were bold. Owls hooted at us when we arrived back from the pub at 10 o’clock and talked too loudly as we opened the door. A badger interrupted a game of hockey with my 3-year-old son as it chased another boar off its patch. And every morning at 6 o’clock on the dot a barn owl would float across the cow meadow below us, skimming the top of the sunlit long grass in a stunning silence.

Now, 6 months after the pond’s construction and with the planting in, the creatures are just starting to come back. Almost straight away there were tiny larvae and water fleas. Then, in May, there were tadpoles…. We hadn’t even noticed the frogspawn…Then the invertebrates started to show up: water boatmen; diving beetles; damselfly; dragonfly; whirligigs and pondskaters. With the invertebrates came the birds: pied wagtails; yellow and grey wagtails; and the swallows, who have taken to using the pond as a ‘dipping’ pond. They circle and scream at each other, and then in a seemingly-impossible flying formation, take it in turns to “dip”.

The gardened meadow

Dame Miriam Rothschild believes that a meadow only really comes into “being” when its about 15 years old… and even then it is not really “established”. Strictly speaking, meadows are areas of land that are man-managed, but, have their own unique grassland ecosystems.

My ‘meadows’ are not farmed, grazed, or large fields of land, so, I have to manage them differently and in many ways they function differently… These are extended areas of the garden and I am learning as I go how to create and maintain small areas of wildflowers and long grass within a garden. And, because they are part of a garden, they need to be decorative and sit within that setting while still being a meadow rather than a flower border.

The ‘Railway Meadow’ is about 100 metres by about 12 metres and is now in its third year…. It is cut at the end of August/September and all the hay is cleared and piled on the railway bank for the animals (mostly badgers) to use as nesting material.

The ‘Walnut Meadow’ is a bit of long grass and flowering lawn. This area is close to the house and I wanted to make sure that it looked like a deliberate feature rather than a bit of unmown lawn…It has nearly 1,000 bulbs planted within it so that it always has some colour.

I sowed this area and the ‘Chalk Bank’ behind in October last year. The topsoil and the turf were scraped off and the subsoil was then raked and sown with a meadow mix for chalk soil and cornfield annuals (as a nurse crop).

The greatest difficulty I have found with my meadows are perennial weeds. There is a pernicious perennial weed bank at the farm. Bramble, Bindweed, Hogweed, Thistle, Rosebay Willow Herb and Hemlock come back and back and back. Having stripped and disturbed the soil we have brought these weeds back to the surface and it has been back breaking work weeding them out of large tracts of land. Meadows are perceived to be ‘low maintenance’, but, I can assure you that this year we have worked harder on the meadows than anywhere else. My hope is that once the perennial grasses and flowers are established the weeding will reduce to spot weeding.

Are these meadows or pale imitations of them? Gardening really is the subtle chemistry of nature and man’s management of it.


We drove down to Cornwall on the Bank Holiday weekend… I really enjoy this drive as its mostly off the motorway and across country… and, as I am not driving, I get to look and take in the scenery.

I took some photos of the hedgerow on our lane as we left. The end of May is the ultimate time for hedgerows, especially in Cow Parsley covered Somerset. Cow Parsley seems to have come back into vogue, maybe it’s the native wild plants being used alongside other perennials in a naturalistic style by Chelsea designers. (This year Cleve West’s garden and Catherine MacDonald’s garden were almost evocations of hedgerows). Or, maybe it’s just a zeitgeist thing?…Or maybe we all want to put the ‘wild’ back into our gardens?

I love Cow Parsley, I love the froth and the dancing filigree nature and as soon as I see it I feel a primal joy about the coming of summer. It is instantly recognisable.

I have sown it in my mini meadow outside the potting shed and in the woodland by the house. If it gets too vigorous I pull it out, if it’s in the wrong place I don’t let it seed, it’s a bit like managing chaos. My biggest problem is distinguishing it from the poisonous Hemlock (which is a problem weed – but still beautiful all the same).

During the drive the hedgerows change from a sea of Cow Parsley and Pink Campion backed by Hawthorn to oxeye daisies, foxgloves, ferns and sorrel, eventually turning into banks of Bluebell, Foxglove, Campion, Sorrel, Ferns, and Bracken. These banks are old stonewalls filled with rubble and the local acidic clay soil: the ultimate “living wall”.

The reason I love gardening is because it feels to me to be a direct contact with the natural world. In my garden I want to make plant communities that look and function sympathetically with how they co-evolved under our stewardship in nature. So that they don’t just look naturalistic, but, they are better adapted to their site, richly layered, and resilient.

On a patch of land by the house densely shaded by a laurel hedge, a conifer and deciduous trees, I have begun to plant out and seed what I hope will become a ‘hedgerow-like’ planting. On the steep bank that used to hold the canal steps I have sown and plug planted Foxgloves, Primroses, Snowdrops, and some Ferns – adding to the Harts tongue and Pulmonaria that were already there.

The rest of the planting is a mix of ferns, architectural foliage, ground cover, and dynamic frothy umbellifers. Hopefully, in a few years there will be no bare soil just a patch of ‘cultivated hedgerow’.