My Dream Garden

Stone House, Worcestershire

Stone House, Worcestershire

This post is written as part of the Grow Write Guild – this week the theme is Your Dream Garden

When I sat down to write about my dream garden I closed my eyes to try to bring an image to mind.  Weirdly, it all went a little Disneyish and the fantasy garden was a cartoon with the blue birds tweeting! This quickly turned into the garden of Sleeping Beauty with vines and thorns spreading rapidly – quick time to open the eyes!!  Obviously my deep sub-conscious is fretting about everything I need to do in the garden.

East Lambrook Manor, Somerset
East Lambrook Manor, Somerset

Second attempt and this time I ended up in the hidden garden from The Secret Garden.  I remember this story from when I was young and I have always been fascinated by walled gardens and gardens that are overgrown.  They have a magical feel about them.  I remember when I was 7 or 8 I and a friend used to go off exploring in the summer to some woods near where I lived.  At the far side of the woods there was a big old manor house that was falling down but it was the garden we loved.  By this time there were no borders but I remember what I think were rhododendrons, azaleas and other exotic looking flowers; though at that age I had no idea what they were.  We used to pick the flowers and wear them in our hair on the walk home.  I also remember visiting Virginia Water, adjacent to Saville Garden a lot as a child and there were huge rhododendrons that you could go into the middle of.  Standing inside this huge majestic plants and looking up at the branches overhead is one of my few clear memories from that time. Interestingly my parents, being of a certain generation, always had immaculate gardens.  Lots of pristine lawn with neat borders running along the side, all very 1960s/70s and I wonder if my love of the wilder, exuberant garden is a direct reaction to this.

Hidcote Gardens
Hidcote Gardens
Bryans Ground, Herefordshire
Bryans Ground, Herefordshire

So coming back to what my dream garden would be now.  Well it would have to be the archetypal English garden by which I mean lots of roses, delphiniums, peonies, iris etc.  A sort of Cottage Garden style planting but on steroids and with no veg.  I like gardens that celebrate the plants, where the plants are allowed to do their thing rather than being clipped and shaped and tied up all the time.  I like generous planting, billowing borders, plants spilling over paths.  I like the sense of enclosure a walled garden gives but I’m not so keen on garden rooms as I find them quite claustrophobic and I don’t like it when they are themed such as white gardens.   I am a fan of William Robinson, Gertrude Jekyll, Carol Klein and Beth Chatto.  I believe strongly in right plant, right place and that you have to work with the conditions nature has given you.  My dream garden has to have an element of escapism, mystery and surprise so there would need to be a sense of journey, obscured views and maybe interesting garden ornaments.

Kiftsgate, Cotswold
Kiftsgate, Cotswold

In conclusion the photographs included in this post represent my dream garden.  They have been taken at various gardens I have visited and are what I aspire to create in my own garden given time, patience and trial and error.

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30 Comments Add yours

  1. So I wonder where do you see yourself in this…where are you now? On the way to your dream garden, already there or far, far away from it? And: are other people’s garden really your own dream garden or have you still to find your very own garden in your soul? Best wishes on your way!

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Annette
      Good questions. I am only at the beginning as I am only just learning how to put plants together effectively rather than plonking which I excel at!! Those gardens are the ones that inspire me, its the feel of them, the mood that I aspire to not to replicate them

  2. djdfr says:

    Our dream gardens must be similar–I like all the photos you posted. 🙂

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi djdfr
      I suspect we are far from alone, its rather obvious but its what I like

  3. Janneke says:

    I am for the first time here and enjoyed reading your blogposts. Your dreamgarden is about similar to my dreamgarden: a cottage garden with many, many roses and Delphiniums. I am working on it, but at the moment the weather is keeping me back, it is very dry and too cold for the time of year.
    I will be back, regards,
    Janneke

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Janneke
      Welcome and thanks for dropping by. Its cold here and quite drive, the wind has dried out so much. I am sure we will get there in the end

  4. Nel says:

    Helen, I loved your post. you are very knowledgeable regarding various aspects of gardening. I think of gardens as aspects of our personality. We try to portray perfection, but nature is not perfect and sometimes its ok to be imperfect.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Nel
      I acknowledged my imperfections years ago!! Maybe that is why I am happy to embrace a less than perfect approach to a garden!!

  5. Lauren says:

    I think we have similar ideas for a dream garden. You’ve chosen some beautiful pictures. The picture of Bryans Ground is just gorgeous! What are the light blue flowers in the foreground, Campanula?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Lauren
      Yes they look like collapsing Campanulas to me

  6. Diana Studer says:

    when I’m thinking crabby claustrophobic thoughts about the next garden, I’ll remember this post and think – I have a Walled Garden. The billows will have to be contained so we can still walk on the path. My ideas must wait patiently, until their time comes.

  7. Holleygarden says:

    I think almost every gardener thinks of The Secret Garden as their ideal. There’s just something so romantic about the plants growing boundlessly without a weed in sight! I hope you achieve your dream garden one day, just as I hope I achieve mine!

  8. Next time you allow us to walk through your mind like that we would like fair warning. I think it would be appropriate to rope up like climbers so that we leave no one behind. There are those of us who are not normally exposed to that level of creativity and frankly it can be scary at times. It wasn’t wild and unhinged but as I said it was scary at times, unsettling really. I did absolutely enjoy the photos that helped me see your ideal garden, the end result of that process. The garden you showed us had an amazingly good feel to it, like drinking warm herbal tea and chatting with someone you had known forever….it was like being home.

  9. Yvonne Ryan says:

    I remember when my 23 year old grand daughter had 2 friends with her (they lived around the corner) and they were about 7 years old running around my garden and saying ‘this is a magic secret garden’! Such a thrill. I now have (as I have said before) my no3 daughter ‘plant sitting 300 pots. Quite a few have gravitated into her garden – great. some of my bromilliads look great re-potted and sitting on some steps etc!Still very dry, the drought has not broken. We have had 1 inch of rain in 6 weeks!!! We are even with the bought in water. Very quick showers, save with a bucket for plants, 15 min fast washing machine cycles. Had forgotten about tank water as was on city water for many years! Cooler evenings – autumn on the way!

  10. We obviously have the same dreams, lovely images. I also dream that one day my garden will look like your images, I garden on sand so not much hope but we can always dream.

  11. Escapism, mystery, and surprise…yes! That hits the nail on the head.

  12. Hannah says:

    I think my deep subconscious is also playing havoc with my idea if a dream garden, all I can envisage is the weeding. I’d love to have a flower border that looked like the first pic though.

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Hannah
      I have spent the best part of today in the garden, ache all over but at last I feel I have started to get some of the jobs down. Just hope the weather stays like this

    2. Hannah says:

      Me too, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  13. What a fabulous dream garden Helen…I absolutely love it…

  14. Pauline says:

    I love your choice of gardens, we have visited most, just Bryan’s Ground to enjoy, must add it to my list. I think it;s good to have something to aim for and strive towards, but with the added twist of making it your own, because no two gardens are ever the same even if we use the same plants. Your dream garden will be a wonderful place to relax in, with a long cool drink in dappled shade!

  15. A very nice post, Helen. I remember as a child playing inside a giant boxwood and adoring the sense of having my own secret fortress. I agree that the best gardens allow the plants to do their thing, and I think we have very similar influences (I particularly love Beth Chatto). I visited Hidcote for the first time about five years ago and was delighted to learn from our cab driver about Kiftsgate, literally right across the road. Both gardens perform that challenging task of providing enough structure to let the plants be themselves, yet the structure doesn’t dominate. I’ll add the other four sites (that includes Virginia Water, which I knew nothing about!) to my must-visit list for the next time I cross the pond. I do wish I could grow Monardas like those at Stone House! Mine get mildewy and rangy.

  16. Cathy says:

    Such an evocative post, Helen – thank you.

  17. stef says:

    I love your garden! It has such a beautiful cultivated wildness to it. My dream is all about food, but I’d love to visit your dream. Perhaps we could be dream neighbors!

  18. I am also a fan of the cottage style garden. I have no rules in mine and love to try out new plants and let things self seed at will. You have some gorgeous photos of the gardens you’ve visited. I’ve been to Saville Garden’s many times and the rhododendrons are just as you described 🙂

  19. I love your dream garden, even if it’s very different from mine! The Grow Write Guild is helping me understand others’ visions so well. You’ll find my response to this prompt here: http://whenitsathome.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/the-garden-in-my-mind/

  20. wifemothergardener says:

    ” A sort of Cottage Garden style planting but on steroids and with no veg. ” Just perfect, Helen. My thoughts exactly, though I have not achieved them yet. Fun post!

  21. Valerie says:

    I just have to ask, why “no veg”?

    1. Helen Johnstone says:

      Hi Valerie
      No veg because I dont like growing veg – too labour intensive and its takes me away from what I love ornamentals.

  22. LOL! Sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I can’t stop thinking about all the things I need to do in the garden. Funny how the brain works. I love the pictures you included, they are beautiful! It’s funny, a few of the photos included in my dream garden post are from other gardens I’ve visited too! Awesome inspiration!

    Here’s my dream garden… My Dream Garden

    Amy
    P.S. I’m going to the Garden Bloggers Fling too, can’t wait to meet you!!

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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